Shashi Naidoo received multiple death threats amid fierce online backlash to her anti-Hamas, pro-Israel comments. Fearing for her life, she apologized.
A South African media personality said she received 10 death threats amid fierce online backlash to her comments calling the Gaza Strip “a sh*thole of immense proportions.”
Shashi Naidoo first drew controversy on Saturday after getting into a debate with an Instagram follower who criticized a photo she uploaded with Black Coffee, a South African DJ who drew the ire of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign by performing in Israel in April.
According to screenshots of her now-deleted comments, the model rejected accusations that Israel was an “apartheid state” and argued that the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas was responsible for poor living conditions in Gaza.
“Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, which even Taz agrees is a terrorist organisation, refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and is hell bent on its destruction,” she noted during the exchange. “[T]his has been clearly articulated inter alia in its manifesto, on air by its leaders and by virtue of the fact that they indoctrinate their children to hate Jews, have monetary incentive programmes to kill Jews and celebrate [the] death of innocent Israeli men, women and children.”
“Taz makes reference to Gaza being a ‘toxic waste dump’,” Naidoo continued. “No question Gaza is a sh*thole of immense proportions. Why? Because instead of using the millions of USD it gets in foreign aid to provide food housing, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure to help its citizens, it uses it to build terror tunnels and rockets to pursue its ambition of annihilating Israel.”
Tearful Video Apology
The model’s comments set off a firestorm of criticism on social media, prompting her to issue a public apology on Instagram Stories, the Sunday Times reported.
“I work very closely with a lot of Muslim people and I admire many aspects and traits of the Muslim community in general, they are extremely moral, have great values and have unbelievable discipline towards their religion, which is a beautiful thing,” Naidoo wrote in part. “I am extremely sorry about the statements I have made, unfortunately my comments came from very little knowledge of the political standing as I am not a political figure or even follow politics.”
She also shared a tearful video apology later in the day, saying she had received multiple death threats.
“The apology I made today was very sincere, I assure you of that, but I’ve already received 10 death threats today and a lot of backlash and I am sincerely sorry,” Naidoo said.
Several sponsors nonetheless decided to cut ties with the model, with Bellagio Jewellers pledging on Monday not to use her as a brand ambassador in the future.
The hairstyling company Glampalm similarly said on Saturday that it does not share or appreciate Naidoo’s “political stance.”
She was also rebuked by Adila Dhorat, who designs conservative clothing for women.
“In light of recent statements made by Sashi Naidoo on Instagram, with regards to the Palestinian situation, I have decided to withdraw her as an ambassador for my brand and disassociate my brand from her completely,” the designer wrote on Saturday. “Israel is an Apartheid state that is perpertrating [sic] a genocide of untold proportions on the helpless people of Gaza and the West Bank.”
‘Biggest Hit Will Be on her Businesses’
In wake of the controversy, South African entertainment commentator Phil Mphela told HuffPost South Africa that the “biggest hit will be on her businesses.”
He observed that Naidoo’s comments — which appeared to have been thought out — would likely not sink her career.
“We are all in this business just one tweet away from being vilified or burnt at a stake,” Mphela said. “I don’t think she will hold the same esteem with the Muslim community any more, but she will bounce back.”
Naidoo is not the first public figure to draw outrage in South Africa for her views on Israel. In May, radio host Gareth Cliff came under fire from social media commentators for denouncing Hamas-led riots by the Israel-Gaza barrier on May 14. More than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops that day, the majority of whom were claimed by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The South African government — ruled by the African National Congress (ANC) — recalled its ambassador to Israel over the incident.
In a December conference attended by Hamas officials, the party voted to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel to a “liaison office” in an “expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine.”