Israel's treatment of Senegal is a lesson for South Africa

2017-01-09 08:15

Following the passing of UN Resolution 2334 that reiterated the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that countries who worked to pass the resolution would pay a diplomatic and economic price.

Since two of the four co-sponsors of the resolution, Venezuela and Malaysia, do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, Netanyahu could not act against them. Israel, however, has been particularly vindictive towards New Zealand and Senegal, temporarily severing diplomatic ties and recalling Israel's ambassadors to those countries. Senegal - which has been a member of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People since its formation in 1975, and whose ambassador currently chairs the committee - paid an additional price for supporting the Palestinian cause. Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to immediately cancel all Israeli aid in Senegal. A significant part of Israeli aid in Senegal comprised drip-irrigation projects to help farmers increase yields in twelve rural areas in Senegal. The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV (Agency for International Development Cooperation) widely promoted the Tipa (drop) project as part of Israel’s contribution to the “fight against poverty in Africa”.

By cancelling the Senegalese project, the Israeli government is saying that it will only battle against poverty in Africa if it suits Israel’s propaganda interests.
This view was confirmed by Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, who tweeted in Hebrew:
“The era is over in which countries benefit from Israeli know-how in high-tech, in security and so on, and from the prestige of a visit to Israel and involvement in the Middle East without providing diplomatic repayment.”

According to Ronnie Kasrils of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Israel’s “aid” to African states is not philanthropic but simply a matter of opportunistic leverage. The purpose of this “aid” is to muscle recipient states to support Israel at the UN and other international decision-making bodies  – diplomatic repayment as Dayan so bluntly put it.

Israel is currently trying to gain obtain observer status at the African Union (AU). Netanyahu’s visit to East African states in July last year was about obtaining their support for Israel at the AU  and to buy these states’ support at the UN. In South Africa, the Israeli embassy has been aggressively promoting Israeli water and agricultural technologies as a solution to our water crisis. In June last year, Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, hosted Israel-South Africa Water Week with events in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, with additional events in East London and Polokwane. These free seminars featured Israeli water experts alongside water technology companies. The embassy is also involved in several projects that promote Israel as a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation, culture, and telecommunications. The main aim of these projects, according to the embassy, is to alleviate poverty, create jobs and build bridges between Israel and South Africa - allegedly the same reasons behind the Sengalese projects.

The example of Senegal should serve as a warning to the South African government and private companies and individuals, that diplomatic repayment is expected in exchange for accepting Israeli technologies. This repayment involves supporting the expansion of illegal colonies that have already sliced up the Palestinian state into Bantustans, and defending Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

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