Last thing Africa needs is modern mas­ter

‘W Myview

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS&VIEWS - Daud Ab­dul­lah

HEN you are on an apartheid-sell­ing road show, Africans don’t buy it,”the South African branch of the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment tweeted on Monday, af­ter it was an­nounced that the Africais­rael sum­mit was can­celled.

The con­tro­ver­sial sum­mit – billed by Is­rael as an op­por­tu­nity for African eco­nomic growth and devel­op­ment – was sched­uled to take place in Togo in mid-oc­to­ber.

In 140 char­ac­ters, BDS South Africa had spo­ken for the whole con­ti­nent.

Hav­ing rid their coun­try of the racist apartheid regime, South Africans feel, un­der­stand­ably, a sense of moral duty to en­sure that the in­dig­ni­ties of that sys­tem are never al­lowed to take root any­where else – not least on their con­ti­nent.

South Africa was one of the first coun­tries to an­nounce its boy­cott of the sum­mit. Sean Ben­feldt, South Africa’s am­bas­sador to Le­banon and Syria, told a Pales­tinian del­e­ga­tion from the Pop­u­lar Con­fer­ence of Pales­tini­ans Abroad that his coun­try would not take part in the sum­mit, which had all the ap­pear­ance of an at­tempt to nor­malise re­la­tions be­tween Africa and an “oc­cu­pa­tion state”.

The can­cel­la­tion of the sum­mit was a crush­ing blow to Is­rael and, in par­tic­u­lar, its right-wing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

Haunted by scan­dals and the prospect of im­pris­on­ment for cor­rup­tion and fraud, the Is­raeli leader has bus­ied him­self with grandiose for­eign ini­tia­tives that might – he hopes – de­lay his po­lit­i­cal demise.

How­ever, by choos­ing Africa, Ne­tanyahu has com­mit­ted a huge blun­der, given Is­rael’s tar­nished im­age on the con­ti­nent. Its his­toric ties with, and sup­port for, the apartheid regime in Pre­to­ria have never been for­got­ten.

This sor­did his­tor­i­cal record ex­plains, in part, why Is­rael chose Togo as the venue for its “land­mark” Africa-is­rael sum­mit.

The tiny West African state has no es­tab­lished tra­di­tion of democ­racy. On the con­trary, it has been ruled by the Eyadéma fam­ily since 1967.

Not in the least con­vinced of Ne­tanyahu’s prom­ises, its im­pov­er­ished cit­i­zens have been protest­ing for weeks on end with chants of “50 years is too long”.

Only 14 of 54 African na­tions in­di­cated they would at­tend the Africa-is­rael Sum­mit. The vast ma­jor­ity of African na­tions chose to show sol­i­dar­ity with the colonised Pales­tinian peo­ple and boy­cott Is­rael’s cyn­i­cal pub­lic re­la­tions ex­er­cise.

But there are other fac­tors that have dis­cour­aged African coun­tries from at­tend­ing.

Thou­sands of eco­nomic mi­grants from Eritrea and South Su­dan risk their lives every year cross­ing the Si­nai Desert in pur­suit of a bet­ter life in the Zion­ist state.

Those who com­plete the treach­er­ous jour­ney soon re­alise they chose the wrong coun­try.

Thou­sands of these refugees are be­ing held in limbo in the Holot De­ten­tion Fa­cil­ity in the Negev Desert.

The mere fact that it is run by the Is­raeli Prison Ser­vice is in­dica­tive of what the ex­pe­ri­ence is like.

Af­ter spend­ing lengthy pe­ri­ods in the desert fa­cil­ity, many of the refugees be­come dis­il­lu­sioned and bow to pres­sure to re­turn to their coun­tries of ori­gin or go to a third coun­try, such as Uganda or Rwanda.

Last week, the leader of the far­right Yesh Atid party in Is­rael, Yair Lapid, told an au­di­ence at a town hall meet­ing in Jerusalem that it was not Is­rael’s problem to deal with about 40000 peo­ple who went there from Eritrea look­ing for a job.

“We need to ex­pel them, whether they agree or not,” he in­sisted, “and if laws should be changed, laws should be changed.”

Char­ity, we know, be­gins at home. If Is­rael can­not prac­tise char­ity at home, or be wel­com­ing and kind to peo­ple who were im­pov­er­ished by the re­pres­sive gov­ern­ments that it sup­ports, how will it ever be able to con­trib­ute any­thing sig­nif­i­cant to the African con­ti­nent?

His­tory has been un­kind to Africa in many ways; it has suf­fered from the At­lantic slave trade, set­tler colo­nial­ism, apartheid rule and geno­cide.

One ex­cep­tional stroke of good for­tune, though, was when the early Zion­ists re­jected an of­fer by Im­pe­rial Bri­tain to cre­ate “Is­rael” on land in Uganda. Had they ac­cepted, the con­se­quences for Africa would have been unimag­in­able.

Hav­ing wit­nessed the cat­a­strophic re­sults of Zion­ist colo­nial­ism in Pales­tine, Africa has every rea­son to shun Ne­tanyahu’s sum­mit.

The rumour is that it might now be held in Is­rael in­stead of Togo. A boy­cott of that as well will send an even stronger mes­sage to Ne­tanyahu and his ilk that their ver­sion of apartheid is just as un­wel­come as South Africa’s was.

Is­rael should back off; Africa does not need a modern colo­nial mas­ter.

Dr Ab­dul­lah is the di­rec­tor of the Lon­don-based Mid­dle East Mon­i­tor.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu talk­ing in Mex­ico City this week. His over­tures to Africa have not been wel­comed.

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