Imagine PW Botha’s regime being given observer status at the Organisation of African Unity during its total onslaught on the majority of South Africa’s people. This would have never happened because African countries stood in solidarity against apartheid and colonialism, having fought their own brutal battles against their former occupiers.
A number of African countries provided safe haven for members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and training for the fighters of its armed wing during those struggle years.
Certain African states have lost their revolutionary spirit, abandoning the Palestinians at the most desperate time in their fight for the liberation of their land and their cause for self-determination and a viable independent state.
Just when the Palestinians need solidarity from the African continent more than ever before, the African Union Commission decided to give Israel observer status at the AU this week, without consulting African member countries. This was not only unacceptable, but as the South African government has said, “appalling and unjust.”
This year the world witnessed some of the worst violence by Israeli security forces against Palestinian civilians, both in the Al Aqsa mosque compound and in Gaza, much of which is being investigated as war crimes.
The United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and other organisations have said that the 11 day Israeli military onslaught on Gaza in May this year likely constituted “war crimes”.
While the African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the Israeli air strikes on civilian areas and violence against Palestinian worshippers at the time, calling them a violation of international law, less than two months later he has granted Israel observer status at the AU.
As the South African government has said, this move is “inexplicable,” as the actions committed by Israel offend the letter and spirit of the Charter of the African Union.
The Algerian government also condemned the decision to grant Israel observer status, saying that Israel’s practices and behaviour “are totally incompatible with the values, principles, and objectives enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union.” Namibia and a number of other African countries have rejected Israel’s observer status.
Before any such readmission of Israel was even considered, the AU should have demanded that Israel complies with the many UN resolutions hanging over it. It was a perfect opportunity to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from all Arab land that it occupies in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon, and ensure the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state.
The South African government said this week that it 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. South Africa will ask Mahamat to provide a briefing to all member states on this decision so that it can be discussed by AU’s Executive Council and the Assembly of Heads of States and Government. The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has called for Mahamat to be dismissed as AU Commission Chairperson.
A number of political parties and social movements on the continent have joined forces to demand that AU member states reject Israel’s accreditation, and that the matter should be placed on the agenda of the next session of the AU Executive Council. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in Botswana, the Economic Fighters League of Ghana, Guinea’s All-African Revolutionary People’s Party, the Pan-African Renaissance group in Uganda, the Nigerian branch of the Christian group Kairos, as well as grass roots movements in Zimbabwe and Namibia have all vehemently rejected the AU Commission’s move.
The Pan-African Palestine Solidarity Network, which has members across the continent, have said that Mahamat’s decision was “undemocratic and unilateral”, sidestepping the AU’s norms of procedure, and “risks undermining the stability and credibility” of the AU.
For years, Israel has been concerned at the consensus within the UN General Assembly against its military occupation of Palestinian land, with the US often being the only country in support of Israel. One of the priorities of Israel’s foreign policy establishment has been to win over more countries, particularly in Africa, so that it could reverse its near total isolation in the UN General Assembly, while tightening its grip on the occupied territories and continuing its land grab by expanding Israeli settlement construction. It has also prioritised diluting criticism of Israel’s actions.
Israel is now hailing its readmission as a political and economic victory after it had engaged in intense lobbying of African governments, promising economic and security cooperation.
Recent reports that an Israeli company has developed and sold Pegasus spyware to a number of governments, including some in Africa, are particularly concerning. Reports allege that at least 14 world leaders (including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa) as well as journalists and human rights campaigners have been targeted by the technology.
* Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media’s Group Foreign Editor.