Israel’s growing influence in Africa -- including that of obtaining observer status at the African Union, the largest political organization in the continent -- has enraged many pro-Palestinian campaigners.
Last month, activists from across Africa met in Senegal’s capital Dakar to mobilize support for the Palestinian liberation struggle under the theme “From Africa to Palestine, United Against Apartheid.”
Activists at the conference reaffirmed Africa’s historic position on Palestine and the unbreakable bond between Africans and Palestinians who share a common struggle against occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
Israel’s increasing diplomatic ties on the continent have been viewed by some experts as something that might affect the support Palestine has been enjoying on the continent for decades.
“The apartheid Israeli regime has tried to infiltrate the African continent but has failed. Instead, there is an increase in Palestine solidarity efforts across the length and breadth of the
continent,’’ Muhammad Desai, director of Africa 4 Palestine, a human rights organization based in South Africa, told Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview Monday.
Iqbal Jassat, an executive at the Johannesburg-based think tank Media Review Network, said “Palestine in Africa has always enjoyed the status of a leading freedom movement.’’
Jassat said the struggle role which earned Palestine a great deal of empathy and support was embodied within the Palestine Liberation Movement (PLO).
“The symbolic presence of Yasser Arafat at key events across Africa's capitals, especially during the continent's anti-colonial struggle, endeared him and the movement he represented to the people,” he said in an interview.
Jassat said Arafat's stature as a giant leading Palestine's freedom struggle was matched by South Africa's icon Nelson Mandela.
“Regrettably, that era has passed ever since the PLO got enmeshed in the manipulation of America to force it to recognize Israel,” he said, referring to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Arafat founded, adding “not only did this dampen and remove Palestine's quest for liberation from Africa's political agenda, it allowed Israel to elbow its way into the continent.”
Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, a South African member of parliament, chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council and the grandson of Nelson Mandela, was among those who addressed delegates at the Dakar conference in March.
Mandela said he was honored to have been among many brave, young Africans who reaffirmed Africa’s historic position on Palestine and the unbreakable bond between Africans and Palestinians.
“I imagine that this feeling of comradeship is similar to what my grandfather, Nelson Mandela, would have experienced 60 years ago when he travelled to Dakar to mobilize African support for South Africa’s liberation struggle,” he said.
Mandela said it is regrettable that Israel is spreading its tentacles to Africa by offering spyware, weapons and agricultural technology to buy influence among some questionable African regimes.
“Once a bastion of anti-colonial struggle, the lions of Africa have allowed the wool to be pulled over their eyes,” Mandela said in his address.
He said who would believe a decade ago that “apartheid” Israel would be granted observer status in the African Union?
“We must reflect deeply on what has transpired on our continent and how the apartheid Israeli regime and its Zionist lobbying machine has crept insipidly into the African psyche and wormed itself into our structures overtly and covertly,” he said.
In an article published this month, Mandela said Israel was exporting weapons tested on Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories among other items to some of Africa’s most murderous regimes as it seeks to rekindle ties with most of the African continent that had boycotted it after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
He claimed that Israel armed the South African apartheid regime in the 1970s and 1980s.
“In the 1990s, the Israeli government violated the international arms embargo on Rwanda and supplied both Hutu government forces as well as current President Paul Kagame’s rebel army with weapons as genocide was underway,” he added.
Political commentator Mustafa Mheta told Anadolu Agency on Monday that Israel was not seeking allies for only economic purposes but to also boost its support during voting at the UN, where for years African countries have voted against the Middle Eastern state.
Mheta said that for many years, African states have been vocal against Israel over its continued occupation of Palestinian territory and aggression, but economic and security interests offered to some of them seem to have compromised their position.
Southern African countries and those in the north have remained vocal against Israel’s atrocities in occupied Palestinian territories.
Efforts to get a comment from the Israeli government were futile.