At a time when the attention of countries on every content is once again focused on events in the Middle East, Africa is not being left behind, and has its own distinct perspective on the unfolding situation. Naturally, this interest is partly due to various historical processes, but it is also based on current events.
Many Africans are, of course, keeping a close eye on the events involving Israel and Palestine. After all, and despite the often very erroneous point of view, citizens of the African states not only attentively follow worldwide events, but also and to tell the truth – so often have a much better analytical sense of geopolitical processes than a majority of the so-called “golden billion” in the West.
Even those many Africans who view the Israel-Palestine conflict as a remote issue on a different continent that has no impact on their lives are nevertheless often remarkably well-informed about the history, causes and consequences of this long-standing confrontation.
But if one were to focus specifically on those Africans who take a clearly defined position on what is happening, then naturally one should first take into account certain regional factors. Thus, quite naturally, the great majority of people in North Africa traditionally support Palestine. This support is not only based on religious and ethnic considerations, but also on a general sense that the Palestinians have been the victims of great injustice over the last few decades.
If you look at sub-Saharan Africa, then you are likely to find a wider range of views, based on many different factors, of which religion is just one. Of course, the religious factor is also complex. Generally, Muslims tend to feel sympathy towards the Palestinians, while many Protestant churches support Israel. In relation to those churches, there are a number of points of interest that it is worth focusing on.
Often, those Protestant churches have close links with the US. Moreover, pastors from the US are involved in missionary work in many African countries. And, one might ask why not? After all, travelling to and preaching in distant countries lies at the heart of missionary work. But, as often happens when we are talking about the US, geopolitical and other national interests inevitably come into play here as well. And that includes interests relating to Israel and its policies.
Very often these US – or US-trained – pastors argue that Israel is God’s chosen nation, and that modern Israel should therefore be supported in everything. Including its policies towards the Palestinians. In view of the strength of the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States itself, where relations with Tel Aviv are given the highest priority not only as part of US policy in the Middle East, but also at the wider international level and in relation to domestic policies, it is easy to guess why a number of US-supported Protestant churches working in Africa are so actively promoting a pro-Israeli line.
This has certainly helped serve the interests of Israel and the US on the continent, but today this policy is becoming more and more difficult to put into practice. This is due to the factor already mentioned above – Africans generally have a good grasp of history and geopolitics. And today, more and more citizens of African countries, including, it should be noted, many members of Protestant churches, are asking the obvious question, namely, What is the connection between modern Israel, with its ideology and policies, and the Israel of the Bible? In many cases, Africans’ answer to that question has changed their attitude to the Israel-Palestine issue. And very often their response has been the opposite of that hoped for in Washington and Tel Aviv.
And, finally, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have very real historical connection to this issue. The connection is based on the long solidarity between nations who engaged in a shared fight for many years. This particularly applies to South Africa, where the ruling African National Congress has long had close links with the Palestinians’ resistance to Israel. The South African authorities, even today, frequently equate Israel’s policies towards Palestine with the apartheid policy that was for decades imposed by South Africa’s White, Westernized regime on the indigenous majority and other ethnic groups.
However, it should be noted that despite the pro-Palestinian position taken by the political elite and much of the population, the South African Jewish community is thriving and is quite comfortable living in the country.
In general, it is worth noting that the positions taken by the citizens of African countries, including in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict, are a continuation of the contemporary processes that are characteristic of the multipolar world order. And however those who favor a unipolar world order may try to persuade Africans to accept their position, it does not appear that they are having much success.
Mikhail Gamandiy-Egorov, entrepreneur and political observer, expert in issues relating to Africa and the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”