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Israel Buying Influence in the AU

by Thaabit Kamaar
Photo by [African Union]


For years Israel has been establishing relations with African Union countries by providing them with military weapons and systems, cyber weapons and spyware, and agricultural technology and water filtration systems.

According to Paul Hendler, the relations are primarily driven to break the African Continental Bloc’s support of Palestine, secure African favour at UN resolutions, and mitigate global criticism of their Palestinian policies.

Through extensive influence in Africa, Israel has impacted the electoral process in certain African nations. In 2021, they were granted Observer Status to the African Union by Moussa Faki Mahamat, the then chairperson of the African Union Commission, after 20 years of rejection.

A decision that had come under immense criticism and was subsequently rejected by the southern bloc of the AU, as African countries in favour consulted none of them. According to Roshan Dadoo of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Coalition, the approval was an underhand way in which Israel secured Observer Status.

In February of this year, the AU postponed the debate on Israel’s observer status until next year in light of the division in the continental bloc.

Israeli Influence Through Arms Dealing

Arms trading has been crucial in granting Israel a foothold in Africa. Amongst minerals, raw materials and technology traded by private companies.

As specified by Dadoo, Israel has targeted Africa through the sales of military equipment, military training and pacification methods.

Hendler also mentions that entrepreneurs and private companies are the interfaces between the state of Israel and the Political African Elites, who benefit financially from their overt and covert dealings.

Over the years, Israel changed its foreign aid policies to fund private businesses to penetrate African countries through development projects dealing with agriculture and water. Dadoo states it is a front to covertly sell arms and spyware to African countries and their leaders.

In a Mail & Guardian article, Mandla Mandela writes, “Israel relies heavily on various private firms, businesspeople, consultants and intermediaries to leverage their access to African corridors of power to serve the interests of the Israeli state.”


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South Africa’s Position

Israel has used many avenues to make inroads in Africa. One way they used to push the Zionism ideology is through Christian theology. Christian Zionism claims that Israel has a right, according to scripture, to exist and is a place for Jewish people alone.

However, South Africa has always maintained its position and support of the Palestinian cause, with the South African Foreign Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor declaring Israel an apartheid state. This statement should be supported and used to challenge Israel’s influence in the AU.

Hendler said that because of South Africa’s pro-Palestinian stance and resistance to Zionism by organisations such as BDS, political leaders and the public, many Zionist leaders noted that South Africa is a “tough nut to crack”.

Challenging Antisemitisms

Antisemitism is often heard when Israel is criticised for its harsh treatment of Palestinians and non-Israelis. It is a term that carries much weight. It is used to bully opposing parties, people and governments alike, into silence.

The pro-Israel media criticised Mandela for his anti-Zionist statements at the Pan-African Palestinian Solidarity Network in Dakar.

However, in the Bongani Masuku case, the South African Constitutional Court ruled that anti-Zionism rhetoric does not equate to antisemitism. The one has nothing to do with the other.

According to Dadoo, antisemitism has been weaponised by Israeli Zionist leaders and groups worldwide. Anyone who stands up for the Palestinian cause is labelled as an antisemite, which has caused many governments and people to refrain from disapproval.

Dadoo said, “I think we have precedence to challenge further and to make it clear that these ridiculous claims of anti-Semitism against anyone who stands up for the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice against apartheid. It’s clearly not going to work, and it’s not going to keep us quiet.”

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