A South African model, who was pressured to withdraw her support for the Jewish state, was on Wednesday denied entry to Israel, where she was supposed to take part in a “re-education” trip organized by anti-Israel groups.
Last month Shashi Naidoo posted on Instagram in defense of Israel’s actions against the Hamas terror group in Gaza. She received death threats and tremendous backlash from advocates for an anti-Israel boycott, leading her to apologize and retract her comments. She also agreed to visit the region to learn the “reality” of the situation.
She was to have joined a program sponsored by the prominent South African Israel-boycott organizations SACC (South African Council of Churches) and SAJP (South African Jews for a Free Palestine) that was designed to show her the error of her social media posts.
Israel made it clear that Naidoo would be welcome to visit the country, but not as part of an anti-Israel trip.
“I personally invite Ms. Naidoo to visit Israel on her own accord and experience the reality on the ground,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. “However, given that she arrived on a BDS-sponsored ‘re-education’ trip following violent anti-Israel threats, we cannot allow her entry.”
In a series of Instagram comments in June, Naidoo argued that Israel was not solely to blame for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. She pointed out that Israel withdrew from the coastal enclave in 2005 and therefore was not “occupying” the territory. She also wrote that Palestinians had rejected several peace proposals, and that Hamas, the terror group that rules the Strip, refused to recognized Israel’s right to exist.
In the following days she was subject to tremendous backlash, leading her to retract her comments and apologize for them.
Haibo and this apology video from Shashi Naidoo pic.twitter.com/rb8NIbpUDq
— Mkabayi Wasebukhosini ???? (@KINGAya_) June 16, 2018
Through tears she said she had received ten death threats and was genuinely sorry for what she had written.
In a subsequent apology, flanked by members of the South African BDS movement, she again apologized and stressed that she now realized the seriousness of her mistake.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who instructed his ministry to deny Naidoo a visa, said Wednesday that this was a necessary step.
“The boycott organizations against Israel are at the stage of threatening people to act against Israel,” he said. “This is a particularly serious case, and therefore I exercised my authority and acted to prevent her from entering Israel.”
Despite Israel’s concerns that Naidoo would become a figurehead for the boycott movement in South Africa, the model said she did not want to become a political tool.
“I believe that flagging an individual, whose only intention was to push an agenda of love and light, is dubious,” Naidoo told the South African 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.”
Without elaborating, she also pointed out an irony — that “I was moving to Israel to do my Orthodox conversion. And now, nine months later I am not allowed entry.”
Naidoo was married to Mark Sandler, who is Jewish, until they divorced in 2011.