A group of Palestinian activists has issued a statement asking African leaders to boycott the upcoming Africa-Israel summit in Togo in October, labeling Israel an “apartheid state”.
The summit, which is the first of its kind, is expected to reawaken economic and diplomatic relations between Israel and Africa, with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expected to meet more than 20 African heads of state to discuss the future of Africa-Israel cooperation.
But the civil rights group, the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, insists that Israel’s only interest in Africa is to exploit the continent’s vast resources and continue with its abuse of African migrants in Israel.
Addressing African governments in a letter sent to respective embassies yesterday, the group called for total rejection of the summit saying Israel’s continued action against Palestinians is in breach of various U.N. treaties.
It added that African countries, which suffered the greatest brunt of colonialism, should be wary of Israel, the “longest and most brutal project in the world today”.
From the face of it, the letter may look like the usual rhetoric and finger pointing circus that has been going on between Israel and Palestine for decades, but the weight of its implication cannot be wished away.
So, will the African governments heed the call to boycott the high-level summit? Can the continent afford to ignore a well-to-do partner like Israel? What will be the consequences if the heads of state decided to skip the conference? These are some of the hard questions that participating governments have to deal with.
Surprisingly, several African states, including Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, and South Africa have already vowed not to attend the summit, with reports indicating that the civil rights group is working with local NGOs to persuade their governments to pull out of the conference.
But not everyone has a problem with Israel. Of late, many African countries have been looking to Israel for assistance in technology, infrastructural development and security. As a matter of fact, most African governments are now adopting new technologies from Israel to help them deal with problems of food shortage and insecurity.
Mr. Netanyahu, who recently made his maiden trip to Africa, has promised to strengthen his country’s relation with Africa, describing it as a “priority”. But pundits argue that Netanyahu’s renewed interest in Africa is necessitated by the need to win the continent’s support at the United Nations Security Council, which has been very critical of Israel’s actions against Palestine.
While this friendship with Israel may bring certain benefits to the continent, African governments must be aware of Israel’s definitive agenda and ensure it is not harmful to their own national and regional interests.