Israel in Africa
Tel Aviv's promises to African states are the gloss on an exercise in extreme cynicism, writes Galal Nassar
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, at the head of a huge convoy of Israeli political, military and security advisors and a train of merchants and representatives of major Israeli companies, has gone knocking on the doors of five sub-Saharan African nations. Africa's 54 nations have rebuffed Israel's diplomatic overtures for decades. Today the Netanyahu administration obviously believes it stands a chance to breach that wall. After all, some Arab countries now recognise Israel. Not least of these is Egypt, the rock that had long dashed the dream of Golda Meir and her successors to foray into Africa and feed on its abundant sources of wealth.
Now, not only are many African nations prepared to thaw their relations with Israel, some have already begun to explore the possibility of strategic cooperation. Tel Aviv fully appreciates the vast potential Africa offers. In addition to copious natural resources Africa represents strategic depth for the Arab world, for which reason Israel has been instrumental in arming some African regimes and aggravating crises among others, including Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and South Africa. Israel has also used parts of the continent for its military and scientific experiments, in the course of which it has ruined agricultural land, spread corruption and sown misery.
If people in the countries Lieberman is visiting think he is interested in boosting their economies, enhancing agricultural production, optimising their vast water resources and putting Israeli technological expertise at their disposal they are mistaken. They are even more gravely misled if they believe Israel is concerned about the lives and welfare of the African people, that it is eager to improve their standards of living, rid them of the plagues of poverty, unemployment, disease and draught and to quell the fires of civil war, insurrection and internecine strife. Nor will Israel help them overcome the discrimination and the inferiority complex that it claims the Arabs have perpetuated and nurtured. Whatever Tel Aviv would like them to believe, Israel is not a safe haven for their wealth and future. Israel's concerns are exclusively shaped by its own agenda. It could not care less for the stability, welfare, safety or stability of the African people. Sudan offers the clearest proof of this. Accused by Israeli officials of arming and supporting the Palestinian resistance, Tel Aviv is working assiduously to encircle and isolate Sudan from the outside, and to fuel insurrection inside Sudan.
Israel has long been keen to capitalise on Africa's mineral wealth. It plans to appropriate African diamonds and process them in Israel which is already the world's second largest processor of diamonds. And if the composition of Lieberman's entourage is anything to go by, Israel is also interested in African uranium, thorium and other radioactive elements used to manufacture nuclear fuel. In addition it is looking for new markets for its range of lightweight weapons. It also appears that not a few Israeli military pensioners are on the lookout for job opportunities as trainers of African militias, while other members of Lieberman's delegation are facilitating contracts for Israelis to train various militias. The huge oil reserves in a number of African countries are also high on Israel's agenda, with Tel Aviv seeking a share in exploration, extraction and export operations.
Since the 1950s Israel has sought to compromise Egypt's water security by consolidating its influence over countries straddling the sources of the Nile in the central African great lakes and the Ethiopian highlands. By keeping Egypt preoccupied with its water security Israel imagines that it can diminish Cairo's role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Towards this end Israel's Ministry of Science and Technology conducted extensive experiments and eventually created a type of plant that flourishes on the surface or the banks of the Nile and that absorbs such large quantities of water as to significantly reduce the volume of water that reaches Egypt.
Israeli concerns with Iran also feature high on the agenda of Lieberman's African tour. Israel has been keeping a close eye on the Iranian drive in Africa where Tehran, following Beijing's footsteps, has become involved in a number of major development projects. Tel Aviv is very wary of Tehran's ambitions in a continent so rich in the raw materials for producing nuclear fuel. It hopes to forge a network of strategic relations in order to check the expansion of Iranian influence in Africa. Working to its advantage are its close ties with Washington, which can use its extensive influence in Africa to smooth out many of the bumps that would otherwise hamper Israel's African drive.
Israel's ultra-right foreign minister believes he can sneak into the backyard of the Arab and Islamic world in order to deprive it of strategic depth. It is therefore essential that we expose the true nature of Israeli economic and military plans in Africa and expose their motives. The fact that Israel is physically present in occupied Palestine does not mean that the Zionist peril threatens Palestine and the Palestinians alone. Zionist designs target every corner of the Arab and Islamic world, in which they fuel crises, weave plots, exploit resources, sap expertise and generally conspire against the people. The Zionist hand can be detected behind the conflicts that rage between Arab regimes. Its espionage networks seek to infiltrate Arab and Muslim societies. Israel's scientists and experts steal our subterranean water and its merchants roam the Arab and Islamic world to either purloin or purchase uranium. Now, more than ever, Israel's military, security, economic and political tentacles have reached every corner of Africa, donning many different philanthropic façades in order to exploit Africa's hunger and desperation in order to drive the Arabs and Muslims out of a continent in which they have always been welcome. The Arab and Muslim world must act quickly to keep the doors of Africa open to it. This requires a new strategy that simultaneously stops Israel from encircling the Arab world and gaining control over its sources of prosperity and well-being.