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South African Ambassador Sees Israelis As "Loving People"

Charlotte Halle/Teresa Neumann Reporting : Sep 20, 2005 : Haaretz

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South African Ambassador Major General Fumanekile Gqiba was "publicly humiliated and treated in a racist manner" by a border control official at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel recently, according to a report in Haaretz. But the insulted ambassador holds no grudges and blamed the press for making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Gqiba several people at the gym in the Azrieli Center, where he works out four mornings a week before going to the embassy apologized to him. "They told me they didn't even know I was an ambassador until they saw my picture in the paper," he said. "[Their response] shows the other side of Israel, the positive side. Israelis are often painted as very arrogant, but the people here are actually very soft, loving people who like life."

This week Gqiba said he is maintaining his decision to make any complaints related to the incident through official channels only, adding he was satisfied with the apology he had received from the Foreign Ministry and the Israel Airports Authority, which promised a thorough investigation into what happened.

Gqiba said that the issue could have "blown over long ago" had it not been leaked to the press. "I never discussed it with people outside of this office. [The leak] must have come from somewhere inside the government. I didn't want to make it an issue. For me, it is a wound which is now healed over and I don't want it reopened."

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