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Israel's observer status at the African Union is a major blunder

September 17, 2021 at 10:31 am

African Union Committee Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat in Yokohama on August 28, 2019 [TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images]

The mere thought of having a colonial enterprise enjoying red carpet treatment within an anticolonial setting beggars belief. Even more so when that setting is the African Union, because the continent has suffered under colonialism, slavery, the exploitation of its natural and human resources and a multitude of other ills flowing from the intervention of foreign powers. We were entitled to think that Africa has moved on and put that era behind us.

We were wrong. It seems that we have entrusted the continent’s political integrity, built up over decades of bloody anticolonial struggle, to gatekeepers unworthy of the trust. That’s what it looks like in the current controversy at the African Union sparked off by Moussa Faki Mahamat, who has allowed a colonial regime — the apartheid state of Israel — to have observer status at the organisation with total disregard for the AU’s founding principles.

Israel is not only rooted in colonialism, but it is also an occupying power since being bequeathed Palestine by the British colonial mandate authorities. It has subjected the indigenous Palestinian population to the worst form of tyranny imaginable for more than seven decades.

The ideology of the state of Israel is Zionism, an ultra-right, racist movement to which former and current Israeli leaders subscribe unashamedly. Archaic policies of discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian population are in vogue and imposed violently by a ruthless military regime. This is in direct conflict with the AU’s Charter.

READ: How two leaders, decades apart, envisioned the African Union 

Moreover, Israel stands accused of war crimes and incremental genocide. Numerous findings in this regard have been made by no less than the investigative arms of the UN. Special Rapporteurs have determined via exhaustive probes that Israel has committed crimes against humanity in addition to crimes of apartheid. Israel has also ignored numerous UN Resolutions calling it to account. Despite all of this, Faki has seen fit to embrace what is, to all intents and purposes, a rogue state.

However, member states of the AU, including South Africa have taken a tough stand against Israel’s observer status. The battle to overturn Faki’s unilateral decision is a major crisis facing the continent’s premier body.

It is against this background that a group of international lawyers, researchers and human rights organisations have launched a legal challenge to the decision to embrace the apartheid state. The collective includes South African NGOs such as the Palestine Solidarity Alliance as well as Media Review Network; we are seeking to revoke Israel’s observer status at the AU. As South Africans living in a member state of the AU, we “deem it our duty to combat and object” to the decision to grant Israel such status.

The detailed submission contains almost 200 pages of legal arguments and testimonies of allegations against Israel. The contention is that if Israel has observer status and may thus be “involved in the functions of the African Union”, the latter has jurisdiction to probe the allegations against the apartheid state.

The complainants express dismay that the AU has, despite its undertakings to uphold and protect the rights and lives of Africa and its people, and despite having stood up against the atrocities that Israel has committed against the Palestinian people, akin to those of an apartheid state, the union has made a major blunder. Anyone and everyone who cares for justice in this world must surely agree.

READ: Colonialism and solidarity define the decisive Israel-Palestine battle in Africa 

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