World Bulletin / News Desk
Pro-Palestinian groups in South Africa expressed outrage Sunday after Israeli authorities deported two South African youths who wanted to participate at an international event in Palestine.
Laeeqa Sujee, a 21-year-old university student from Johannesburg, was detained while en route to Palestine for a youth camp hosted by the Palestinian Higher Council for Youth and Sport.
“Laeeqa was deported back to South Africa this [Sunday] morning at 1 a.m. [local time or 2300 GMT],” Ismail Moolla of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance told Anadolu Agency.
Moolla said they were deeply disappointed that Laeeqa was denied an opportunity to enter Palestine and interact with fellow youths from across the world at the camp.
“Israel normally talks about transparency and yet they deny young people an opportunity to go into Palestine and see conditions there for themselves,’’ he said.
Nabeela Sujee, sister of Laeeqa, told Anadolu Agency the family was relieved that Laeeqa had returned home, but they were also disheartened that she was not allowed into Palestine.
Another young South African, Altaaf Adam, was also arrested and deported back to South Africa on Friday while he traveled to Palestine for the same event.
“Israel is increasingly preventing South African activists, young people and in particular church members from traveling to Palestine,” The National Coalition for a Free Palestine, an umbrella body of pro-Palestinian groups in South Africa, said in a statement.
The group said last week Israeli authorities had also denied entry to Rosalia Mpele, who was traveling as part of a World Council of Churches program to Bethlehem in occupied Palestine.
In May this year, another church activist Itani Rasalanavho was also detained at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and deported back to South Africa.
Rasalanavho told Anadolu Agency that he was humiliated by Israeli authorities when they strip searched him before being detained.
When contacted for a comment, Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk told Anadolu Agency he did not know the details of the specific cases.
“Every country, South Africa and Turkey included, doesn't let in all foreigners for a wide variety of reasons. Would SA [South Africa] or Turkey allow an ‘activist’ that wants to enter to verbally [or otherwise] attack it?” he said via a Twitter message. He said all states, Israel included, reserved that discretion.
In October, former South African Olympic beach volleyball player Leigh-Ann Naidoo was also detained and deported by Israel.
Naidoo was one of 13 women detained by Israeli authorities as they attempted to break the Gaza blockade.
Johannesburg-based academic Na’eem Jeenah was deported in 2011 by Israel on accusations that he supported an armed resistance against Israel.
South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande was also denied entry to Palestine by Israel in 2015 despite travelling on official government business.
Many South Africans, including the ruling African National Congress, have publicly expressed their unwavering support for the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation.