On May 11, African Union Commission President Moussa Faki Mahamat issued a statement “strongly condemning” Israel’s deadly bombing of the Gaza Strip and expressing the AU’s strong support for the ” legitimate search for an independent and sovereign state with the Palestinian people of East Jerusalem as their capital ”.
You may think the statement is familiar, because it is so: Mahamat’s words are almost identical to the numerous bold and direct statements to the point issued by the AU in response to Israel’s persistent aggressions in Gaza over the years.
In May 2018, when Israel killed 266 people and injured tens of thousands during the protests of the Great Gaza Return March, for example, Mahamat quickly expressed his organization’s strong and persistent support for the Palestinian struggle and he called for a “just and lasting solution to the conflict … within the framework of the relevant United Nations pronouncements.”
And in July 2014, when Israel killed some 2,310 Palestinians in Gaza, wounded more than 10,000 and virtually demolished Gaza’s infrastructure and economy, then-African Union Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma , strongly condemned the “outbreak of hostilities and attacks on the people of the Gaza Strip.” Dlamini-Zuma also reiterated the AU’s “full support” for the Palestinians and supported the “restoration of their legitimate right to to establish an independent state that coexists peacefully with the state of Israel. “
Today, in terms of diplomatic stances and proclamations on the comprehensive Israeli repression of Palestinians, the AU appears to be one of the most vocal and persistent defenders of Palestinian rights at the international level. And the AU’s strong support for Palestine is not very recent.
As a body born of the continent’s anti-imperialist struggle, the AU has always been eager and willing to “defend itself” publicly for Palestine.
In 1975, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the AU, adopted the Resolution on the Middle East and the Occupied Arab Territories in response to the barbarian attacks and raids on refugee camps and the bombing of “civilian targets in the cities and towns of southern Lebanon in violation of all principles of international and human law.”
Angered by the cold heart of Israel’s systemic violence against the Palestinian people, the OAU reaffirmed “its full and effective support for the frontline states and the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle to restore all occupied territories.” and the rights usurped by all possible means ”.
He condemned Israel’s shameful attempts to alter the “demographic, geographical, economic and cultural features” of the occupied Palestinian territories. He criticized the role of the United States in the Middle East conflict and said that “flooding Israel with huge amounts of weapons is establishing it as an advanced case of racism and colonialism in the heart of the Arab and African world. and of the Third World ”.
On the other hand, the OAU determined that Israel’s systemic and persistent brutality against the Palestinian people could not be countered or eliminated by lordly appeals, or worse: empty diplomatic stances. He therefore called on all African states to “extend all possible potential” to the Palestinians to strengthen their fight against Zionist aggression and called for the imposition of sanctions against Israel by international organizations such as the UN.
All this may lead some to conclude that the AU has not hesitated its anti-colonial stance of principles on Palestine for almost half a century.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
In 1975, the OAU not only condemned Israel’s crimes, but also outlined a major plan of resistance to Israeli settlement of Palestinian lands.
Today, however, the AU’s vocal condemnations of the Israeli occupation and routine aggressions against the Palestinians are no longer supported by concrete policy plans or actions, in fact, they are merely symbolic gestures. In addition, it appears that the member states of the union are not interested in defending the anti-colonial ideals promoted by the OAU in the 1970s.
When Israeli security forces cracked down on Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 10, for example, the only African leader who took the time to publicly condemn Israel’s actions was the president of South Africa. Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa.
Deliberate and disappointing silence elsewhere on the continent clearly demonstrated how most African states have abandoned their commitment to support the Palestinians in their just anti-colonial struggle for freedom and justice.
In fact, in recent years, most African states have been more interested in establishing stronger diplomatic, economic and military ties with Israel and being rewarded for their efforts by Western Israeli allies than in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea and Angola are actively working to “build stronger economic relations” with Israel. Uganda and Malawi are “studying” the establishment of diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. Recently, Morocco and Sudan “celebrated” the normalization agreements they signed with Israel.
The demonstrable pro-Israel stance of these African states, along with the complete silence on Palestine of many others, clearly show that the recent and firm condemnations of Israel by the AU are nothing but empty rhetoric.
Today, Israel is violating the most basic human rights of Palestinians on a daily basis, subjecting them to the apartheid regime and killing them with impunity, but the AU is doing nothing more than issuing statements of condemnation. This, in light of the AU’s stated commitment to supporting the Palestinian struggle against colonial occupation, is simply inadequate. For an organization with rows full of anti-imperialists who participated in many liberation struggles, it is not enough to serve the Palestinian struggle.
U.S. President Joe Biden or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may struggle to explicitly define or condemn Israeli systemic racism, lawless occupation, and murderous policies, but no African leader can claim that they do not understand the that the Palestinians are currently going through. They understand this, because recently their countries were in the same situation. So why don’t they talk? And, most importantly, why does the organization that represents them do nothing more than issue well-written and emotional but essentially inconsequential media statements?
When did African states stop recognizing their shared anti-colonial struggle with Palestine and start turning a blind eye to Israel’s crimes and even actively supporting them at the UN?
The AU still has no hesitation in publicly condemning Israel’s persistent crimes against humanity, why doesn’t it come up with a plan of resistance to help Palestinians find justice and freedom? Why have its member states not committed to taking practical measures that can help Israel simply respect international law and the human, land and economic rights of the Palestinians?
The “advanced case of racism and colonialism” so famously enunciated by the OAU in 1975 remains clearly unresolved and deadly as ever. So why aren’t African states implementing the same policies that helped put pressure on apartheid South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s? Beyond symbolic gestures and condemnations, where are Israel’s academic, cultural, and sporting boycotts? Why are African states not imposing economic sanctions on Israel?
For too long, the AU’s shyness and indecision have helped normalize Israel’s brutal repression of Palestinians. It is time for the AU to return to its anti-colonial roots and take substantial action against Israel.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.