(JTA) — Two South African Jewish organizations criticized Israel for refusing an entry visa to South Africa’s minister of higher education.
In a news release Tuesday, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation said Israel’s decision last week to deny Blade Nzimande a visa to visit the West Bank was “most regrettable.”
Both groups said they have long argued that regular interaction between Israel and South Africa, including mutual visits by political leaders and government officials — as well as businesspeople, media, tourists and families — benefits both countries and fosters greater understanding between them.
“We believe both countries should encourage greater interaction at all levels and lift restrictions in this regard, in the interests of relations between Israel and South Africa and the broader interests of peace and stability,” the statement said.
The groups also said they support a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and remain committed to working with the South African government to help both peoples in achieving this goal.
Nzimande’s trip had been intended to promote research collaboration between the University of Johannesburg and Birzeit University near Ramallah, in the Palestinian Authority.
Nzimande has previously called for South Africa to boycott Israeli imports and said last year at the University of Johannesburg that Israel was waging a “vicious campaign” against the Palestinians.