[News] Israel's Scramble for Africa: Selling Water, Weapons and Lies

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Fri Aug 30 15:02:51 EDT 2019


  Israel's Scramble for Africa: Selling Water, Weapons and Lies

August 30, 2019

*By Ramzy Baroud <http://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/ramzy-baroud>*

For years, Kenya 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/topics/country/kenya.html> has served as 
Israel’s gateway to Africa. Israel 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/topics/country/israel.html> has been using 
the strong political, economic and security relations between the two 
states as a way to expand its influence on the continent and turn other 
African nations against Palestine 
Unfortunately, Israel’s strategy seems, at least on the surface, to be 
succeeding – Africa’s historically vocal support for the Palestinian 
struggle on the international arena is dwindling.

The continent’s rapprochement with Israel is unfortunate, because, for 
decades, Africa 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/topics/regions/africa.html> has stood as a 
<https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/761C1063530766A7052566A2005B74D1> against 
all racist ideologies, including Zionism – the ideology behind Israel’s 
establishment on the ruins of Palestine. If Africa succumbs to Israeli 
enticement and pressure to fully embrace the Zionist state, the 
Palestinian people would lose a treasured partner in their struggle for 
freedom and human rights.

But all is not lost.

Recently, I visited 
<https://www.africannewsagency.com/africa-news/Palestinian-author-Ramzy-Baroud-heads-to-Kenya-12294049> Kenya’s 
capital city Nairobi to partake in discussions with the country’s 
journalists, intellectuals, human rights activists and ordinary citizens 
in an effort to counter some of the propaganda inflicted by Israel’s 
hasbara machine 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/06/counter-israel-hasbara-campaign-150628081420249.html> in 
recent years. Keeping Israel’s success in penetrating 
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-to-attend-inauguration-of-kenyan-president/> various 
layers of the Kenyan society in mind, I also wanted to explore whether 
there is still some potential for solidarity.

I was pleasantly surprised at the end of my visit, as I discovered that 
Israel’s “success story” in Kenya and the rest of Africa is a 
superficial one and the affinity between Africa and Palestine is far too 
deep for any “charm offensive” by Israel to easily eradicate.

*The Long History of African Solidarity with Palestine*

<https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/israel-eyeing-ties-with-africa-in-exchange-for-know-how/1322963> to 
Israeli political analyst Pinhas Anbari, Israel’s “charm offensive in 
Africa” started after Israel failed to convince European states to 
support its policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

“When Europe openly expressed its support for the establishment of a 
Palestinian state,” Anbara said, “Israel made a strategic decision to 
focus on Africa.”

But the EU’s support 
<https://gerusalemme.aics.gov.it/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/European-Joint-Strategy-Palestine-2017-2020.pdf> for 
a Palestinian state and occasional criticism 
<https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1750476/eu-rejects-israel%E2%80%99s-settlement-policy> of 
the illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories was not the 
only reason behind Israel’s decision to turn its face towards Africa.

Most African countries, – like most countries in the global south – have 
long been voting 
favor of pro-Palestinian resolutions at the United Nations General 
Assembly (UNGA), further contributing to Israel’s sense of isolation on 
the international stage. As a result, winning back Africa became a modus 
operandi in Israeli international affairs – “winning back” because 
Africa has not always been hostile to Israel and Zionism.

Ghana officially recognized 
<https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/israel-eyeing-ties-with-africa-in-exchange-for-know-how/1322963> Israel 
in 1956, just eight years after its inception, and started a trend that 
continued amongst African countries for years to come. By the early 
1970s, Israel had established a strong position for itself on the 
continent. On the eve of the 1973 Israeli-Arab war, Israel had full 
diplomatic ties with 33 African countries.

“The October War”, however, changed all of that. Back then, Arab 
countries, under Egyptian leadership, functioned, to some extent, with a 
unified political strategy. And when African countries had to choose 
between Israel, a country born out of Western colonial intrigues, and 
the Arabs, who suffered at the hands of Western colonialism as much as 
Africa did, they naturally chose the Arab side. One after the other, 
African countries began severing their ties with Israel. Soon enough, no 
African state other than Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland had official 
diplomatic relations with Israel.

