MEDIA RELEASE – Statement from today’s Press Conference with TV personality and model Shashi Naidoo
20 June 2018
[Below is the press statement delivered by BDS South Africa at today’s press conference with TV personality and model Shashi Naidoo, Dudu Masango (South African Churches) and Professor Farid Esack (BDS South Africa). Click here to watch the entire press conference video.]
The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, would like to commend, what we view as a positive outcry and warranted criticism by members of the public on social media following the statement that was copied, pasted and posted on Instagram by South African model, TV personality and presenter Shashi Naidoo.
Politicians, celebrities, and all others who wield social influence are correctly held accountable to public scrutiny. Because of the wide reach that they command, celebrities should be even more informed of pertinent social and human rights issues. Thus we celebrate the engagement and discussions that have taken place in the last two or three days on this issue. This is a reflection of our democracy, of our hard fought freedoms including the freedom of expression.
That said, BDS South Africa condemns all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and condemns all forms of violence, intimidation and bullying. These should be exposed and reported to relevant authorities. We, however, caution against those construing engagement and holding someone accountable as bullying or intimidation.
The engagements and expressions by various sectors of South Africa on this issue have contributed to, what we consider, as a positive space that we have now entered.
The statement on Palestine that was copied, pasted and posted by Shashi Naidoo was hurtful, inaccurate, offensive and derogatory. We join fellow South Africans in rejecting the sentiments shared in that initial statement.
Subsequently Shashi Naidoo issued an apology. In addition, she also freely took the initiative to reach out to us and met with representatives of BDS South Africa for over two hours.
There are some malicious accusations that today’s press conference is driven by business interest or is simply a face-saving exercise. This is baseless.
We found the information and insights that Shashi Naidoo shared with us to be an honest reflection of her experience and what occurred in the last 3 days. This was further supported by text messages that she showed us and we have full trust in her beyond any doubt.
Furthermore, in our discussions with Shashi Naidoo we experienced sincerity, honesty and genuineness. We found a person who is honest in her regret and willing to engage.
We are basing our reflections on our face to face engagement with Shashi Naidoo. Ms Naidoo accepts that she erred, and all humans err. All people make mistakes. There is a certain humility and courage in accepting our mistakes and wanting to make good.
Shashi Naidoo has taken a decision to accept the proposal of going on a humanitarian and fact-finding trip to Palestine. The itinerary will be guided by the South African Council of Churches and the South African Jews for a Free Palestine.
We view this as a positive, practical and concrete step. Many of us will be keen to hear her reports following her visit but we are not, as an organisation or movement, interested in policing Shashi Naidoo’s visit and her political commitments or lack thereof.
While we acknowledge that her apology does not transform her into activist for the Palestinian cause we do view this recent issue within a larger context of the growing number of celebrities, artists, musicians, actors and others who are speaking out on the issue of Palestine-Israel. Others are also joining the Palestine solidarity movement and backing the BDS boycott of Israel movement. This year alone celebrities, including Jesse Williams of Greys Anatomy, Hollywood actress Rosario Dawson, over 25 UK musicians, the director of the Portugal’s national theatre Tiago Rodrigues, artist Shakira, actress Natalie Portman, Brazil’s Gilberto Gil and various others from the creative, cultural and entertainment sector have cancelled Israeli gigs, have spoken in support of the Palestinian struggle or have lent their backing to the BDS boycott of Israel movement.
Locally in South Africa we also have an increasing number of artists who have participated in Palestine solidarity events or backed the BDS movement – from Simphiwe Dana to Tumi Molekane, Kagiso Lediga, Lebohang Mashile, Nina Hastie, DeepFriedMan, Mashabela Galane, and various others. We also recall the bold decision last year by acclaimed director, John Trengrove, of the award winning film Inxeba/The Wound, who cancelled his participation in a flagship Israeli film festival. This extends to other sectors, for example, within sports, Argentina’s national football team recently cancelled their World Cup warm up match with Israel following appeals from Palestinians and the international BDS movement.
We fully support our governing’s party proposal to have workshops and regular engagements with artists on important issues including that of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid and the cultural boycott of Israel. This was proposed earlier in the year by Minister Lindiwe Zulu, the Head of the ANC’s International Relations Sub-Committee. We have been in touch with Minister Zulu and look forward to its speedy realization.
We see today’s press conference, and engagements that we have had since yesterday with Shashi Naidoo, as a turning point on this issue, opening a new chapter and way forward. Shashi Naidoo, in her own words, has described this as a journey that she is embarking on of learning, listening and, where possible, to humbly lend her voice towards important humanitarian causes. We welcome the apology by Shashi Naidoo and fully back her decision to go beyond words and embark on her humanitarian and fact finding trip to Palestine.
Some people who have crossed the picket line and when called out for their pro-Israel bias have responded arrogantly. With Shashi Naidoo we have found someone willing to engage. Similarly, others too, who have been held accountable subsequent to their performance in Israel, like Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Macy Gray, after introspection, have expressed regret and many became advocates for the Palestinian cause and BDS campaign. We must never give up on each other and we hope that only but good will come of this issue.
BDS South Africa sees this as an important sign that South Africans are increasingly clear in their solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid.
ISSUED BY KWARA KEKANA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA
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