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Israel in Africa
Bibi Goes To Africa

The Israeli effort to court Africa diplomatically is picking up steam, as Bibi is setting up a diplomatic barnstorming tour of several African countries. While many Sub-Saharan African states have been traditionally hostile to Israel, this is changing, as the Times of Israel reports:

[E]conomic progress in many African countries has begun to change the dynamics, while the threat of Islamic extremism in parts of the continent has left governments in search of advanced defense technology.

Certain countries would be especially keen to benefit from Israeli agricultural and water technology, said Na’eem Jeenah, head of the South Africa-based Afro-Middle East Center research institute.

“The manner in which Israel has presented itself to these governments is in terms of huge opportunities,” Jeenah said, adding that he believed “many countries” would be interested.

Netanyahu’s planned trip, the first by an Israeli premier to Africa since Yitzhak Rabin visited Casablanca in 1994, is a culmination of years of rapprochement.

As the memory of colonialism fades in Africa, collaboration and cooperation with Western-aligned nations will become ever more attractive. In the 1960s, African countries aligned themselves with the Arab world against the Israelis, buying into the Arab line that Israel was essentially a settler colony of Europeans intruding into the Third World. Israeli ties with apartheid-era South Africa and the United States led anti-colonial (and anti-American) despots like Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe to offer material and rhetorical support to Palestinian terrorists.

However, now that African states are facing intensified religious and ethnic conflict, African countries are less likely to look down their noses at Israel’s long experience dealing with the Palestinians and more likely to take notes. Israel’s military and defense establishment have 60 years of relatively successful counterinsurgency experience and a level of technological sophistication that far outstrips most all African countries.

The advanced technology Israel brings with it will be a welcome boost both for African conventional military capabilities and for African economies. In return, Israel hopes for a more pro-Israel African bloc at the United Nations. Sustained Israeli engagement in the region would be an encouraging sign. These developments, if they hold, are good for Israel, good for the United States, and good for Africa.

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  • Andrew Allison

    “As the memory of colonialism fades in Africa, collaboration and cooperation with Western-aligned nations will become ever more attractive.” is nonsensical on two counts: guilt by association (are the former sins of the Western nations to be visited upon those those who now align with them?); and it rather seems as though Israel’s Western alignement is changing

    • Ellen

      Good points. Very funny that people view Israel as a Western country, because it isn’t and never has been since 1950. Most of the Jewish population comes from the Middle East, Africa or Asia minor. Even the Russian Jews are more Asiatic in their outlook than Western. This is just one of those “narrative” idiocies, where people make up a story regardless of whether it’s true or not, and no one bothers to challenge the basic assumptions behind it.

      Israel’s secular Ashkenazi leadership for generations described Israel as a Western country (and Bibi still does, although he is the one making the huge shift toward Asia and Africa in Israel’s foreign relationships). They did this partly for sentimental reasons – they admired the West in the early 20th century (minus the Hitler episode) and during the Cold War period. European anti-Semitism was played down and its advancement and social rights were played up. It was also necessary geopolitically for Israel to be in the Western camp during the Cold War given that the Soviet Union supported the Arabs in their murderous wars, without pause or second thought.

      Vladimir Putin’s philo-Semitism combined with Barack Obama’s antiZionism has changed the equation considerably. And the rise of Asian countries economically and technologically, accompanied by the drastic decline of Europe, has made “the West” look a lot less admirable than it used to be and less desirable as geopolitical partners. Israelis increasingly think of themselves as Indian Hindus think of themselves. A group of people with a unique culture stranded in an inhospitable region and not aligned with any bloc; just trying to survive by making alliances with the willing. Philosemitism matters a lot, as does philoZionism, which is why African Christians and Indians are at the top of the list of new allies. The Sunni Arabs are merely useful temporarily, not real allies, and never will be. The Europeans are increasingly making their way onto the enemies list. Such is the vagary of life in the 21st century.

      • Andrew Allison

        There is the fact that the State of Israel owes its existence to Western nations to consider [grin] Also the debt owed by the rest of the West to our Judaeo-Christian heritage. As a lapsed Anglican atheist, I must say that IMO Israel is being treated shamefully by the West.

    • Tom

      It is nonsensical, but people are often nonsensical; in that comment, I do not think VM was endorsing that viewpoint, but acknowledging its existence.

  • JR

    And knowing my people as well as I do, I’m sure Uncle Jacob and and Cousin Yosef will get to make a little gelt in the process. I always thought Israeli water technology is a strategic asset, especially if you believe our planet is warming up.

  • Avi_in_Jerusalem

    In some of my previous high tech data communications sales jobs I was in charge of sales to Sub Saharan Africa. I was never aware of any anti Israel attitude among all the people that I would meet, not only professionally. Because Israelis do not have a box or envelope outside of which we think, I felt that we were much more successful in our field, in Africa, than the Europeans and certainly more than the Americans, who did not have the first idea how to implement technical solutions where there is no process.

    Many people remembered the period in the 1950s and 1960s, before the Six Day war and especially the 1973 war, when Israel was very active on the continent. Their political leaders sold them down the river for a mess of pottage from which they ended up much worse off.

    I hope that we are moving back to that era and that our abilities in agriculture, water, high tech and development in general will be of help as we come from a different place than the Europeans and the Americans. (thank you Ellen).

    If I take my rose coloured glasses off for a second, I can also see that my fellow Israel arms traders and diamond merchants will also not be backwards in coming forwards, but we are all human, not angels.

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