Then the continent’s solidarity with Palestine went even further. The 
Organization of African Unity – the precursor to the African Union – in 
its 12th ordinary session held in Kampala in 1975, became the first 
international body to recognize on a large scale the inherent racism in 
Israel’s Zionist ideology by adopting Resolution 77 (XII) 
That very resolution was cited in UNGA Resolution 3379 
<https://ecf.org.il/issues/issue/1320>, adopted in November of that same 
year, which determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial 
discrimination”. Resolution 3379 remained in effect until it was revoked 
<http://jcpa.org/article/the-1975-zionism-is-racism-resolution-the-rise-fall-and-resurgence-of-a-libel/> by 
the Assembly under intense American pressure in 1991.

Regrettably, Africa’s solidarity with Palestine started to erode in the 
1990s. It was in those years that the US-sponsored peace process gained 
serious momentum, becoming the Oslo Accords 
<https://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/03/world/meast/oslo-accords-fast-facts/index.html> and 
other agreements that normalized the Israeli occupation without giving 
Palestinians their basic human rights. With many meetings and handshakes 
between beaming Israeli and Palestinian officials featuring regularly in 
news media, many African nations bought into the illusion that a lasting 
peace was finally at hand. By the late 1990s, Israel had reactivated 
<https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/israel-eyeing-ties-with-africa-in-exchange-for-know-how/1322963> its 
ties with a whopping 39 African countries. As Palestinians lost more 
land under Oslo, Israel gained many new vital allies in Africa and all 
over the world.

Yet Israel’s full-fledged “scramble for Africa 
– as a political ally, economic partner and a client for its “security” 
and weapons technologies – didn’t fully manifest until recently.

*The Israeli Scramble for Africa*

On July 5, 2016, Benjamin Netanyahu kick-started Israel’s scramble for 
Africa with a historic visit to Kenya, which made him the first Israeli 
prime minister to visit 
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-to-visit-africa-first-israeli-pm-to-do-so-in-50-years/> Africa 
in the last 50 years. After spending some time in Nairobi, where he 
<https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2016/Pages/PM-Netanyahu-attends-Israel-Kenya-economic-forum-in-Nairobi-5-July-2016.aspx> the 
Israel-Kenya Economic Forum alongside hundreds of Israeli and Kenyan 
business leaders, he moved on to Uganda, where he met leaders from other 
African countries including South Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. 
Within the same month, Israel announced the renewal 
<https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2016/Pages/Israel-and-Republic-of-Guinea-sign-agreement-renewing-diplomatic-ties-20-July-2016.aspx> of 
diplomatic ties between Israel and Guinea.

The new Israeli strategy flowed from there. More high-level visits to 
Africa and triumphant announcements about new joint economic ventures 
and investments followed.

However, diplomatic and economic efforts to win over Africa soon proved 
insufficient for Israel’s prime minister. So, he succumbed to rewriting 
history to improve Israel’s standing on the continent.

In June 2017, Netanyahu took part 
<https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-arrives-in-liberia-ahead-of-west-africa-summit-1.5479969> in 
the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held in the 
Liberian capital, Monrovia.

“Africa and Israel share a natural affinity,” Netanyahu claimed 
<https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-prime-minister-of-israel/prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahus-speech-at-the-ecowas-africa-israel-summit-in-/1493918427346409/> in 
his speech. “We have, in many ways, similar histories. Your nations 
toiled under foreign rule. You experienced horrific wars and slaughters. 
This is very much our history.”

With these words, Netanyahu attempted not only to cover the ugly face of 
Zionist colonialism and deceive Africans but also rob Palestinians of 
their history.

Despite Netanyahu’s blatant lies about “similar histories”, Israel’s 
charm offensive in Africa went from success to success. In January this 
year, for example, Chad, a Muslim-majority nation and central Africa’s 
geo-strategically most important country 
established economic ties with Israel.

As it tried to establish itself as a partner to African nations, Israel 
did make some contributions that benefited Africans, such as 
<http://innoafrica.org/israel.html> delivering solar, water and 
agricultural technologies to regions in need. However, these 
contributions came at a significant cost.

