In the wake of a pledge by model and TV personality Shashi Naidoo to learn about the “truth” of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, she was on Wednesday denied entry into Israel.
It has since emerged she’s been banned from the country for 10 years.
When she tried to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories from Jordan after visiting Palestinian refugee camps, she says her passport was stamped to say she could not return for 10 years.
The Israeli embassy said in a statement that it was entitled to deny entry to those seeking to “harm their country”.
Naidoo was meant to travel as a guest of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a group that Israel says does not carry its interests at heart.
The model was in tears last month after admitting that she had defended Israel out of ignorance when she had called Gaza a “sh*thole”.
At a joint media briefing that BDS SA and the SA Council of Churches held with the model last month, it was confirmed that she would be embarking on a fact-finding trip to Palestine and Israel to learn more about the struggles faced by Palestinians in the occupied territories and elsewhere.
She was then expected to give a report-back on her findings.
According to a statement released by BDS SA, Israeli authorities “blocked her on the orders of Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and the recommendation of Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan”.
Last week, the SA Jewish Report revealed Naidoo had told them via WhatsApp that she had been denied entry after a meeting at the Israeli embassy. Why she still left for the country is unclear.
“After my meeting at the Israeli Embassy, I have been declined access!” said Naidoo in her WhatsApp message.
“I believe that flagging an individual, whose only intention was to push an agenda of love and light, is dubious,” she wrote. “I have said numerous times that I have no desire to be a political tool. My only hope was to meet the people, experience the land and give aid to those in need. It was never a BDS itinerary. I really am devastated.”
Naidoo said she was married to a Jewish man, Mark Sandler, before getting divorced in 2011, and that she had planned to move to the country.
“I was moving to Israel to do my Orthodox conversion. And now, nine months later, I am not allowed entry.”
According to Israel’s deputy ambassador to South Africa, Ayellet Black: “Israel has passed a law that, like any rational sovereign state, it denies entry to those seeking to harm the country. A BDS-planned mission such as this obviously intends to do just that.”
According to BDS SA, Naidoo joins a growing list of South Africans who have been denied passage to Palestine, including Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Minister Blade Nzimande, World Council of Churches leader Isabel Phiri and many other South African citizens. The organisation says that Israel also blocks Jews who are critical of Israel such as Rabbi Alisa Wise of Jewish Voices for Peace.