Palestine Update 263
Why African solidarity matters even more than western prop ups?
There is a myth that goes around according to which western solidarity offers higher currency in the campaigns for justice in Palestine. A cursory glance at voting patterns in the United Nations show that Palestine has won most of its votes on crucial matters from countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Not Europe, Canada, and USA who tend to vote against, or abstain, and, in rare instances, support Palestine.
In terms of sheer numbers, Africa dominates the Third World vote and is known for its consistency in pro-Palestine votes. Why, then, is the region disregarded and disfavoured as one whose people don’t matter in the global strategy for Palestine?
During the colonial era, in certain countries the European colonizer fled because of the ferocity of the resistance. Kenya was a remarkable example of how the Mau Mau movement drove the ‘white man’ out of the country in a swift operation which killed many British colonizers. It is another matter that the fleeing colonizers have now returned to neo-colonize Africa economically and restart their plunder and loot in other forms. They have successfully created ethnic wars and used the wars to extract hugely rich minerals from under the very surface of the land that the civil wars are fought after being engineered by corporate forces through their enslaved governments. They do so by backing one side or the other of the conflict with armaments and funds for the war while silently and stealthily extracting minerals, gold, diamonds and other precious resources. But that is another story.
It matters now that the lessons from history for Palestine must be learned from African liberationists who fought fearlessly to gain their freedom from the tormenting colonizer. Unstinted resistance and a united front defined the spirit of the anti-colonialist struggle in Africa. Africa learned what colonial subjugation was through its own experience. This is why great African leaders historically took the side of Palestine in asserting the right of the Palestinians to claim their freedom regardless of methods. For example, Kenya’s struggle for independence and Palestine’s current liberation struggle mirror each other. As Ramzy Baroud explains, “If we were to change the dates and places and replace ‘Kenya’ with ‘Palestine’ it would be like reading my own history.” Those were the heady days of the armed struggle condemned almost universally in the West as brutish, and evil, forgetting the dreadful and pitiless ways of colonialism. Africans did engage in armed struggle when the colonial violence became excruciating. But our learning for today stems from how Africa understood the relevance of civil resistance and the inevitability of retaliation when colonial powers applied the worst forms of human cruelty against the colonized.
This is well understood even today in Africa when Israel resorts to the most barbaric forms of killings and all other forms of abuse against unarmed civilian populations in Palestine. Hence the consistent vote. Africa needs no lobbying; it is about justice.
Israel’s crude and unashamed attempts to play the colonial card in Africa are seen in how it seeks a space into the African Union through dubious pretexts and methods. These have fallen flat, by and large. Israel meets rejection with the caveat that diplomatic and normal relations will follow the ceasing of the occupation.
Palestinians do not easily recognize these immense contributions of Africa because they are not ‘monetized’ and the corporate controlled western media prefers to profile the ‘opium-filled’ aid packages of the EU and USA rather than the political weight of African solidarity. The latter cannot be measured in meager dollar terms. It is value beyond measure.
Not just Africa. But Asia, Caribbean, smaller Pacific Islands, and Latin America have done more than the rich West to sustain the Palestinian cause in the international arena. The time is ripe to harvest Third World solidarity through mutual solidarity in challenging the Empire (the West as a whole) and to build new forms of political unity- the unity of the oppressed peoples of the Third world of which the Palestinians are an important part.
After all, Palestine is really the last bastion of the racist-colonialist empire. Israel colonialism must be brought down by solidarity at the level of people all over the world. India has been successful, through civil society, in dismantling a military contract and a contract with an agricultural MNC of Israel. Not many western countries can boast of similar levels of anti-colonialist mobilization. Divestments and boycotts have value but the fall of Israel apartheid must match the fall of Apartheid Africa. The biggest sacrifices in the South Africa case came from African countries notably those in Southern Africa. It continues in the case of Palestine. It is imperative that Palestinians seek more partnerships with Africa and, indeed, the so-called Third World.
Africa & Palestine’s noble legacy must never be betrayed
This article by Ramzy Baroud on his first visit to Africa is an eye opener into the imperatives for engaging the continent as partners in the struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine.
Europe’s “Scramble for Africa” began in earnest in 1881, but never ended. The attempt at dominating the continent using old and new strategies continues to define the western relationship with this rich continent.
This reality was further validated when I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on June 23. Although my objective was to address various Kenyan audiences at universities, public forums and the media, I also came here to learn. Kenya, like the rest of Africa, is a source of inspiration for all anti-colonial, liberation movements around the world. We, Palestinians, can learn a great deal from the Kenyan struggle.
Although African countries have fought valiant battles for their freedom against their western colonizers, neocolonialism now defines the relationship between many independent African countries and their former occupiers. Political meddling, economic control and, at times, military interventions, as in the recent cases of Libya and Mali, point to the unfortunate reality that Africa remains, in myriad ways, hostage to western priorities, interests and dictates.
