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Unpacking activists’ plea to recall the SA ambassador to Israel

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As South Africans recover from what many describe as the “jaw-dropping” comments made by the South African ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, upon the return of the South African participant on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Leigh-Ann Naidoo, activists have renewed the plea for the recall of Ngombane.

Following the unsuccessful journey to break the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip, Naidoo was greeted at O.R Tambo International Airport by a crowd of cheering family members and comrades. She was, however, unprepared for the comments that were only moments later tabled by the South African ambassador, who appeared to support Israel’s position on the decades-old conflict.

‘It was coincidental that the ambassador was on the same flight’

Speaking of her experience with the South African consulate, Naidoo explains that as her first contact of home once she boarded the plane, the South African ambassador to Israel said that he was concerned about her and would, therefore, be escorting her home.

“Half way through the journey, I had someone lean over and ask if I was on the Women’s Boat [to Gaza], at this point I didn’t know it was the ambassador and this was the first time I spoke to anyone from the South African consulate – I only found out later that it was coincidental that he was on the same flight.”

While she was relieved to be escorted home by a member of the South African consulate, Naidoo asserts that as events unfolded upon her arrival in the country she realized that South African government did “very little” to secure her release.

“My lawyer phoned the minister to say that the boat was intercepted, but I’ve been told that he said that he would not act until Israeli authorities informed him [of my capture]. Every other consular representative of the other activists were talking to each other that they have people on the boat,” she said.

Describing her arrival back home as a “mixed-reaction”, she says that while she was relieved to be reunited with her family and comrades; she was unsettled when the ambassador began to share his views on the conflict.

“Sitting down to the press conference, it became apparent that the ambassador was miss-reading the context that he was in and bringing in his personal opinion, which people including myself, found to be problematic.”

As she began to dissect the position of the ambassador on the conflict, the crowed voiced ‘her feelings’ when numerous individuals present objected to a number of assertions that the ambassador made.

“You cannot justify the 2014 attacks in Gaza based on the simple suggestion that three Israeli boys were abducted,” Naidoo added.

Following the overshadowing of the Naidoo’s return by the ambassador’s assertions, a number of organizations have urged the South Africa government to recall its ambassador to Israel.

Naidoo says that according to research conducted by Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction South Africa, the ambassador is present in Israel to promote economic ties between South African and Israel.

“If the South African government is serious about being critical about apartheid Israel, then appoint someone there who will criticize and push the government to ensure that human rights are followed as much as it can be in an inhumane system – not to benefit our economic system,” Naidoo said.

She encourages the public to voice their disaffection with the actions of the ambassador and to criticize South African foreign policy with Israel by signing the petition or directly writing to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

To sign the petition, Recall South African Ambassador to Israel, visit:


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