Israeli aid to Africa isn’t about goodwill or generosity. It’s about buying African silence – particularly at the United Nations – about Israeli crimes against Palestinians. This is the message from prominent Palestinian politicians and activists currently on tour in South Africa.
Speaking in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) political party warned: “African governments must be wary of seemingly generous Israeli offers of water and agricultural technology, investment, trade, and security. Israel’s ‘philanthropy’ in Africa is an attempt to buy support for its apartheid policies against the Palestinians. This ‘aid’ and investment is not free. The repayment that Israel demands is African silence – particularly at the United Nations – about Israeli crimes against Palestinians.”
Barghouti, along with Palestinian author and journalist, Ramzy Baroud, are in South Africa to meet trade unions, civil society and government to lobby for the end of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. “It is shameful that the Israeli government is cynically exploiting Africa’s socio-economic challenges to whitewash its oppression of the Palestinians,” said Baroud.
Israel’s “goodwill” on the continent, Baroud says, is a replica of apartheid South Africa’s attempts to buy support for its apartheid policies. “The South African apartheid regime also developed a policy of ‘helpfulness’ towards poorer African nations, offering to share its agricultural and mining know-how. Most African nations refused Pretoria’s offers, and ultimately formed the frontline of resistance against South African apartheid."
As Israelis went to the polls on Tuesday, Barghouti warned that the worst system of apartheid against Palestinians will now become more entrenched. “We need South Africa’s solidarity more than any time before,” urged Barghouti. He also called on the South African government to fully implement the ruling African National Congress resolution to immediately and unconditionally downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv.
Hosted by the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC), Baroud echoed Barghouti’s call and emphasized the need for South Africans to help Palestinians resist the erasure of their identity. Baroud is also launching his latest book The Last Earth. The book tells the stories of dispossession, exile and loss of ordinary Palestinians, but it is also about hope and resistance in modern Palestine.
“Ordinary Palestinians have rarely narrated their own history, and this is an attempt to reclaim our narrative. The stories of the occupation are told by the occupier, the stories of colonialism are told by the colonizers,” said Baroud.
“Ramzy has always had an interesting and refreshing take on the occupation of Palestine and potential futures for Palestinians and it is important for South Africans to hear these kinds of voices,” said AMEC director, Na’eem Jeenah.
“South Africa’s own history and struggle against colonialism puts us in a unique position to understand the liberation and anti-colonial struggle of the Palestinian people. We hope that Ramzy will provide a clearer understanding of the occupation of Palestine for South African audiences,” added Jeenah.
This is Baroud’s second visit to Africa. In June, he embarked on a ground-breaking tour of Nairobi, becoming one of the first Palestinian authors to visit Kenya.