In the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884, western colonial regimes attempted to mediate among the various powers that were competing over Africa’s largesse. It assigned each with a share of the African continent, as if Africa was the property of the west and its white colonists. Millions of Africans died in that protracted, bloody episode unleashed by the west which, shamelessly, promoted its genocidal oppression as a civilizational project.
Like most colonized countries in the Southern hemisphere, Africans fought disproportionate battles to gain their precious freedom. Here in Kenya, which became an official British colony in the 1920s, Kenya’s freedom fighters rose in rebellion against the brutality of their oppressors. Most notable among the various resistance campaigns, the “Mau Mau” rebellion of the 1950s remains a stark example of the courage of Kenyans and the cruelty of colonial Britain. Thousands of people were killed, wounded, disappeared or were imprisoned under the harshest of conditions.
Palestine fell under British occupation, the so-called British Mandate, around the period that Kenya also became a British colony. Palestinians, too, fought and fell in their thousands as they employed various methods of collective resistance, including the legendary strike and rebellion of 1936. The same British killing machine that operated in Palestine and Kenya around that time, also operated, with the same degree of senseless violence, against numerous other nations around the world. While Palestine was handed over to the Zionist Movement to establish the State of Israel in May 1948, Kenya achieved its independence in December 1963.
At one of my recent talks in Nairobi, I was asked by a young participant about “Palestinian terrorism”. I told her that Palestinian fighters of today are Kenya’s “Mau Mau” rebels of yesteryear. That, if we allow western and Israeli propaganda to define the discourse of national liberation on Palestine, then we condemn all national liberation movements throughout the Southern hemisphere, including Kenya’s own freedom fighters. We, Palestinians, however, must shoulder part of the blame of why our narrative as an oppressed, colonized and resisting nation is now misunderstood in parts of Africa.
When the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) committed its historical blunder by signing off Palestinian rights in Oslo in 1993, it abandoned a decades-long Palestinian discourse of resistance and liberation. Instead, it subscribed to a whole new discourse, riddled with carefully-worded language sanctioned by Washington and its European allies. Whenever Palestinians dared to deviate from their assigned role, they were decreed by the west to return to the negotiating table,” as the latter became a metaphor of obedience and submission.
Throughout these years, Palestinians mostly abandoned their far more meaningful alliances in Africa. Instead, they endlessly appealed to the goodwill of the west, hoping that the very colonial powers that have primarily created, sustained and armed Israel, would miraculously become more balanced and humane.
However, Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, etc., remained committed to Israel and, despite occasional polite criticism of the Israeli government, continued to channel their weapons, warplanes and submarines to every Israeli government that has ruled over Palestinians for the last seven decades. Alas, while Palestinians were learning their painful lesson, betrayed repeatedly by those who avowed to respect democracy and human rights, many African nations began seeing in Israel a possible ally. Kenya is, sadly, one of those countries.
Understanding the significance of Africa in terms of its economic and political potential (support for Israel at the UN General Assembly), rightwing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has launched his own “Scramble for Africa”. Netanyahu’s diplomatic conquests on the continent have been celebrated by Israeli media as “historic”, while the Palestinian leadership remained oblivious to the rapidly changing political landscape.
Kenya is one of Israel’s success stories. In November 2017, Netanyahu attended the inauguration of Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, who supposedly received an astonishing 98% of votes in the last elections. While Kenyans rose in rebellion against their corrupt ruling classes, Netanyahu was seen embracing Kenyatta as a dear friend and ally. Netanyahu’s strategy in Kenya – and the rest of Africa – has been based on the same logic, where Israel would use its security technology to support corrupt and undemocratic regimes, in exchange for their political support.
Tel Aviv had hoped that the first-ever Israel-Africa summit in Togo would usher in a complete paradigm shift in Israeli-African relations. However, the October 2017 conference never actualized, due to pressure by various African countries, including South Africa. There is still enough support for Palestine on the continent to defeat Israeli stratagem. But that could change soon in favor of Israel if Palestinians and their allies do not wake up to the alarming reality. The Palestinian leadership, intellectuals, artists and civil society ambassadors must shift their attention back to the Southern hemisphere – Africa, in particular – rediscovering the untapped wealth of true, unconditional human solidarity that is provided by the peoples of this ever-generous continent.
The legendary Tanzanian freedom fighter, Mwalimu Nyerere – who is also celebrated in Kenya – knew too well where his solidarity lay. “We have never hesitated in our support for the right of the people of Palestine to have their own land,” he once said, a sentiment that was repeated by the iconic late South African leader, Nelson Mandela, and many other African liberation leaders.
This generation of African leaders should not deviate from that noble legacy. If they betray it, they betray themselves, along with the righteous struggles of their own peoples.
* Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net