Last thing Africa needs is modern master
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.