The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in South Africa has hailed a decision to cancel the controversial Israel-Africa summit, which was meant to take place in Togo in October. According to Haartez, Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has cancelled the Africa-Israel Summit, due to take place in the capital of Lomé.
While Togo is facing a political crisis at present, it’s widely believed that Gnassingbé’s announcement was mostly due to pressure from the Palestinians and threats of boycotts from countries, including South Africa. Last month, the South African Ambassador to Lebanon and Syria, Sean Benfeldt, said the summit aimed to normalise African relations with what he labelled an “occupation state”.
Under the motto “Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu has over the past months emphasized diplomatic endeavours to Africa as one of the Jewish state’s key foreign policy objectives.
Speaking to VOC Drivetime on Monday, BDS South Africa spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the cancellation of the summit was a major blow to Netanyahu’s project in Africa.
“No doubt, Israel is a regime that practises occupation and colonisation and is losing friends on the European continent. And they are looking to the African continent for new friends. This cancellation signals a victory for the global BDS movement,” said Kekana.
According to the official website, it is aimed at “building bridges towards greater prosperity” by “strengthening economic and diplomatic ties between Africa and Israel.” The initiative aimed to bring business, economic and security figures from Africa and Israel come together to discuss avenues of cooperation in a number of areas, including development, trade, technology, counter-terrorism and agriculture.
The cancellation was due to significant pressure from South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania.
“The view was that attaining this summit would signal cooperation with a state that practises apartheid, colonialism and occupation,” added Kekana.
For the past few years, Netanyahu has been trying to get a foot into Africa to provide Israeli water and agriculture technology to African countries, under the premise of averting drought and food scarcity. But it was also intent on using this opportunity to gain the support of African nations against the UN resolutions critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Analysts say Netanyahu has also been seeking partners to lobby the AU to grant Israel observer status. Gaining observer status would enhance Israel’s relationship with African states and allow it to influence their voting at multilateral institutions such as the UN.
Kekana feels there is a need to intensify the BDS movement on the African continent to “continue to isolate Israel as pariah state” in the same way that South Africa was made a pariah state during the struggle for liberation.
“Now more than ever need we intensify the campaign to boycott, divestment and impose sanctions on Israel and make it accountable under international law. It’s also important that we strengthen Palestine solidarity formations and BDS chapters on the continent in particular when we see Israel trying to make some inroads into Africa, in light of heightened boycott actions by activists in the US and Europe.” VOC