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

Boycott Israeli Apartheid sticker [File photo]
Boycott Israeli Apartheid sticker [File photo]

The Twittersphere went into overdrive immediately after the cancellation of the controversial African-Israeli summit. “When you are on an Apartheid selling roadshow Africans don’t buy it,” tweeted the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In doing so, the South Africans had actually spoken for the whole continent.

Having rid their country of the racist apartheid regime, the people of South Africa 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 in the African continent. Naturally, they were the first to announce their boycott of the summit planned to take place in Togo in late October. Sean Benfeldt, South Africa’s ambassador to Lebanon and Syria, told a Palestinian delegation from the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad that his country will 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. Not too long ago, Netanyahu was not only his country’s premier, but also the foreign minister, minister of defence, minister of the economy, minister of communications, and minister of regional cooperation simultaneously; a veritable jack of all trades but master of none. Although he grudgingly relinquished some of these positions, he continues to run the foreign ministry alongside his duties as prime minister.

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, he 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.


During the 1970s and 1980s, Israel and Pretoria shared military technology and intelligence, with up to 23,000 Israeli military personnel stationed in apartheid South Africa at any one time. So intense was the collaboration between them that the UN General Assembly was forced to adopt a resolution in 1984 condemning “the increasing collaboration by Israel with the racist regime of South Africa”. (A/RES/39/72.C)

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”.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L-2) and Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki (C) attend the 29th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 3 July, 2017 [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L-2) and Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki (C) attend the 29th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 3 July, 2017 [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency]

In boycotting the Togo summit, African nations must have taken stock of the “freedom” in the countries that are closest to Israel. Take the case of Egypt, for example. Its incumbent President came to power by way of a coup in 2013 after which the African Union suspended Egypt’s membership. Similarly, when Faure Gnassingbe was installed as President of Togo in 2005 — succeeding his father — the African Union described the move as a “military coup.” Both countries have now become notorious for their repressive regimes and appalling human rights records. Egypt, many believe, has only escaped sanction because of its close ties with Israel and the US. Not many in Africa will today want to sacrifice their much-valued freedom for friendship with America.

Read: Cancellation of the African-Israeli summit is a huge blow to Netanyahu

There are yet other factors that must have discouraged African countries from going ahead with a summit with Israel. Thousands of economic migrants from Eretria 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 come to realise that 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 far-right Yesh Atid party in Israel, Yair Lapid, told an audience at a town hall meeting in Jerusalem that it is not Israel’s problem to deal with forty or thirty-five thousand 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.”

Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid party, and Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the ultra-right-wing Jewish Home Party, joined settlers on 23 July 2017 at the inauguration of a monument that was rebuilt in the illegal settlement outpost of Netiv HaAvot after the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the outpost’s demolition and the evacuation of all settlers.[Yigal Dilmoni/Twitter]

Yair Lapid (centre), the head of the Yesh Atid party, and Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett (left), head of the ultra-right-wing Jewish Home Party, joined settlers on 23 July 2017 at the inauguration of a monument that was rebuilt in the illegal settlement outpost of Netiv HaAvot after the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the outpost’s demolition and the evacuation of all settlers [Yigal Dilmoni/Twitter]

Charity, we know, begins at home. If Israel cannot practice 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?

OPINION: The real reasons behind the cancellation of Israel – Africa Summit

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 are 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.

ArticleCommentary & AnalysisIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
  • Fasdunkle

    “History has been unkind to Africa in many ways; it has suffered from the Atlantic slave trade”

    It suffered from the trans-Saharan slave trade too – but given that was carried out by the author’s ideological forebears it’s no surprise he neglected to mention it.

    • MisterSamsung Galaxy

      well said Fas. The author neglected to mention that the African slave trade was actually started by Arabs.

      • peepsqueek

        Akosua Perbi
Professor of History
University of Ghana

Before the white man, North Africa slavery was practiced in the Sahara desert and its southern border lands, as well as in the region of modern western Sahara, Morocco and Algeria among the Berbers. In the Central Sahara and in the sub desert areas further south, the Tuaregs practiced slavery. In North East Africa, the Ethiopians, Somalis, Egyptians and the people of the Sudan were all familiar with the institution of slavery. In West Africa slavery was known among many of the states and societies. For example among the Wolof and Serer of Senegambia, the Mende and Temne of Sierra Leone, the Vai of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and virtually all the states and societies in Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Mali, Nigeria etc. In Central Africa slavery was practiced in much of Bantu Africa for example among the Duala of Cameroon; the Bakongo, Bapende Luba and Lunda of Zaire ( now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Congo and part of Angola, and the Lozi of Zambia. In East Africa the Buganda state, the Nyamwezi and the Chagga peoples practiced slavery. Along the coast, the Mrima Arabs, Omani Arabs and the Sawahilis practiced slavery. In Southern Africa the Cokwe of Angola, the Sena of Mozambique and the Ngoni people scattered across East, Central and Southern Africa were all familiar with the institution of slavery.

