Middle East, Africa

S. Africa slams Israel Christmas ban on Gaza Christians

Move is an ‘outrageous’ attack on religious freedom, says executive at advocacy group

Ekip   | 21.12.2019
S. Africa slams Israel Christmas ban on Gaza Christians

Johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG

South Africa’s civil society organizations, including churches, condemned Friday an Israeli ban on Christians from the occupied Gaza Strip from traveling to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth to celebrate Christmas.

Iqbal Jassat, an executive of the Johannesburg-based advocacy group, Media Review Network, told Anadolu Agency his group condemns in the strongest terms the religious bigotry of “apartheid Israel.”

“Barring Palestinian Christians from attending Christmas rituals in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem is an outrageous attack on freedom of religion,’’Jassat said.

Israel, which has occupied Palestine for more than 50 years, announced recently that residents of Gaza will not be granted permits to visit holy Christian sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are forced to obtain permits from Israel to travel within the occupied territories to enter Israel or to go abroad.

Jassat said the ban displays the arrogance of Israel’s colonial criminals. “It is an assault on the dignity and honor of Christian institutions, particularly in South Africa to raise their objections and outrage,’’ he said.

“We condemn Israel's barring of Gazan Christians to freely express and practice their faith by visiting the sacred places of our religion,’’ General- Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, Rev. Moss Nthla, was quoted by a pro-Palestinian publication Thursday.

He said freedom of religion is a basic human right, and it is unthinkable that in the 21st century a so-called democracy should even be thinking in this way.

Suraya Dadoo, an independent researcher and writer based in South Africa said Israel’s refusal to allow Christians to visit their holy sites for Christmas is not surprising.

“This is merely a different form of daily violence visited upon Palestinians by the Israel occupation. The ultimate aim is to force Palestinians to leave their homeland,’’ she told Anadolu Agency.

She said Israel’s action should also demonstrate to the world that Israel’s commitment to freedom of religion is a hollow one.

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