Shashi Naidoo to visit Palestine ‘to learn’ after backlash over Gaza comments

BDS SA’s chairperson Professor Farid Esack, Shashi Naidoo and BDS SA director Muhammed Desai. Picture: Juniour Khumalo
BDS SA’s chairperson Professor Farid Esack, Shashi Naidoo and BDS SA director Muhammed Desai. Picture: Juniour Khumalo

Television personality and model Shashi Naidoo has announced that she will be heading to Palestine to educate herself on the geopolitical landscape of the contested region after receiving a backlash for referring to Gaza as a “sh*thole country” in a pro-Israeli Instagram post that went viral.

Naidoo was speaking on Wednesday at a media briefing jointly hosted by human rights and Palestinian solidarity organisation Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDS SA) in response to the comment she made on social media over the weekend.

According to BDS SA’s coordinator and director, Muhammed Desai, Naidoo reached out to his organisation and offered a sincere apology before taking it upon herself to embark on a “fact-finding mission” to Palestine in order to educate herself on the geopolitical reality facing the region.

Naidoo credited her post to “lack of knowledge on the politics on the region” and said “in an attempt at wanting to sound smart” she had asked a friend for help who then formulated the post on her behalf.

“I reached out to a friend to help articulate a response and offer a secondary point of view, and to be honest, I did not know much about the situation. I merely copied and pasted the friend’s response without reading it,” said Naidoo.

She said due to the fact that her actions were motivated by her ignorance over the harsh realities within the region, she had taken it upon herself to visit Palestine with her mother to increase her knowledge of the political and “especially [the] humanitarian crisis in the region”.

Naidoo said she and her mother would be footing the bill for the trip.

According to Desai, Naidoo’s trip to the Middle Eastern country will form part of an itinerary prepared by the South African Council of Churches as well as the South African Jews for a Free Palestine to educate the television personality on both sides of the conflict.

South African Council of Churches representative, Duduzile Mahlangu-Masango, said the council “fully accepted Naidoo’s apology”.

Naidoo had earlier said that apart from the outrage she received on social media, she also received death threats and unsettling messages.

Mhlangu-Masango condemned the death threats sent to Naidoo, saying “let us not be quick to judge when someone notices their wrong and desires to make it right”.

Naidoo also confirmed that she had lost most of her endorsements and brands had disassociated themselves with her.

“I would not have expected any less and I understand fully why they have distanced themselves from me. This does not mean that I will be destitute though as I have other business ventures that I am associated with,” said Naidoo.

The SA Zionist Federation and SA Jewish Board of Deputies, who were among the very few organisations who had come out in defence of Naidoo after her post, blamed the sudden change in Naidoo’s stance on bullying tactics by BDS SA.

“It took less than 48 hours for the BDS to do a complete turnaround over Shashi Naidoo. On Sunday, Ms Naidoo was the devil incarnate, the target of multiple death threats for having dared to tweet comments supportive of Israel. Now, having apologised for her ‘heresy’, she is suddenly a celebrity. Indeed, the intention now is to set her up as a poster girl for the BDS movement,” read the joint statement by the two organisations

The two pro-Israeli organisations went on to claim that the joint media briefing only “represented a triumph of censorship over freedom of expression, a victory for those who resort to threats, insults and intimidation to silence those who express views in support of Israel”.

The 37-year-old TV presenter, actress, model, MC, entrepreneur and fashion blogger made it clear that her apology and trip to Palestine did not mean that she was taking any political side.

“I am only interested in humanity and not politics and the trip will help me learn, just as the few days since the post have been filled with learning,” said Naidoo.

Juniour Khumalo
City Press
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