Civil society groups from across Africa have united to call on the African Union (AU) to reverse a recent decision by AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, granting Israel observer status at the continental body. On July 22, Mahamat received credentials from Aleli Admasu, Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserts that this means the state had been granted observer status at the AU.
On Wednesday, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in Botswana and the Labor Economists and Afrikan Democrats (LEAD) in Zimbabwe joined forces with Namibia’s Landless People’s Movement and the Center for People’s Resistance, the Socialist Forum of Ghana, the Pan-Afrikan Renaissance group in Uganda, Guinea’s All-African Revolutionary People’s Party, Economic Fighters League of Ghana, and the Nigerian branch of the Christian group Kairos. Together, they requested that AU member states reject Israel’s claim to accreditation, and that the matter be placed on the agenda of the next session of the AU Executive Council.
Coming together as the Pan-African Palestine Solidarity Network (PAPSN), the groups were joined by the Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, Socialist Students and Workers Network in Ghana, the Ghanaian branch of the International Socialist Organization, as well as Palestine solidarity organizations from Malawi, Tanzania, Senegal, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa. In a strong statement, they described Mahamat’s decision as “undemocratic and unilateral”, sidestepping the AU’s norms of procedure. This, they say, “risks undermining the stability and credibility of the AU.”
Not in Africa’s best interests
Israel claims that it needs AU observer status to help African nations with agriculture, technology and economic development. PAPSN argues that Israel wants observer status to dilute AU criticism of its illegal occupation of Palestine. “By gaining observer status and being part of AU meetings and debates, Israel wants to justify its apartheid policies against Palestinians in order to dilute AU criticism of Israeli actions. Would the AU have allowed the regime in Pretoria the opportunity to defend apartheid at its meetings?” PAPSN asked.
They also cited Israel’s destructive impact on democracy and civil rights in Africa. “Israel has consistently armed and aided the most murderous regimes on the continent. [It] has also supplied governments in Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe with spyware and surveillance technology to snoop on opposition politicians, human rights activists and journalists in those countries. There have also been reports of the involvement of Israeli technology interfering in elections in Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” wrote the coalition of African groups.
PAPSN argues that the Israeli government, through its Ministry of Defense, implicitly sanctions these activities by granting weapons and technology firms with export licenses.
The group also argued that African asylum seekers – mainly from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia - have been subject to shocking racism by Israeli politicians and government ministers in Israel.
“How can the AU take Israel’s claims of wanting to make a significant contribution to Africa seriously when the Israeli government openly displays its contempt for people from the continent? A state that treats African people in such a degrading and racist manner should not be rewarded with observer status at the African Union,” stated PAPSN.
The pan-African grouping also argues that Mahamat sets a dangerous precedent for the Chairperson to act against known views and concerns of member states. South Africa, Nigeria, Namibia, Algeria and Tunisia are just some of the AU member states that have publicly stated their opposition in the past to Israel being granted observer status at the AU.
South Africa: “inexplicable” decision
South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), on Wednesday, lambasted Mahamat’s decision, calling it “inexplicable.”
“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. The African Union strenuously objected to the deaths of Palestinians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The decision by the AU Commission in this context is inexplicable,” said Dirco spokesperson, Clayson Monyela.
“It is incomprehensible that the AU Commission chooses to reward Israel at a time when its oppression of Palestinians has been demonstrably more brutal,” he added. “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 African Union.”
The South African government 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.
One of South Africa's opposition parties, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), meanwhile, has called for Mahamat to be dismissed as AU Commission Chairperson.
The Algerian government also condemned the decision to grant Israel observer status. Israel’s practices and behavior “are totally incompatible with the values, principles, and objectives enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union,” said the Algerian Foreign Ministry in a statement.
Namibia has also rejected Israel’s observer status.
Similar statements are expected from other AU member states.
Pro-Palestine activists on the continent are adamant that Israel does not deserve AU observer status.
“We paid dearly in our liberation struggle to overthrow British Colonialism and refuse to associate ourselves in any way with Israel and its murderous regime,” said Zahid Rajan of Kenyans 4 Palestine. He called the decision “an indictment and betrayal by the AU of the African people.”
“The AU should not be rewarding a serial human rights offender, aggressor, colonizing and apartheid power. Instead, the AU should uphold the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions to isolate Israeli apartheid,” said William Shoki of the South African BDS Coalition.
- Source: Afro-Palestine Newswire Service