South African Christian activists deported from Israel over opposition to Palestine occupation

The number of South African Christian activists being deported from Israel or denied entry over their opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine has reportedly increased in the last few months.

(REUTERS / John Stillwell / Pool)Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at Westminster Abbey in London March 3, 2014.

In the last 10 year, Israel has denied entry, bodily searched, detained, and deported around 20 South African activists and volunteers from faith-based organizations. Among the prominent figures who experienced this were Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Justice Richard Goldstein, and journalist Gadija Davids, the African News Agency detailed.

In recent months, there has been an observable increase in the number of Christian volunteers affiliated with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel/Palestine who have been blocked from entering Israel. One of them is Siphesihle Dlungwane, who was recently deported to South Africa.

The increasing number of deportations comes as the South African Council of Churches harshly criticized the Israeli occupation of Palestine after it visited the Israel-Palestine region last week.

"Based on the information before us, it is clear that Israel is structured in a way that fits and even surpasses the description of an apartheid State, which robs Palestinians of their citizenship and treats them in a discriminatory way," the SACC said in a statement. "With our experience of apartheid that the whole world recognised and condemned as a crime against humanity, we see the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel as worse than apartheid."

SACC decried the 50-year occupation of Palestine and the absence of any sign that it would end. The delegation also condemned the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and said the act has turned the region into the world's largest prison.

Meanwhile, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine wrote an open letter calling on the World Council of Churches to declare that Israel is an apartheid state. The letter also asked the council to support the Palestinian-led global BDS movement and reject the alleged human rights violations of Israel, Palestine News Network reported.

The NCCOP recalled how the WCC worked to put an end to the apartheid rule in South Africa. It also urged the council to do the same for Palestine.