A South African model who pledged to “re-educate” herself with a visit to the Palestinian territories after she faced death threats for defending Israel said she has been barred from entering the country.
Shashi Naidoo — who first announced that she would go on a “fact-finding visit to Palestine” during a press conference organized by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign in South Africa last month — said she attended a meeting at the Israeli Embassy and learned that she would be “declined access” to the country, the South Africa Jewish Report revealed on Thursday. She was expected to begin her trip on Monday.
Naidoo received a torrent of online abuse and lost multiple sponsorship deals in June after she rejected accusations that Israel was an “Apartheid state” and called Gaza “a sh*thole of immense proportions” during an exchange with a follower on Instagram.
According to screenshots of her now-deleted comments, the model blamed the coastal enclave’s humanitarian crisis on the ruling Islamist terrorist group Hamas, accusing it of siphoning foreign aid “to build terror tunnels and rockets,” in lieu of schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure.
She gave an emotional apology for her remarks at the BDS press conference days later, saying they were “the biggest mistake that I’ve made in my life” and were written on her behalf by a friend. She also appeared to excuse some of the “terrible, vicious” criticism sent her way — which she would not elaborate on for fear of making her detractors seem “extremely militant” — by suggesting that it was “a necessity.”
The model subsequently lamented Israel’s decision not to allow her entry, based on a recently-passed law that prevents foreign nationals who call for boycotts of the country from entering its territory.
“I believe that flagging an individual, whose only intention was to push an agenda of love and light, is dubious,” she told the South Africa Jewish Report. “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 — who was married to a Jewish man until 2011 — then added, “I was moving to Israel to do my Orthodox conversion. And now, nine months later I am not allowed entry.”
Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to South Africa Ayellet Black defended the decision, noting that the law “denies entry to those seeking to harm the country.”
“A BDS-planned mission such as this obviously intends to do just that,” she argued.
Naidoo is not the first public figure to draw outrage in South Africa for her views on Israel. In May, radio host Gareth Cliff came under fire from social media commentator for denouncing Hamas-led riots on the Israel-Gaza border on May 14. More than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops that day, the majority of whom were claimed as members by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The South African government — ruled by the African National Congress (ANC) — recalled its ambassador to Israel over the incident.
In a December conference attended by Hamas officials, the ANC voted to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel to a “liaison office” in an “expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine.”