Refusal of visas to anti-Israel activists ‘no surprise’
After successfully leading the campaign for the official downgrade of the South African embassy in Israel, National Freedom Party (NFP) MP Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam still expected to be granted a visa to go to Israel and then Ramallah for a conference framing Israel as an aberration to be obliterated.
In March this year, he led the charge to ensure that the draft resolution to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel was passed by Parliament, part of his continuous condemnation of the Jewish state.
When Emam was denied a visa to enter Israel, he called on the South African government to take action against the Israeli authorities for denying him and Pan Africanist Congress President Mzwanele Nyhontso a diplomatic visa.
The pair had planned to attend a three-day “Nakba” conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The event was scheduled to take place in Ramallah from 28 to 31 July, but has been postponed to November. Therefore, the two politicians are still fighting the Israeli embassy’s decision not to grant them visas. “We cannot allow Israelis a free-for-all when they come here, but this is how they treat us. We have to take a strong stance,” Emam said.
The NFP also released a statement on 27 July condemning Israel’s denial of the visa, in which it also urged the South African government to “treat Israel in accordance with their apartheid actions, by placing restrictions on visas and actively downgrading economic and trade relations”.
MP Michael Bagraim told the SA Jewish Report that he wasn’t surprised by Israel’s decision not to grant Emam a visa. “They have been so vociferous about the destruction of Israel, you cannot blame the Israeli government for this action,” says Bagraim.
“Both of those individuals have been regularly bordering on antisemitism,” he says. “Every country has a right to its own security, and these individuals have done everything in their power to threaten the security of Israel. The Israeli government has done the correct thing. Both of them have made it their life’s mission to attack Israel on every platform. No country in the world would welcome them in any form. The vitriol and hatred is spewed out on a daily basis. Our country is falling apart, and they don’t seem to care. All they seem to care about is the destruction of Israel and everything it represents.
“I’m not sure Shaik Emam has travelled much lately,” says MP Darren Bergman, calling Emam by his colloquial name. “Many countries require visas, and I can assure you that given our current relationship with many countries, it’s hit and miss with South African citizens getting visas with many of them. However, it doesn’t sound like he was going for an educational trip. It sounds like he was going on a conference to bash a country that he now expects a service from. Unfortunately, this is the calibre of some of our MPs in Parliament.”
Local political analyst Steven Gruzd says, “It’s Israel’s right, like any sovereign state, to allow or deny entry to anyone. Israel probably didn’t want certified anti-Zionists going to an inflammatory meeting and to give them a platform. South Africa can raise objections, but countries control who enters and who doesn’t. I doubt it would have much effect on Israel. At the end of the day, the Palestinians don’t yet have a sovereign state that would make these decisions, which is why Israel has a veto here.”
“No country is obliged to let a person into their country, whether a visa is required or not,” says Sara Gon, the head of strategic engagement at the Institute of Race Relations. “Presumably Israel regarded them as hostile. They would be unwise to ask too much of our government as its own policy is that every country has the sovereign right to decide who may or may not enter its territory.
“The antisemitism reflected in the [NFP] media statement should create no surprise as to why Israel refused them. Whether it was the right or wrong thing to do may be the subject of debate, but whether Israel was entitled to do so is up to the assessment of the Israeli authorities.”
The SA Jewish Report reached out to the Israeli embassy in South Africa, but it chose not to comment.