Politics, World, Middle East, Africa

Israel’s increasing ties with Africa a concern: Experts

Country’s growing presence in Africa could impact Palestine's freedom struggle and the solidarity it relies on in Africa

Hassan Isilow   | 26.02.2019
Israel’s increasing ties with Africa a concern: Experts


Israel’s increasing diplomatic ties with some African nations might affect the support Palestine has been enjoying on the continent, experts have told Anadolu Agency.

For many years, several African states have been vocal against Israel over its continued occupation of Palestinian territory and aggression towards Palestinians, but with Israel’s growing ties in the region, the position of some of these countries could be compromised.

“I think African countries that are establishing ties with Israel could be looking at the economic benefits they will get. This will certainly reduce some solidarity support for Palestine,” Shadrack Gutto, an emeritus professor at the University of South Africa, told Anadolu Agency on Monday.

On Friday, Israel opened its first embassy in Rwanda, vowing to support the tiny East African nation in a number of fields including education, health, agriculture and cybersecurity.

In June 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), meeting 10 African leaders.

He also travelled later that year to Kenya, where he met with 11 other African heads of state with whom he discussed the potential of deepening diplomatic relations.

Arms trade

However, Professor Gutto said Israel’s increased interest in Africa is not just limited to diplomacy. It also has huge economic interests in the continent, which is home to over a billion people.

He believes Israel wants to sell arms to African states, besides helping them with training in different fields.

“The sale of arms is not an area of popular discourse and rarely appears in the media,” Gutto said.

Iqbal Jassat, a leading member of the Media Review Network, a South African advocacy group, also believes that Israel’s growing presence in Africa could impact Palestine's freedom struggle and the solidarity it relies on in Africa.

Jassat told Anadolu Agency that the inroads that Israel has attempted to make in Africa are via regimes that have questionable democratic credentials which stems from Israel’s position of desperation.

“Israel is aware that its standing in Europe is at its weakest, despite the relations it enjoys with rightwing government formations there,” said Jassat.

He also claimed that Israel is aware that notwithstanding the economic and political protection it receives from the Trump administration in the United States, its ability to project itself as a progressive liberal democracy is severely restricted.

“Establishing a footprint on the continent with the direct assistance of [President Donald] Trump's neocon thugs has allowed Israel to expand its arms trade alongside promises of military protection,” he said.

Jassat believes that Palestinian liberation movements which have carved out valuable alliances with many anti-colonial organizations in Africa will feel betrayed by the about-face and hypocrisy of some African countries.

“The message for the [African Union] and the continent of Africa is clear: Israel is a colonial settler regime that has dispossessed and occupied Palestine. To allow it to meddle in Africa is to invite trouble.”

Less impact

However, author and activist Suraya Dadoo believes that Israel’s increasing presence in Africa is not something Palestinians worry about.

Dadoo told Anadolu Agency that she has noticed that at major forums that matter, like the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations, Palestine still has support.

“When the Africa group speaks at the UN, the statements certainly acknowledge that Israel is an occupier and it violates international law,” she said, referring to African representatives.

“African countries are very keen to use Israeli technology in agriculture and water, but when it comes to voting at international forums and issuing statements, I don’t think Israel has been able to buy off too many African states.”

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