Durban - Should she have been allowed entry into Israel, Shashi Naidoo would have seen the daily living conditions of Palestinians who often never know if they will return to work the next day under restricted movement across territories, the South African Council of Churches (SACC) says.
But the South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) remarked that Naidoo would have witnessed the beauty of Jerusalem instead of the exaggerated lies about the conflict.
Following her contentious social media comments about Gaza, 37-year-old model and TV actress Naidoo embarked on a “fact-finding mission” to Israel and Palestine this week but her trip was cut short at the gate to the Middle- Eastern country.
Israel’s deputy ambassador to South Africa, Ayellet Black, confirmed on eNCA that on Wednesday Naidoo was denied entry to Israel, which has taken occupation of Palestinian territories.
In June, Naidoo took to Instagram with a thread of pro-Israeli comments and referred to Gaza, a zone under fire in Israel, as a sh*thole.
Receiving public and financial backlash as companies pulled out of endorsement deals with the model, Naidoo admitted in a tearful press conference that she lacked knowledge of politics in the region and declared she would visit Palestine at her own cost.
The trip, facilitated by the SACC, was welcomed by Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) South Africa, a pro-Palestinian group, which Naidoo had approached after her comments.
But at a homecoming press conference on Thursday, Naidoo said she was interrogated for hours and called a liar by Israeli authorities.
Naidoo, accompanied by her mother and a journalist, was said to have been pulled aside, searched and “intensely interrogated” seemingly because of an association with BDS.
“By the end of it I was in tears. They said ‘you’re a liar, you’re a liar, you’re here with BDS’. I said I was here for the South African Council of Churches. All I want to do is just see the sights, see the land and see some of the holy sites. I want to get a better understanding of what’s happening here and just educate myself,” she said.
For Black, it was fact that the celebrity’s trip to Palestine was created by BDS.
Said Black: “Israel like any sovereign state generally denies entry to people that have come in, in order to try and seek to harm the country and BDS will obviously tell her to do just that.”
SAFI spokesperson Bafana Modise said it was a shame that Naidoo had been intimidated for her pro-Israeli views.
“She had a view but it was retracted because they want to turn her view. It did not suit the narrative of BDS, and they want to push their agenda,” he said.
If Naidoo was given entry to Israel, Modise said she would have seen the beauty of Jerusalem and the co-existence of people, instead of “the narrative being pushed by people with an agenda.”
But SACC general secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, who confirmed that Naidoo’s planned trip to the region had been facilitated by the Council, said there was nothing divine about the present state of Israel.
Mpumlwana said Naidoo would have seen Palestinians in restricted conditions.
“She would have seen the shortage of supplies, the frustration in the economic grounds. This anger leads to stones being thrown, but every stone that is thrown is met with bullets,” he said.
Like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, Naidoo has been banned from entering Israel for several years.
Mpumlwana said similarly, people against apartheid were not allowed in South Africa.
While BDS South Africa, Kwara Kekana has rubbished claims that BDS intimidated Naidoo over her posts, Mandla Mandela has again called for a total trade, cultural and diplomatic ban on “Apartheid Israel”.
Mandela said: “I wish to reiterate my call on all our BRICS partners, especially India to impose an arms embargo on Israel and to immediately stop supplying weapons and ammunition to the brutal Apartheid Israel killing machine. In light of the treatment meted out to (Naidoo), I call on the South African government to send the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa packing.”