Israel's ban on South African model is straight from the apartheid playbook

Israel's ban on South African model is straight from the apartheid playbook
Comment: Israel's ban on Shashi Naidoo entering the Occupied Palestinian Territories is eerily reminiscent of apartheid South Africa's siege mentality, writes Suraya Dadoo.
5 min read
30 Jul, 2018
Naidoo was denied entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territories by Israel [Shashi Naidoo/Instagram]
"I did not know that my pursuit of knowledge would attract the label of 'terrorist' or 'threat' from the government of Israel. 

I now know that any person who has a different opinion to that of the state of Israel could be seen as a 'threat'", says South African model and celebrity, Shashi Naidoo, after receiving a 10-year ban from Israel when she tried to enter the West Bank to educate herself about Israel's occupation of Palestine.

The idea for the trip materialised a month ago after Naidoo copied and pasted anti-Palestinian propaganda on her Instagram account to defend Israel's violent response to the Great Return March in the Gaza Strip.

Following a massive backlash, Naidoo deleted the posts and issued an apology. On June 20, she announced her intention to educate herself about the reality of the Israeli occupation by going on a self-funded educational tour of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  

Naidoo visited Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan on Tuesday, and then proceeded to the Allenby Border in Jordan to enter the occupied West Bank. After two hours of interrogation by Israeli security, and what Naidoo calls "mental warfare", she was denied entry and banned for a decade.

The reason - according to Israel's Deputy Ambassador to South Africa, Ayellet Black - was that Naidoo's trip was allegedly planned by the South African branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), and that it would "harm" Israel.  

Erdan's offer of government-approved hosts is straight out of apartheid South Africa's playbook

Naidoo announced publicly that her trip was planned by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP). In fact, Shashi Naidoo has never advocated or endorsed any type of boycott of Israel. In its desperation to strengthen the siege mentality needed to sustain its oppressive policies, Israeli officials ignored these inconvenient facts.

Everyone's a threat

Israel - like apartheid South Africa before it - now defines any opposition to its oppressive policies as a "threat". Chief among these threats is the Palestinian-led and South African-inspired BDS movement that calls for isolation of Israel until it complies with international law and ends the occupation.

Israel and its supporters have responded to BDS with hysteria and fear. The movement is routinely smeared as "anti-Semitic". Forty Jewish groups from around the world have now challenged Israel, stating unequivocally that BDS should not be defined as anti-Semitic. Entire conferences have been dedicated to combating BDS as an "existential threat" to Israel.

Israel takes the BDS threat so seriously that any foreigner who calls for a boycott of either Israel or its illegal settlements is denied entry to Israel and the OPT.

Under this travel ban, even Jews are a threat to the Jewish state. Last year, Rabbi Alisa Wise was 
denied entry into Israel over her support for the BDS Movement. On July 1, Israel deported Ariel Gold, a Jewish American citizen who is a national leader of the Code Pink group which supports BDS.  

In December 2016, Associate General Secretary for the World Council of Churches (WCC), Isabel Phiri, became the first foreigner to be denied entry because of alleged support for BDS.

An increasing number of Christian volunteers with the SACC's Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel/Palestine (EAPPI) have also been denied entry. Israeli security confiscated their passports, interrogated them for hours, subjected them to humiliating strip searches, and then detained them in holding cells. EAPPI volunteers are a "threat" to Israel.

These measures are eerily reminiscent of the siege mentality of South Africa's apartheid regime, and a repeat of what happened to hundreds of outspoken people who were barred from entering South Africa at the height of apartheid. Pretoria was convinced that its policies were justified and anyone who questioned it simply had to be punished.

See only what we want you to see

In a feeble attempt at damage control, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister, Gilad Erdan, tweeted that 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. She has promised to go back to Palestine - but only once her ban is over, or if the occupation has ended.

Erdan's offer of government-approved hosts is straight out of apartheid South Africa's playbook. One of the most effective tools used by the South African regime to obscure apartheid was its offer of trips to South Africa to allow what we now term "influencers" to see that apartheid was really not that bad, and calls to boycott South Africa were excessive.  

Shashi Naidoo visits the Zaatari Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. [Shashi Naidoo/Twitter]

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 "terrorist" group like the African National Congress (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.

Just ask American Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Les Payne.

Israeli apartheid and occupation cannot be reformed, it needs to end

Payne visited South Africa shortly after the 1976 Soweto uprising on a government-sponsored tour. He evaded his minders and found his way to the township of Soweto, where he began speaking to residents about what really happened during the deadly protests of 16 June when apartheid security forces gunned down hundreds of protesting schoolchildren.

Payne exposed the government's lies, was deemed a security threat, and banned from South Africa.

As South Africa's apartheid regime learned, truth and facts will always emerge from behind the propaganda and suppression. Benjamin Netanyahu's fascist government is helping that along by showing the world that Israeli apartheid and occupation cannot be reformed, it needs to end.   

The only real 'threat' facing Israel is the truth about its occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Israel's apartheid project is destined to end in the same way that South Africa's did: in complete failure.

Suraya Dadoo is a writer and researcher for Media Review Network, a Johannesburg-based advocacy group.

Follow her on Twitter: @Suraya_Dadoo

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.