by Iqbal Jassat
Following my Facebook posting earlier this month in which I applauded Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for his firm stance against “normalisation” with Israel, a friend posed an interesting query.
He asked whether it’s true that Israelis are not required to apply for a visa for travel to South Africa.
An important and timely question indeed, for this embarrassing matter has been swept under the carpet for too long.
The answer is in the affirmative: No visa required for Israelis.
On the contrary, while Israel is exempt from this bureaucratic impediment, Palestinians are not.
Whether Christian or Muslim Palestinians, they are not only punished by being forced against their will to endure Israeli apartheid in occupied ghettos, they also face additional humiliation at the hands of South African immigration imposing apartheid-based visa regulations.
Information on Department of International Relations website is categorically clear: it shamelessly makes known its hypocritical double standard.
In addition to having to apply for visa and the undue delay in getting the lengthy process underway, Palestinians have extra burdens placed upon them which does not apply to Israelis:
# Proof of medical insurance;
# Proof of hotel booking;
# Proof of sufficient funds.
The list goes on to specify categories of travel and requirements thereof - a host of restrictions applicable only for Palestine.
None of the above applies to Israel, yet we are led to believe that South Africa is opposed to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
In fact, by applying restrictive travel measures on Palestine’s occupied population, the South African government has been and to this day remains an active participant in Israel’s illegal, immoral and unjust occupation of Palestine.
There cannot be any “ifs” or “buts” about such contemptible racist application of visa regulations favouring Israel but imposing punitive measures on Palestine.
This matter requires urgent redress as well as an explanation about why double standards have been in force prejudicing a people subject to the severest forms of military occupation.
If such conflicting policies have been in place since the era of apartheid, why haven’t necessary changes been made yet?
It reminds us of the special allowance made at OR Tambo Airport for Israel’s EL AL airline, which despite being exposed for being armed to the teeth in contravention of “Key Point” policies, seems to continue regardless.
Preferential treatment allows EL AL to have armed Shin Bet terrorists deployed there in direct violation of security policies at “Key Points”.
Though this controversial issue was exposed by both Media Review Network and Carte Blanche on the eve of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, it doesn’t appear to have been resolved.
Solidarity activism in support of Palestine’s freedom struggle against settler-colonialism will remain on a limp unless drastic measures are undertaken to ensure that policies favourable to Israel are urgently decimated.
The current sellout by despotic Arab regimes under the guise of “normalisation” is to be expected precisely because they are tyrannical dictatorships.
South Africa does not fit that mould and having attained freedom from the clutches of apartheid, its constitutional values underpinning human rights and dignity cannot be compromised.
Whether its turning a blind eye to the security infringement at the country’s premier international airport O R Tambo or the denial of visa-free entry to Palestinians, or pretending to be willfully ignorant of the transgressions, it is intolerable.
The ANC-led government will have to do much more than an “embassy downgrade” to demonstrate real commitment to the cause of justice for Palestine, which it advocates.
An immediate priority will be to reverse visa laws by lifting visa restrictions on Palestinians and imposing them on Israel.
Iqbal Jassat is Executive at Media Review Network in Johannesburg, South Africa