        Akosua Perbi is Associate Professor of History University of Ghana, Legon. She has served five terms as Head of Department of History between 1992 and 2006. She holds a doctorate in History from University of Ghana, Legon, and is an expert in indigenous slavery in Africa and women in African history.

        Prof. Perbi is a life member of the African Studies Association based in Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.; Fontes Historiae Africana Project of the International Union of Academics, based in Vienna, Austria; University Teachers Association of Ghana, and Historical Society of Ghana.

        • ricck lineheart

          Ancient Romans had slaves from all over their vast empire including Ireland and Germany not all slaves were black . look up Oliver Cromwell and see how he cut the population of Ireland nearly in half taking slaves to be sold in early America alongside black slaves after butchering most of the population . Thousands went into the Caribbean Islands to work the British sugar cane fields and be part of the breeding program . Their new owners were given strict orders NOT to let the Irish speak their old language and do not in any way educate them …

          • peepsqueek

            Yes, man’s inhumanity to man is part of all our collective history, but this article specifically sites colonial and trans Atlantic slavery as being unkind to Africa to manipulate the discussion, so I clearly supported that the sub-Saharan slave trade has be going on for thousands of years and continues to this day. Under Qaddafi’s Libya, as Libya was the drop off point for of Sub Saharan Africans for forced labor and sexual exploitation to the Middle East, which is still going on today in the Sudan, and there are plenty of articles out there to support this. My point is that the authors of these articles should use a balanced scale.

      • Bishadi

        arab as a word means, nomadic, wanderer, it’s what the diaspora alieya is even claiming

      • Fasdunkle

        The muslim colonialists didn’t start slavery in Africa, they just industrialised it on a scale not previously seen

        • MisterSamsung Galaxy

          I stand corrected.

      • charliematerne

        And continues under the African Muslims

    • peepsqueek

      Meanwhile, in Sudan and Mauritania, racist Arab societies enslave blacks. Today. Most of the slaves are African Muslims. Yet there is no Arab Apartheid Week on American campuses. Why not? Where is the outrage?

      You might think American student activists would be upset about Mauritania, the West African country with the largest population of black slaves in the world – estimates range from 100,000 to more than a half-million. In Mauritania, slaves are used for labor, sexual and breeding. The wholly owned property of their masters, they are passed down through generations, given as wedding gifts or exchanged for camels, trucks, guns or money. Where is the outrage where there is real slavery?

      • Yes, it always seems very awkward to me how some black people in the West proudly convert to Islam when the only reason so many Africans are Muslim today is because their ancestors were forcibly occupied and enslaved by Arabs for hundreds of years.

  • Helen4Yemen

    Zionist Logic — Malcolm X on Zionism

    Taken from The Egyptian Gazette — Sept. 17, 1964

    The Zionist armies that now occupy Palestine claim
    their ancient Jewish prophets predicted that in the
    “last days of this world” their own God would raise
    them up a “messiah” who would lead them to their
    promised land, and they would set up their own
    “divine” government in this newly-gained land, this
    “divine” government would enable them to “rule all
    other nations with a rod of iron.”

    If the Israeli Zionists believe their present occupation
    of Arab Palestine is the fulfillment of predictions
    made by their Jewish prophets, then they also
    religiously believe that Israel must fulfill its “divine”
    mission to rule all other nations with a rod of irons,
    which only means a different form of iron-like rule,
    more firmly entrenched even, than that of the former
    European Colonial Powers.

    These Israeli Zionists religiously believe their Jewish
    God has chosen them to replace the outdated
    European colonialism with a new form of colonialism,
    so well disguised that it will enable them to deceive
    the African masses into submitting willingly to their
    “divine” authority and guidance, without the African
    masses being aware that they are still colonized.


