The recent visit to Israel by a Muslim member of the South African parliament, and the specter of him going through security at Ben-Gurion International Airport, lit a fire under Israeli diplomats in Pretoria. There have been numerous incidents in which foreign dignitaries, especially Muslims and blacks, have accused airport security officials of humiliating them; the embassy evidently wanted to head off the possibility of another such outrage, especially since the MP in question belongs to a political party friendly to Israel.
In a letter to Ben Gurion Airport security, Michael Freeman, deputy ambassador to South Africa, wrote: "We implore you to treat Mr. Yusuf Cassim with generosity and respect during the security checks. Please pass it along to all security officials to check Mr. Yusuf Cassim in a way that will leave a good impression and preserve the good relations between the DA [Democratic Alliance, Cassim's party] and Israel."
The Democratic Alliance, South Africa's parliamentary opposition, is a liberal party that takes a much less critical view of Israel than the ruling, left-wing African National Congress.
In his February 10 letter, Freeman told Ben Gurion Airport security that the delegation would be visiting Israel on February 15-19. He stressed that Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk knows the visitors and their itinerary in Israel, and would be joining officials from Israel's Foreign Ministry to meet with them here.
Freeman pointed out that after the delegation returned to South Africa, Cassim would be staying on for awhile by himself. "Thus he will be arriving for his flight at the airport alone, without escort," Freeman stressed.
"If there is any need to contact me, I can be reached by mobile phone," he concluded. And if any doubt remained about the Deputy Ambassador to South Africa's deference to Ben Gurion airport security's authority to treat MP Cassim as it wished, he signed the letter, "With great respect."
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