When, for example, in December 2016, Senegal co-sponsored UN Security 
Council Resolution 2334, which condemned the construction of illegal 
Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, 
Netanyahu recalled Israel’s ambassador to Dakar and swiftly canceled the 
Mashav drip-irrigation projects – The projects had previously been 
“widely promoted 
<https://www.modernghana.com/news/919556/ras-mubarak-writes-is-the-price-tag-attached-to-israeli-inv.html> as 
a major part of Israel’s contribution to the ‘fight against poverty in 

Israel not only used projects like these to punish African nations when 
they failed to give blind support to Israel in international forums, it 
also used this new relationship to turn Africa into a new market for its 
arms sales.

African countries such as Chad, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, and Cameroon, 
among others, became clients of Israel’s “counterterrorism 
technologies, the same deadly tools that are actively used to suppress 
Palestinians in their ongoing struggle for freedom.

And all this as Israel continues to champion the same racist, colonial 
mindset that enslaved and subjugated Africa for hundreds of years. This 
fact seems to have escaped African leaders who are lining up to receive 
Israeli handouts and support in their precarious “war on terror”. 
Moreover, barefaced anti-African racism 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/black-lives-matter-israel-180329061234932.html> that 
defines mainstream Israeli politics and society also seems of no 
consequence to the growing Israel fan club in Africa.

Many African governments, including those of Muslim-majority nations, 
are now giving Israel exactly what it wants – a way to break out of its 
isolation and legitimize its Apartheid.

“Israel is making inroads into the Islamic world,” said 
<https://citizen.co.za/news/news-africa/2067660/israel-making-inroads-into-the-islamic-world-says-prime-minister/> Netanyahu 
during the first visit by an Israeli leader to Chad’s capital, Ndjamena, 
on January 20, 2019. “We are making history and we are turning Israel 
into a rising global power.”

Palestinians and Arabs, of course, share some of the blame in all of 
this for abandoning their African allies in a fruitless chase after 
US-Western promises of a peace that never actualized. Arab politics have 
massively shifted since the mid-1970s. Not only are Arab countries no 
longer speaking in one voice and, thus, have no unified strategy 
regarding Africa or anywhere else, but some Arab governments are 
actively plotting 
<https://www.thejerusalemfund.org/24425/arab-normalization-with-israel> with 
Tel Aviv and Washington against Palestinians. The Bahrain economic 
held in Manama on June 25-26, was the latest case in point.

The Palestinian leadership has itself shifted its political focus away 
from the global south, especially since the signing of the Oslo Accords. 
For decades, Africa mattered little in the limited and self-serving 
calculations of the Palestinian Authority. For the PA, only Washington, 
London, Madrid, Oslo and Paris carried any geopolitical importance – a 
deplorable political blunder on all accounts. But this historical 
mistake must be remedied before Israel’s success story denies 
Palestinians any leverage in Africa and throughout the rest of the 
global south.

Yet, despite its many successes in luring African governments to its web 
of allies, Israel has failed to tap into the hearts of ordinary Africans 
who still view the Palestinian fight for justice and freedom as an 
extension of their own struggle for democracy, equality and human rights.

True, Israel has won the support of some of Africa’s ruling classes, but 
it has failed to win the African people, who remain on the side of 
Palestinians. Throughout my 10-day visit to their country, Kenyans from 
all walks of life showed me their support for Palestine in the most 
uplifting, authentic and natural ways.

In Nairobi, students, academics and human rights activists relate to the 
Palestinian people not as sympathetic outside observers of their 
struggle, but as their partners in a collective battle for justice, 
freedom and rights. Kenya’s bloody fight against British colonialism, 
its proud liberation war and its numerous sacrifices to win its freedom 
are almost a mirror image of the ongoing Palestinian struggle against 
another colonial and racist enemy.

Palestine will always be close to the heart of all Africans because of 
the painful, proud history of colonialism and resistance that we share. 
With that in mind, Palestinians should wake up to the fact that Israel 
is actively trying to rewrite their history and deprive them of the 
solidarity of peoples that perhaps understand their plight much better 
than most.

This would be a moral injustice that must not be allowed to prevail.

/– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine 
Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto 
Press, London) and his forthcoming book is ‘These Chains Will Be Broken: 
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons’ 
(Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from 
the University of Exeter. His website is//www.ramzybaroud.net/ 

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