Analyzing Africas approach to the Gaza war

Eighty days have passed since the unprecedented attacks and crimes committed by the Zionist regime against Palestinian citizens in Gaza which have been strongly condemned by public opinion and nations. However the positions of most African countries in supporting the Palestinian cause and condemning Israels current crimes have not been as expected compared to their positions during the wars of ۱۹۶۷ and ۱۹۷۳ which went to the point of completely cutting off relations with Israel.
27 December 2023
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Mohammad Nik-Khah

Eighty days have passed since the unprecedented attacks and crimes committed by the Zionist regime against Palestinian citizens in Gaza, which have been strongly condemned by public opinion and nations. However, the positions of most African countries in supporting the Palestinian cause and condemning Israel's current crimes have not been as expected compared to their positions during the wars of 1967 and 1973, which went to the point of completely cutting off relations with Israel.

Relations between Israel and Africa fluctuated between the suspicion of influence and the logic of proximity from the very beginning. Meanwhile, for years, the Palestinian issue has been the most important variable in these relations. When the United Nations voted for the partition of Palestine on November 29, 1947, the African continent was still under colonial rule. However, few African countries at that time did not vote the same for this resolution.

After the first Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1949 and the violation of the ceasefire between Israel and its Arab neighbors, non-aligned countries did not allow Israel to attend the Bandung Conference by a significant vote of African countries. But Israel, which neglected its strategic interests in Africa in the first place, opened its first consulate general in 1956 in this African country because of the importance of Bab al-Mandab and the Red Sea and the history of the presence of Jews in Ethiopia. Subsequently, with Foreign Minister at the time Golda Weir's trip to African countries, relations with many newly independent African countries were opened, and he, who later became prime minister, developed these relations rapidly by raising the idea of Israel's urgent need for African votes.

But with the occurrence of the wars of 1967 and 1973, these nascent relations quickly became tense, and very soon, most African countries, except for the apartheid regime of South Africa and four other small African countries, cut their relations with Israel and later even set up Camp David Accords in 1978 and Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula could not improve these relations as it might have.

But later, two completely opposite events affected the relations between Africa and Israel. One is the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1991, which gradually led African governments to recognize Israel, and the other is the end of apartheid in South Africa, which, considering the important and influential role of South Africa in the Black Continent, continued to keep the line of opposition to Israel and keep the Palestinian cause alive among a number of African countries.

Thus, in 2001, during the Durban Conference, African countries, together with Arab countries, condemned Israel's policy in the occupied territories, and in 2009, Africans condemned Israel as a war crime in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and in 2011, most of the countries Africans voted in favor of Palestine's membership in UNESCO. But in any case, the tensions due to the occupied territories did not prevent the gradual normalization of relations between African countries and Israel, and especially the Israelis started a new round of relations with Africa in 2016, at the same time as Trump came to power and the whispers of the Abraham Accords. Such a way that before the Al-Aqsa Storm operation, Israel had brought the establishment and normalization of relations with African countries to the highest level since the establishment of this regime, and if the South African and Algerian governments did not oppose, Israel had even been a supervising member of the African Union.

After the Al-Aqsa Storm operation and the subsequent attacks and heavy bombing of Gaza by Israel, the president of the commission of this union called for the recognition of the right of Palestinian sovereignty in a statement and called on both sides to negotiate a two-state solution unconditionally. But after the bombing of Al-Maamadani hospital, this union issued a statement condemning the Zionist regime. It declared this act as an example of a war crime. In a joint statement with the Arab League, it also called for the cessation of conflicts and the provision of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

A number of African countries, including Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola, Niger, Botswana, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau, sometimes delayed and after the attack on Al-Maamadani Hospital, condemned the attacks and called for a ceasefire, or even without condemning each of the parties to the conflict, they called for restraint on both sides, and some of them, such as Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone, still have not taken any official position after 80 days have passed.

On the other hand, a number of African countries, such as Cape Verde (Green Cape), Cameroon, Rwanda, Seychelles, and South Sudan, have openly sympathized with Israel and condemned Hamas attacks.

