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The meaning of Israel’s ‘return’ to Africa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

We can still hear the echoes of the statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to a number of African countries in July. More specifically, we hear the reiteration of the statement in which he talked about the “goal” of changing what he called the “automatic majority” against Israel in the UN. This majority relies mainly on the African, Asian and Latin American countries. Netanyahu believes that such a change might take a long time.

Identical reports regarding the visit noted that Netanyahu’s formula for such a process is simple: Israel can offer the African countries complete cooperation in fields important to “any country currently aspiring for prosperity”, such as “combating terrorism, infrastructure development, managing the water sector, entering the cyber field, and perhaps even natural gas.” In return, Israel would receive, in addition to economic benefits, political support, or at least a guarantee from these countries that they would not support international initiatives by the Palestinians.

Most of the Israeli analyses regarding the aforementioned “goal” agreed that it seems to be far-fetched. Some noted that, in recent years, the Palestinians have increased their international activities and reaped a number of “symbolic fruits”, including raising the Palestinian flag at the UN headquarters and having European parliaments and governments recognising the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, these analyses noted that in the most important vote regarding Palestine in the past two years, the Palestinians failed to secure a Security Council vote in favour of the state of Palestine. Rwanda was one of the countries that abstained from voting, and the Palestinian proposal was one vote short.

Netanyahu summed up the results of his visit by saying that Israel has returned strongly to Africa. In fact, success in Africa is not Israel’s only diplomatic goal. At a time when it is experiencing a “crisis” with the current US administration and is being condemned routinely by most of Europe, Israel is working to construct a web of relations with countries which were considered “anti” in the past, unlike America and Europe. This includes African countries, India, China and Japan, and states in Latin America. To this list we can also add Russia.

In this respect, it is worth remembering that on 10 November 1975, the UN adopted resolution 3379 which likened Zionism to racism, stating that the UN General Assembly “determine [d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Amongst other things, the resolution noted the decision made by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity at its twelfth session in Kampala from 28 July to 1 August 1975, which considered that “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the [then] racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being.”

Israel then embarked on a strategy to revoke the resolution by means of an initiative by Shimon Peres. The core of the strategy was to attract Jews from Ethiopia to migrate to Israel. This was its way to send a message to the world, especially Africa, that it is not a racist or discriminatory state.

Once the migration programme had started, the Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia said that Israel was the first country to take black people out of their country who were not in chains. Resolution 3379 was revoked in 1991 without Zionism having to change its essential characteristics. This now requires another return.

Translated from Arab48, 7 December 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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