ONE OF the most effective tools used to obscure apartheid was the former South African regime’s offer of trips to the country to allow people to see that apartheid was really not that bad, and calls to boycott South Africa were excessive.
State officials would take visitors on carefully scripted tours to show them how happy black people were, and how the condemnation against apartheid did not reflect this “success” story.
As long as you were hosted by a group that was approved by the government, stuck to the carefully chosen itinerary, and only spoke to the “good” natives, then you were welcome in apartheid South Africa.
Being hosted by “terror” groups like the ANC, venturing into the prohibited townships, and speaking to anyone calling for a boycott of South Africa earned you the label of “threat” and a permanent banning from South Africa.
Local model and celebrity Shashi Naidoo poses such a threat. On Wednesday, Israel imposed a 10-year travel ban on Naidoo, after she tried to enter the West Bank to educate herself about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. As the occupying power, Israel controls almost all access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories comprising the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Anyone wishing to enter these areas must go through Israelicontrolled borders.
This week, Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to South Africa,
Ayellet Black, repeatedly told the media here that Naidoo was denied entry at the Allenby Bridge border crossing because her trip was planned by the South African branch of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and that it would “harm” Israel.
Yet it was widely known that Naidoo’s itinerary was planned by the SA Council of Churches (SACC) and South African Jews for a Free Palestine. Does Israel consider these groups a threat?
The Israeli government sustains its apartheid policies with fear. Israel, like apartheid South Africa before it, defines any opposition to its oppressive policies as a “threat”.
This includes the Palestinian call to boycott Israel until it complies with international law and ends the occupation. Last year, Israel passed a travel ban law which forbids granting entry visas to foreigners who call for a boycott of either Israel or its illegal settlements.
Even Jewish people critical of the country are considered a threat. Last year, Rabbi Alisa Wise was denied entry to Israel because of her support for the BDS.
On July 1, Israel turned away Ariel Gold, a Jewish American who is a national leader of the Code Pink group which supports BDS. Israel has avoided international isolation by claiming the boycott call is anti-Semitic. Last week, 40 Jewish groups from across the world stated that BDS should not be defined as anti-Semitic, and that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic.
Israel claims to welcome Christians to the Holy Land, yet an increasing number of Christian volunteers with the SACC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel/Palestine have been denied entry into the occupied territories by Israeli authorities.
This comes after Israeli security confiscated their passports, interrogated them for hours, subjected them to humiliating strip searches, and then detained them in holding cells.
Are the volunteers a “threat” to Israel?
In December 2016, associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Isabel Apawo Phiri, was banned from entering Israel after landing at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
The Christian theologian was attending a WCC meeting in Jerusalem.
Israel has admitted that she was a “threat” because of her involvement with the BDS movement.
According to Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister, Gilad Erdan, Naidoo was “welcome to visit” but only as long as her hosts were approved by the Israeli government.
Naidoo, however, doesn’t intend taking him up on the offer.
As South Africa’s apartheid regime learnt, the truth and the facts do emerge from behind the propaganda and suppression. Israel’s apartheid project is destined to end the same way as South Africa’s did, in utter failure.
“Hopefully after my 10-year travel ban, or even before the 10 years, there will not be a military occupation of Palestine and I will travel there,” Naidoo said on Thursday after her return to South Africa.
The first step on the path to Palestinian liberation would be for the South African government to downgrade relations with Israel.
- Suraya Dadoo is a researcher .
- Media Review Network.
- Find her on Twitter: @Suraya_Dadoo