Israel has refused to grant an entry visa to the South African Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, who intended to visit the Palestinian Authority next week.
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A senior official in Jerusalem said that the reason that the minister's visa request was turned down was because he intended to pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport for the purposes of visiting the Palestinian Authority, rather than visiting Israel.
Another reason, the official said, was Nzimande's radically anti-Israel stance.
Nzimande is a communist who serves in the South African parliament as a member of the ANC coalition. In the past he has supported an academic boycott against Israel and on one occasion he demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Pretoria.
Nzimande was invited to Ramallah by his Palestinian counterpart to promote research collaboration between the University of Johannesburg and Palestinian institutions in Palestine. He was due to be there from April 25 – 29.
The minister responded harshly to the decision not to give him a visa. "The Israeli government is trying to use all the means at its disposal to hide its atrocities against the Palestinians and to ensure that only the smallest number of people see what is really happening in the land under its control," he told the South African media.
Nzimande added that he would call on all higher education institutions in his country to immediately freeze their contacts with Israeli universities.
At this stage, Nzimande has not received the support of South African President Jacob Zuma or that country's foreign ministry. Until now, no government minister has come to his defense.
Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman chose to post a harsh reaction on Facebook in which he attacked the South African government's policy regarding Israel.
South Africa, he noted in his post, is a country that suffers deeply from racism and violence. "It would be best for the South African government and the Communist Party to desist from attacking and inciting against Israel, which is a glorious democracy that deals exceptionally well, while ensuring maximum human rights and international norms, with threats and terrorist elements which, had they been active in South Africa, would have caused a bloodbath in the streets."
In that sense, Lieberman continued, "it's no surprise that the South African Communist Party prefers the Palestinians over Israel, as like is attracted to like."
Clayson Monyela, Deputy Director General of South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli government needed to offer a reason for the snubbing.
"We are taking it up through the proper channels," Monyela.said.
"We need to receive a proper explanation for the denial of a visa to a sitting cabinet minister," he added.