Israel is deporting more SA Christians
AN INCREASING number of South African Christians are being deported from Israel for being critical of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
This happens as a South African Council of Churches (SACC) delegation, which has just returned from Israel and Palestine, strongly criticised the occupation.
Over the past decade, about 20 South African political activists and volunteers from various religious organisations have been refused entry to Israel, searched and held in detention for hours before being deported – with little to no assistance from the South African embassy in Tel Aviv.
Those deported have included internationally renowned figures including Desmond Tutu and former judge Richard Goldstone, head of the UN fact-finding mission, who was investigating violations of international human rights law in the Palestinian territories in connection with the Gaza war (Operation Cast Lead 2008-2009).
Gadija Davids, a journalist with Radio 786, who was covering the 2010 Freedom Flotilla that was attempting to break the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip, was held in an Israeli prison, assaulted, interrogated, and denied consular access and legal representation.
Over the past few months an increasing number of Christian volunteers with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI) have been denied entry into Israel, including Siphesihle Dlungwane, who recently arrived back in South Africa after being deported.
Meanwhile, the SACC delegation, which returned last week from a visit to Israel and Palestine, released a particularly harsh statement, slamming the Israeli occupation and accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.
“Based on the information before us, it is clear that Israel is structured in a way that fits and even surpasses the description of an apartheid state, which robs Palestinians of their citizenship and treats them in a discriminatory way,” said the SACC, a comment endorsed by an SACC conference.
“With our experience of apartheid that the whole world recognised and condemned as a crime against humanity, we see the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel as worse than apartheid,” said the SACC in a statement.
“We are concerned that the world that condemned apartheid has closed its eyes to the pain and suffering of Palestinians in the occupied areas.”
The delegation of nine church leaders, led by SACC president Bishop Zipho Siwa, visited Tel Aviv and Nazareth in Israel, as well as Hebron and Bethlehem in Palestine.
“We decry the fact that the Palestinians have been occupied for 50 years without any sign of an end to this occupation,” said the SACC. “We strongly condemn this illegal and unjust occupation.”
Intolerance over severe criticism of Palestinian occupation