In the past two weeks three very different things have happened on opposite ends on the African continent.
First was the decision by the African Union Commission (AUC) to grant Israel observer status at the 55-member continental body after excluding it for 19 years.
Israel had enjoyed observer status at the predecessor Organisation of African Unity until 2002 when the OAU dissolved to become the African Union. While Israel’s subsequent exclusion was a quasi diplomatic boycott, the Palestinian Authority enjoyed a seat at the AU table since 2013 with its President Mahmoud Abbas periodically addressing the body and its delegates having a hand in crafting statements that were critical of Israel.
Israel was readmitted on July 22 this year when its ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad, Aleli Admasu, presented his credentials to Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the AUC in Addis Ababa.
In the second development two Israeli airlines touched down in Morocco – signalling the boost for tourism, business and diplomacy envisioned by the Abraham Accords. Brokered by the Trump administration last year, the accords normalised relations between Israel and four Arab states, two of them – Morocco and Sudan – being African. From now on 12 direct commercial flights will operate between Tel Aviv and Marrakesh and Casablanca every week.
The third development took place on the southern tip of Africa. The SA government expressed outrage at the AU decision to readmit Israel and immediately began taking steps to undo this.
In a strongly worded statement SA’s department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) accused the AUC of taking the decision “unilaterally without consultations with its members”.
And, Dirco went on to say, “the decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land.”
It added: “SA firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status in the African Union. The AU cannot be a party in any way to plans and actions that would see the ideal of Palestinian statehood reduced into balkanised entities devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability.”
As a result Pretoria will ask the AUC’s Faki to brief all member states on the decision, and hopes this will be followed by a discussion of the executive council and assembly of heads of states and government.
Interestingly, Dirco’s statement echoes that of Hamas which slams the AU move as “shocking and reprehensible,” and claims that it “enhances the legitimacy of the occupation on our land, and gives it [Israel] more opportunities to continue its plans to erase Palestinian rights and continue its brutal crimes.”
The problem with South Africa’s position is that it skews SA foreign policy which, since 1994, has been supportive of a two-state solution – something that implies even-handed treatment of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and a peace-making role for the South African state.
Dirco’s statement also misrepresents history and the events that took place in Israel and Gaza in May this year.
Historically speaking Israel has accepted every offer for peace and partition that has come its way since 1947. Arab and Palestinian leaders, on the other hand, have rejected every offer of autonomy, including over areas larger than Gaza and the West Bank.
As for the claim that Israel brutally hounded Palestinians by bombarding them, this overlooks the fact that in May Hamas attacked Israel – firing volleys of long-range missiles, first at Jerusalem, then at Tel Aviv, then across all of Israel. Together with the Islamic Jihad, Hamas fired more than 4 000 missiles into tiny Israel, killing both Jewish and Muslim civilians, and causing millions of Israelis to scramble into bunkers.
Israel’s retaliatory strike against Hamas was precisely that – retaliatory. Indeed, the defence of its people has, since 1948, been the singular motive for action by Israel’s Defence Force. And far from hounding civilians in Gaza, the IDF went to extraordinary lengths to warn those whom Hamas was using as human shields, to move out of the way before it targeted Hamas operatives, infrastructure and holdings.
Dirco’s additional claim that “South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status” in the AU, is also disingenuous. This is for two reasons. First is that Israel has willingly stepped up to negotiate several times – only to be rejected by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat. Second, is the fact that Israel’s refusal to negotiate with Hamas is because Hamas will not recognise Israel’s right to exist and has stated in its charter “the day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight Jews and kill them”. So, rather than wanting to build peace or achieve a two-state solution, this extremist fundamentalist religious organisation wants to wipe Israel and Jews off the face of the earth and to establish an Islamist caliphate.
Moving on to Dirco’s claim that “the ideal of Palestinian statehood (is being) reduced into balkanised entities devoid of true sovereignty”, this disregards the fact that Israel is not actually attacking anyone. Nor are Jews colonisers or settlers. It is a matter of historical record that they have been resident in the area since the days of Abraham and it is they who have had to endure centuries of colonisation and a barrage of attacks from its neighbours.
