By Ramona Wadi
As part of Tel Aviv’s diplomatic strategy in Africa, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are providing military training to local troops in several countries. The Times of Israel has described this venture as “a dramatic upsurge of military cooperation.”
Israel’s military attaché to Africa, Colonel Aviezer Segal, has said that the Israelis treat African leaders
“with respect and appreciation and deal with them as equals, in a language of true camaraderie, personal friendship and professionalism.”
Last year, the Jerusalem Post ran an article in which it attempted to put Israel on a par with African countries involved in anti-colonial struggle. According to the article, the settler-colonial state “was itself part of the great counter-colonial movement that freed millions from Europeans’ yoke.” When the Chadian Prime Minister Idris Deby visited Israel in November last year, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin declared, “For us, Africa is the future.”
Israel has established a way of disguising diplomacy as development or humanitarian endeavors; it’s a colonial trend that Europe still exhibits in relation to Africa and the Middle East. In both cases, the aim is to keep African migrants away from their borders and profit from the process by creating new colonial frameworks in Africa. For such designations to succeed, of course, it is necessary to emphasize leadership ties over the human impact of exploitation.
Such ties also enable Israel to boost its own gains, such as training soldiers involved in UN peacekeeping missions on Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. The news report calls it “advantageous to Israel”, and the UN’s peacekeeping principles, alongside the organization’s corruption, make this a simple matter, as peacekeeping forces are required to be impartial but not neutral. Manipulating the latter to justify human rights violations by the IDF is nothing new for either Israel or the UN.
Not that Israel is not seeking to gain leverage over human rights discourse. According to the report,
“Israel has categorically ruled out working with a number of African nations due to their human rights record.”
Israel’s attempt to take the moral high ground while simultaneously exporting its own machinery of human rights violations — tried and tested upon Palestinians — is taken out of the equation. On the contrary, the Israeli government, internal security agency Shin Bet and the IDF are “taking into account how likely Israeli military expertise could be used in committing mass atrocities.”
Despite the obvious hypocrisy of differentiating between African governments according to their human rights record, that statement is revelatory and an admission, albeit indirectly, of Israel’s capabilities when it comes to using deadly force against civilians.
Exporting violence is not a recipe for peace. However, under the guise of aiding the development of African countries, Israel is consolidating yet another opportunity for being able to act with impunity and make a profit in respect of its crimes against the Palestinians.
Thus, Israel’s venture in Africa is just one example of how it remains unscathed at an international level. Establishing itself as an essential partner with governments in terms of military and economic cooperation diverts attention away from its own very real colonial violence. Africa is a prime candidate for such endeavors as it is driven by need, which will undoubtedly fuel more exploitation of the continent.
Meanwhile, for all the rhetoric from African governments claiming to support Palestine, it must be made clear that they are merely supporting the international community’s imposition of the two-state paradigm, which includes acceptance of Israel’s colonial presence on the land and homes of the indigenous Palestinian population.
– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to the Palestine Chronicle.