    The Israeli Zionists are convinced they have
    successfully camouflaged their new kind of
    colonialism. Their colonialism appears to be more
    “benevolent,” more “philanthropic,” a system with
    which they rule simply by getting their potential
    victims to accept their friendly offers of economic
    “aid,” and other tempting gifts, that they dangle in
    front of the newly-independent African nations,
    whose economies are experiencing great difficulties.
    During the 19th century, when the masses here in
    Africa were largely illiterate it was easy for European
    imperialists to rule them with “force and fear,” but in
    this present era of enlightenment the African masses
    are awakening, and it is impossible to hold them in
    check now with the antiquated methods of the 19th

    The imperialists, therefore, have been compelled to
    devise new methods. Since they can no longer force
    or frighten the masses into submission, they must
    devise modern methods that will enable them to
    manouevre the African masses into willing

    The modern 20th century weapon of neo-imperialism
    is “dollarism.” The Zionists have mastered the science
    of dollarism: the ability to come posing as a friend
    and benefactor, bearing gifts and all other forms of
    economic aid and offers of technical assistance. Thus,
    the power and influence of Zionist Israel in many of
    the newly “independent” African nations has
    fast-become even more unshakeable than that of the
    18th century European colonialists… and this new
    kind of Zionist colonialism differs only in form and
    method, but never in motive or objective.

    At the close of the 19th century when European
    imperialists wisely foresaw that the awakening
    masses of Africa would not submit to their old
    method of ruling through force and fears, these
    ever-scheming imperialists had to create a “new
    weapon,” and to find a “new base” for that weapon.


    The number one weapon of 20th century imperialism
    is zionist dollarism, and one of the main bases for this
    weapon is Zionist Israel. The ever-scheming European
    imperialists wisely placed Israel where she could
    geographically divide the Arab world, infiltrate and
    sow the seed of dissension among African leaders
    and also divide the Africans against the Asians.

    Zionist Israel’s occupation of Arab Palestine has forced
    the Arab world to waste billions of precious dollars on
    armaments, making it impossible for these newly
    independent Arab nations to concentrate on
    strengthening the economies of their countries and
    elevate the living standard of their people.

    And the continued low standard of living in the Arab
    world has been skillfully used by the Zionist
    propagandists to make it appear to the Africans that
    the Arab leaders are not intellectually or technically
    qualified to lift the living standard of their people …
    thus, indirectly “enducing” Africans to turn away from
    the Arabs and towards the Israelis for teachers and
    technical assistance.

    “They cripple the bird’s wing, and then condemn it
    for not flying as fast as they.”

    The imperialists always make themselves look good,
    but it is only because they are competing against
    economically crippled newly independent countries
    whose economies are actually crippled by the Zionist-
    capitalist conspiracy. They can’t stand against fair
    competition, thus they dread Gamal Abdul Nasser’s
    call for African-Arab Unity under Socialism.


    If the “religious” claim of the Zionists is true that they
    were to be led to the promised land by their messiah,
    and Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine is
    the fulfillment of that prophesy: where is their
    messiah whom their prophets said would get the
    credit for leading them there? It was Ralph Bunche
    who “negotiated” the Zionists into possession of
    Occupied Palestine! Is Ralph Bunche the messiah of
    Zionism? If Ralph Bunche is not their messiah, and
    their messsiah has not yet come, then what are they
    doing in Palestine ahead of their messiah?

    • peepsqueek

      As opposed to Islamists who believe that every inch of the Middle East and North African land mass is Islamic land. Even Christian Arabs are not allowed to enter the Holy City of Mecca, or even gain citizenship in Arabia, the land of their ancestors.

  • charliematerne

    Interesting that Israel is an “Apartheid” state while the Islamic States (with their true Apartheid, Sharia, laws ) get a free pass. It is not the Jews who, to this day, still enslave and murder Africans in the name of the “religion of peace”

    • Bishadi

      The apartheid is based on oppressing Palestinian, because the religious bigots (zionist) intend to take down the gold domed building and build a temple (zion), for holocaust of red heifer.
      And you still support that idolatry

    • Helen4Yemen

      How culpable were Dutch Jews in the slave trade?

