Israel-Africa summit scrapped amid boycott

Togo’s President Fauré Gnassingbé, pictured with Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu, was due to host an Israel-Africa summit next month. It has been postponed amid a growing boycott. (via Facebook)

A high-profile Israel-Africa summit planned for next month appears to have collapsed amid growing opposition from African governments.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that the summit, due to be held in the Togolese capital Lomé, “has been called off in the aftermath of boycott threats by a number of countries and pressure against the event from Palestinians and Arab countries.”

The Israeli foreign ministry announced that the summit had been “postponed,” but as the newspaper noted, no alternative date has been announced.

Additionally, Israel’s i24 News cited political instability in Togo as a concern, where security forces have been attempting to violently suppress protests against 50 years of rule by the family of the West African state’s autocratic president Faure Gnassingbé.

The summit was to have been the crowning achievement in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s charm offensive in Africa.

Organizers said it would have been attended by two dozen heads of state, 150 Israeli companies and even officials from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.

But the Israeli push did not go unchallenged.

South Africa indicated last month that it would boycott the summit and encourage other governments to do the same.

Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania have also decided to boycott the gathering.

In June, Morocco’s King Muhammad VI boycotted a summit in Liberia of the West African regional grouping ECOWAS because Netanyahu was invited.

Fueling atrocities in Africa

The official summit website confirms that it is “postponed.”

It was billed as promoting trade between African states and Israel, which in line with consistent propaganda themes is marketed as “the start-up nation” and a pioneer of water management technologies.

But Israel is also advertised as “the global leader in the fields of security and counter-terrorism,” offering “a validated track record of providing such expertise to its partner nations throughout the globe.”

In other words, Israel is selling weapons and repressive technologies tested on Palestinians through decades of military occupation. The summit would to a large extent have been a fair for Israel’s arms trade.

Elbit Systems, Israel’s biggest arms maker, recently announced increased earnings, in part due to bigger exports to Africa.

Israel’s “track record” of involvement in crimes and human rights violations already extends across the continent.

Israel has continued to fuel violence and atrocities in Africa by supplying arms used in conflicts in South Sudan and Burundi and sending weapons to Rwanda before the 1994 genocide – a role Israel has sought to cover up.

Israel maintained extremely close ties with apartheid South Africa. Tel Aviv was the white supremacist regime’s main weapons supplier when Pretoria was under a tightening international embargo.

Activists in South Africa welcomed the summit’s cancellation, commending the states that decided to boycott it.

“Our governments must continue to resist all Israeli attempts to influence, corrupt or weaken our solidarity with the Palestinians,” BDS South Africa, a group that backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign for Palestinian rights, said.

“The Palestinians were a people that supported us during the darkest days of apartheid, while Israel, we painfully remember, was supplying arms to the apartheid government.”

BDS South Africa also recalled the state-directed policies of racism by Israel against African migrants and refugees as another reason to resist Israel’s efforts at normalization of ties.

Push for legitimacy

Israel’s push to improve ties with African states is linked to its efforts to gain legitimacy and support at the United Nations. The Times of Israel reported on Sunday that Palestinian Authority diplomats are pushing back against an Israeli bid to be elected to the Security Council.

A key focus of the Arab diplomatic effort is to convince African states not to support the Israeli bid.

The planned Togo summit also illustrates ongoing corporate complicity with Israel. One of the summit’s official sponsors is Brussels Airlines, a subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa. By supporting the summit, the airline is effectively supporting Israel’s efforts to sell more weapons in Africa.

Lufthansa was recently revealed to be colluding in Israel’s efforts to suppress support for Palestinian rights by refusing boarding in July to US activists who were part of an interfaith delegation.

Rabbi Alissa Wise, one of the banned delegation members, concluded that the action was likely the result of Israeli surveillance of activists’ emails, as part of Israel’s efforts to thwart the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

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What a marvelous fiasco. As long as this story is reported in Israel, I'm satisfied. Netanyahu's welcome has been rescinded by people whose arrival in Israel would result in their imprisonment under Zionism's racial codes. It's too much to expect Israelis to draw the proper conclusion, but at least they've been reminded of their pariah status and its reasons.

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I suppose if Dr. King were alive today he would add to his quote of April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City, exactly a year to the day when he was assassinated: "The United States [and Israel are] the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today".

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.