Since the beginning of the Gaza war, South Africa has taken strong positions in the form of several statements condemning the attacks of the Zionist regime and, together with Algeria and three non-African countries, has submitted a complaint against Israel to the International Court of Justice, and in the latest action, the parliament of this country has suspended relations with Israel, and the Algerian parliament, which approved its president by a historic resolution to go to war with Israel, seized a German ship carrying weapons and ammunition for Israel, which of course, subsequent events showed that these two countries are not willing to pay more costs in this regard.

Although the majority of African countries in their recent positions, which were generally cautious and announced late, relatively condemned the violent attacks of the Zionist regime and none of the African countries, even South Sudan, did not vote against the resolution requesting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but in terms of action and confrontation, almost none except South Africa and Algeria took any costly action. But it is easy to say that the conflict between Hamas and the Zionist regime has divided the positions of African countries into at least three categories: supporters of Israel, supporters of Palestine and Hamas, and neutral, as it has divided the international community into different camps and coalitions.

Contrary to the past, despite Israel's unprecedented crimes in Gaza, why Africans did not show a strong reaction to these crimes; there are different reasons why Paying attention to them can help to understand the behavior of these governments.


The main reasons are:

  1. The end of the Cold War and, as a result, the gradual decline of leftist governments and communist systems and liberation fronts the change of generation of leaders, the decline of charismatic African leaders, and the fading of the post-colonial revolutionary space.
  2. Intergenerational changes and perceptual and cognitive issues associated with it, especially with a very high and rapidly growing percentage of young people in Africa
  3. Oslo Peace Accords and the extension of the compromise line. After these Accords, self-governing organizations were considered the government in Palestine, and the fate of the occupied territories was no longer examined from the perspective of national freedom.
  4. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 was someone who had relative power in building a consensus of Africans against the West and Israel.
  5. The diversity of partners and actors on the African scene in the last two decades and the entry of new actors such as China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar into Africa, whose main priority was intense economic competition, meant that for most of them, the Palestine cause was either not important or, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, looked at it from the angle of compromise and gradually imposed these views on Africa, creating a gap between the African front.
  6. The spread of violence in the Middle East to Africa and the escalation of terrorism in the last two decades in Africa gradually turned Israel into an authority in the field of security affairs for African governments, such as the effective action of Israel during the terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, where the Kenyan government used the strong support of Israel's intelligence services to compensate for its support to Israel in the Entebbe airport hostage situation, and such cooperation turned many African regions into the field of operations and Israel's sale of weapons.
  7. The sale of weapons, including reconnaissance and combat drones, surveillance equipment, and speedboats by Israel, along with security and training interventions, formation of strike squads, and special consultations in important security cases, caused the security and continued rule of many leaders to be shaken, and influential African individuals and groups were linked to relations with Israel.
  8. In addition to the penetration of Israel in the existing security holes, which is their long-standing expertise, at the same time, Israel has put a wide range of cooperation from activity and investment in mining, agriculture, environmental economy, and water according to the needs and ambitious plans of Africa on the agenda in order to make the mutual parties dependent on itself as much as possible. One of the most important of these cooperations, with the support of India and the UAE, is the Middle East Quad, which focuses on new technologies, especially in the agricultural sector in the fertile lands of Africa, and pursues the ambitious goal of undisputed domination of the world's food resources.
  9. Finally, the trade and economy of the African continent in the neighborhood of the Middle East is greatly affected by the crises in this region. One hundred and seventeen billion dollars in trade, and about 10% of Africa's total trade is with the Middle East. The continuation of conflicts can have a direct impact on the supply and demand of these products and the increase in transportation costs and their final prices, especially from the Suez Canal, Bab-el-Mandeb, and the Red Sea. Until now, due to the threat of ships related to Israel by the Houthis, the ship insurance rate has reached 7%, which is unprecedented in recent decades, even compared to the oil tanker war during the Iran-Iraq war. The impact of conflicts on energy price fluctuations and the disruption it will create in the production and supply market make a problem both for African consumers (with an increase in the price of energy carriers and its negative economic and social consequences) and for African oil and gas producers (with disruption in the sales chains and the decrease in demand and the loss of part of the customers).

Therefore, the conflict between Hamas and Israel is not only a regional issue but also a global issue that affects the interests and values of many countries, people, and governments, and the African continent is no exception.

Mohammad Nikkhah, a senior expert in African Studies

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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