South African celebrity Shashi Naidoo has decided to visit Palestine, following a huge backlash over her recent comments on Gaza. Naidoo was addressing a press conference with BDS South Africa on Wednesday, after she reached out to the organisation to “re-educate” herself on the Palestinian issue. Over the weekend, Naidoo posted a lengthy Instagram post in support of Israeli action in Gaza, at one point, called Gaza a ‘sh*thole’.
Following a barrage of criticism on social media and alleged death threats, she issued a teary eyed video apology on Sunday, saying she did not mean to offend the Muslim community. This was later followed by a written post which further incensed many Muslim pro-Palestinian supporters, who called out Naidoo for making the Palestinian issue a religious matter, when it is a humanitarian issue.
Naidoo admitted that she had in fact “copied and pasted” her comments on Gaza, in defence of her friend, DJ Black Coffee, who also came under fire recently for performing in Israel.
“I copied and pasted the commentary on my Instagram. It was not my choice of words. People who know me know that is not my language,” she revealed.
Naidoo again apologised for her ill-informed comments, recognizing that she was uneducated on the contentious issue.
“I understand that I must be held accountable for my comments. This is the biggest mistake I have made and I will regret it for the rest of my life,” she said.
“The backlash was a necessity. It was warranted, how else was I going to know I was wrong? It was a form of punishment. I have lost pretty much all my endorsements but I understand it had to happen.”
Companies such as Glampalm Africa and modest wear line Lil Jewels immediately distanced themselves from Naidoo’s comments, with reports of her appearance at the Vodacom Durban July also cancelled.
While she has agreed to go on a fact-finding mission to Palestine with the South African Council Of Churches and SA Jews for a Free Palestine, she has not taken a clear position on the issue yet, she said.
“Part of my public apology was to educate and re-educate myself. I feel this is a humanitarian issue and I am disappointed in myself for not knowing what’s happening in Gaza. I approached BDS myself but in no way does this mean that I am radicalising myself to one side, as this whole issue has become a political debate.”
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A representative from the South African Council of Churches, Gugu Masango said they are supporting Naidoo in her quest to educate herself on the Palestinian question.
“Shashi is taking a step in the right direction,” she said.
BDS South Africa spokesperson Muhammad Desai said they fully accept Naidoo’s apology, calling her decision “concrete and commendable”.
“It will be a journey of education not only for Shashi but for many others in the industry and in South Africa,” said Desai.
“Roger Waters, one of our biggest supporters crossed the picket line in 2006 and performed in Israel. He later realized his mistake and now supports the BDS campaign. Shashi made a mistake and that’s human, we make mistakes.”
Desai lauded the positive outcry on social media, adding that politicians, celebrities and social media influencers should be held accountable for the comments they make on public platforms.
As for whether she has forgiven herself, Naidoo was careful.
“I think it’s a process and not a once off feeling…not only me but I hope others will also forgive me for my mistake.” VOC