      The Times of Israel


      December 28, 2013, 4:29 am

      A nonconformist Dutch Orthodox rabbi thinks it’s time for his largely silent community to discuss its robust ties that bound

      Many native Dutchmen view dressing up as Black Pete in December as a venerable tradition, but others consider it a racist affront to victims of slavery. With Holland marking the 150th anniversary of abolition this year, the controversy over Black Pete has reached new heights. Hundreds demonstrated against the custom in Amsterdam last month, and more than 2 million signed a petition supporting it.

      Through it all, Dutch Jews — some of whom celebrate their own version of the Black Pete custom, called “Hanukklaas” — have largely remained silent.

      But that changed in October, when Lody van de Kamp, an unconventional Orthodox rabbi, wrote a scathing critique about it on Republiek Allochtonie, a Dutch news-and-opinion website. “The portrayal of ‘Peter the slave’ dates back to a period when we as citizens did not meet the social criteria that bind us today,” Van de Kamp wrote.

      Speaking out against Black Pete is part of what van de Kamp calls his social mission, an effort that extends to reminding Dutch Jews of their ancestors’ deep involvement in the slave trade. In April, he is set to publish a book about Dutch Jewish complicity in the slave trade, an effort he hopes will sensitize Jews to slavery in general and to the Black Pete issue in particular.

      “I wrote the book and I got involved in the Black Pete debate because of what I learned from my Dutch predecessors on what it means to be a rabbi — namely, to speak about social issues, not only give instructions on how to cook on Shabbat,” van de Kamp told JTA.

      “Money was earned by Jewish communities in South America, partly through slavery, and went to Holland, where Jewish bankers handled it,” he said. “Non-Jews were also complicit, but so were we. I feel partly complicit.”

      Though he holds no official position in the Dutch Jewish community, van de Kamp, 65, is among the best-known Orthodox rabbis in the Netherlands, a status earned through his several books on Dutch Jewry and frequent media appearances.

      His forthcoming book, a historical novel entitled “The Jewish Slave,” follows an 18th-century Jewish merchant and his black slave as they investigate Dutch-owned plantations north of Brazil in the hope of persuading Jews to divest from the slave trade. In researching the book, van de Kamp discovered data that shocked him.

      In one area of what used to be Dutch Guyana, 40 Jewish-owned plantations were home to a total population of at least 5,000 slaves, he says. Known as the Jodensavanne, or Jewish Savannah, the area had a Jewish community of several hundred before its destruction in a slave uprising in 1832. Nearly all of them immigrated to Holland, bringing their accumulated wealth with them.

      Some of that wealth was on display last year in the cellar of Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue, part of an exhibition celebrating the riches of the synagogue’s immigrant founders. Van de Kamp says the exhibition sparked his interest in the Dutch Jewish role in slavery, which was robust.

      At one point, Jews controlled about 17 percent of the Caribbean trade in Dutch colonies.

      On the Caribbean island of Curacao, Dutch Jews may have accounted for the resale of at least 15,000 slaves landed by Dutch transatlantic traders, according to Seymour Drescher, a historian at the University of Pittsburgh. At one point, Jews controlled about 17 percent of the Caribbean trade in Dutch colonies, Drescher said.

      Jews were so influential in those colonies that slave auctions scheduled to take place on Jewish holidays often were postponed, according to Marc Lee Raphael, a professor of Judaic studies at the College of William & Mary.

      In the United States, the Jewish role in the slave trade has been a matter of scholarly debate for nearly two decades, prompted in part by efforts to refute the Nation of Islam’s claim that Jews dominated the Atlantic slave trade. But in Holland, the issue of Jewish complicity is rarely discussed.

      “This is because we in the Netherlands only profited from slavery but have not seen it in our own eyes,” van de Kamp said. “The American experience is different.”

      The slavery issue is not van de Kamp’s first foray into controversial territory. In Jewish circles, he has a reputation as a contrarian with a penchant for voicing anti-establishment views.

      That image was reinforced last year when he spoke out against a compromise the Dutch Jewish community had reached with the government over kosher slaughter. Designed to avert a total ban, the compromise placed some restrictions on kosher slaughter that Holland’s chief rabbis said did not violate Jewish law. Van de Kamp denounced the deal as an unacceptable infringement on religious freedom.

      More recently, he angered Dutch activists by suggesting that vilifying Dutch Muslims helped generate anti-Semitism. He also advocated dialogue with professed Muslim anti-Semites at a time when Jewish groups were calling for their prosecution.

      But his reputation as a maverick rabbi in a consensus–oriented community has also endeared van de Kamp to some supporters.