Nonetheless, South Africa’s leadership continues to obstinately cling to outdated alliances – at least one of these with an anti-democratic and genocidal entity that contradicts almost every value expressed in SA’s constitution.
Another bothersome aspect of South Africa’s hostile stance towards Israel is that it is increasingly out of kilter with the changes taking place, not only in North Africa and the Gulf States, but in West and East Africa.
This discernible shift began in 2016 when Guinea re-established relations with Israel. The same year, then president, Benjamin Netanyahu, became the first Israeli premier in decades to travel to Africa – visiting Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. That December Jerusalem hosted seven ministers and many top officials from over a dozen West African countries at an agricultural summit in Israel, co-sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.
The following year, in June 2017, Netanyahu attended an ECOWAS annual conference. The organisation includes 15 nations with a combined population of about 320 million. The Israeli prime minister was also invited to the 51st Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Community in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city.
In 2019 Chad re-established relations with Israel. In October 2020, Morocco and Sudan signed the normalisation accords with Israel, which has also developed good relations with other African states, including Tanzania, Togo and Cameroon.
In sum, Israel now has relations with 46 AU member states. Africa’s attitude towards the Jewish state is clearly changing. And for the countries in harmony with Israel the benefits hardly need to be spelt out: Israel is a world leader with ground-breaking innovation in almost every field, including agriculture, high-tech, security know-how, medicine and many others – and it is more than willing to share these skills. It has also had more start-up business success than any other country. And despite the ongoing conflict over its 72 years of existence, Israel is among the top 20 global economies, and it is ranked as the world’s eighth most powerful nation.
This week Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Israel’s readmission to the AU would allow for better cooperation on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and on combating terrorism. Africa desperately needs this help. The pandemic has torn through many countries, and one need look no further than northern Mozambique to see that terrorism is encroaching. Africa also needs every possible business and investment opportunity.
Yet, while Israeli airlines begin to zoom in and out of Muslim Morocco and West and East African nations flock to bolster relations with Israel, the SA government remains fixated on trying to sway African nations to vote against Israel at international forums, such as the UN General Assembly, Security Council and Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – and now it wants to stop Israel from having observer status at the AU.
This is an outdated approach that amounts to cutting off South Africa’s nose to spite its face.
There is another, even more important reason for South Africa needing to harmonise relations with Israel. More than 70 to 80% of the SA population professes to be Christian. This means that most South Africans are observant of God’s many promises in scripture to bless those nations that align with “the God of Israel” and his people, and to curse those that do not.
This is made clear in Joel 3:1-3 where “God says ‘I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of my people, my heritage, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, they have also divided up my land’.”
The blessings that accrue to Israel go back to Genesis 12:1–3 where God told Abram to go to “the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great. And you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
In other words, it is through this one nation that God intends to bless the rest.
Messianic Jewish teacher Amir Tsarfati also points out that God repeatedly defines himself as “the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 8:22-26), “the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel” (1 Kings 18:36), “the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:31) and “the God of this people Israel” (Acts 13:14-19). In Isaiah 49:14-17 God also promises that he will never forget Zion and has (a picture of it) inscribed on the palms of his hands.
Bottomline? God chose to make Israel into a nation. He has always been deeply invested in it. Satan wants to get at God by destroying the nation that God has used to describe himself, says Tsarfati, and Satan wants to destroy Israel in order to stop Jesus from returning to Jerusalem as he promised to do.
For South African believers as individuals and as a nation, the government’s position on Israel is key. The benefits that accrue to the descendants of Abraham apply, not only to the booming nation of Israel, but to those who are aligned to it though their acceptance of the Jewish messiah.
As Tsarfati says, “Your stance on Israel matters. You cannot hate that which God loves. Being pro-Israel will cost you, but your reward is eternal.”
Germany boycotting anti-Israel UN conference in Durban
Germany will not attend a United Nation’s event in September marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism in Durban according to German diplomatic sources.
Germany joins nine other countries – Israel, US, Canada, Australia, UK, Hungary, Austria, Netherlands, and the Czech Republic – who will boycott the international conference that has been described as a “festival of Jew-hate” for its record of punting antisemitism.
The conference held in Durban in 2001 demonised Israel and is considered as the birthplace of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. It was described by UN Watch as “the worst international manifestation of antisemitism in the post-war period.”
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