    • Helen4Yemen

      Desmond Tutu:

      “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have
      witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that
      reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in
      South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have
      witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and
      children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints
      routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit
      relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is
      familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were
      corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the
      Apartheid government.”

    • Helen4Yemen

      Tell me:

      Is there a single Ashkenazi Jew who can say Palestine is his grandma’s land?

    • Helen4Yemen

      1- Hebron: Separate roads for Jews, Palestinians

      2- USAID funding Israel’s apartheid road construction

      3- This Road is for Jews Only. Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel

      4- Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel

      5- On the road to Israeli apartheid?

      6- Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal.Under Discriminatory Policies, Settlers Flourish, Palestinians Suffer

      7- Natanyahu plans apartheid roads in the West Bank

      8- Forbidden Roads: The Discriminatory West Bank Road Regime,

      9- The Gritty Truth About Israel’s ‘Jewish-Only’ Highways

      10- US Funds Apartheid Roads on West Bank

      11- Israel’s Palestinian-only buses draw accusations of segregation, apartheid

      12- Palestinian “Freedom Riders” Challenge Segregation

      13- Carter: Israeli apartheid ‘worse’

      14- The Worst Apartheid in Modern History

      15- Israeli Jews Support Apartheid Regime, Survey Reveals

      17- Watch: Palestinians prevented to walk on ‘Jews only’ roads

      • charliematerne

        That’s an impressive list of “reliable” sources you have there

  • kirby1

    To the author: Israel nor Africa don’t need your damn advice.

    • Most people in Sub-Saharan Africa are actually extremely pro-Israel, I went there once, and they actually love both the United States and Israel.

      • kirby1

        Well obviously your remarks do not hold true for the author of article Duad Abdallah.

  • Bishadi

    Africans know apartheid just like Palestinians do now. What is weird is Palestine has no diamond mines and there is nothing holy about the ‘city of blood’ (zion)

  • Fasdunkle

    Are MEMO authors having a competition to see who can write the most a-historical, hypocritical nonsense?

  • Fasdunkle

    It is interesting that Daud Abdullah chose to pursue his studies in the apartheid states of Sudan and Saudi Arabia

  • kirby1

    I could could see support BDS if it were directing at any of the 22 apartheid Arab states that sponsor global terrorism but not Israel the only democratic country in the a Middle East.
    Arab apartheid / Muslim apartheid are the largest ‘apartheid systems’, that exist today.
    Virtually all non-Arabs and/or non-Muslims are second class citizens. Among minorities that feel the wrath of the bigoted Arab-Muslim world are:
    * Berbers (native N. African)
    * Copts (indigenous Egyptians suffer from both: Arab racism and Islamic bigotry).
    * Kurds (Examples include: [Saddam’s] Iraq and Syria.
    * Blacks, in Arab lands or in Arab ruled Africa like the genocide in the Sudan and slavery in both Sudan and in Mauritania.
    * Asians, particularly in the Gulf Arab states.
    * Maronites-Christians [Native Lebanese] suffer from both Arab ethnic racism and religious bigotry, like the massacres in the 1970s by local Muslims and by Palestinian/Syrian forces.
    * Assyrians, are/have been persecuted both racially and religiously. Still very much marginalized in Iraq, for example.
    * Iran is not an Arab country but racism is huge against Kurds, Jews, Turkmens, etc. So is anti-non-Muslim bigotry against Christians, Bahai, Zoroastrians and other in the Islamic republic.

    • It’s amazing in hindsight how the Arabs were able to colonize such a vast region with so many diverse and different peoples in the first place. I mean, for most of ancient history, they were barely acknowledged by most of the other neighboring powers, other than some casual trade.

  • João Zocatelli

    Israel intended to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid regime in South Africa.

    • MisterSamsung Galaxy

      Israel also trained Nelson Mandela…

  • Aren’t there African Jews in Israel though?

    • MisterSamsung Galaxy

      I believe you are referring to the Jews of Ethiopia.

  • charliematerne

    When did negotiated trade agreements become “colonialism”?

    • Fasdunkle

      It’s ironic because Daud Abduallh is a Brotherhood operative. He wants a return to the imperialist, colonialist days of the islamic supremacist, apartheid caliphates. Nobody ever accused islamists of not being utter hypocrites.

  • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

    Arabs are currently selling Blacks in Libya. Africa has few friends.