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Commentary: After Africa, Israel seeks to break CARICOM's Palestine unity
Published on August 28, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jansher Khan

News is out that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ardently working to have a summit-like meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in September. Israel is making an aggressive push to end its isolation, and especially that Tel Aviv has made inroads in forging friendship with a handful of African nations. Israel is now seeking membership in the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as an observer.

Netanyahu met a few West African leaders in June in Liberia, but the summit was boycotted by over half a dozen leaders from the West African group (ECOWAS) and, in October, Netanyahu will host a summit with African leaders in Benin, Togo, to the dismay of many African countries, especially South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and other African countries that are afraid to make public statements on the issue.

Now, Israel is pushing frontier diplomacy in the Caribbean and especially after the visit of Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, to the Jewish state, which caught even South Africa by surprise.

With the bold support of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Jamaica is fully backing and working behind the scenes to make this summit a reality. Holness was in Israel earlier this year and, while he was there, Netanyahu said to Holness: “Our relations are always friendly. We appreciate the fact that you didn’t join the recent vote against Israel, the absurd vote in UNESCO. But quite beyond that we’re talking about extending our cooperation. I can see all the potential for cooperation in a variety of fields that relate to economy, to security, to technology. This is something that we eagerly are interested in doing with you.”

Most of these states, from Jamaica to those in Africa, Israel’s new friends, are embracing the Jewish state for its weapons, and tactics of how to quell marginalized communities, dissident groups, and legitimate independence movement.

But countries like Belize, Suriname, Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St Lucia and Antigua are not willing allies of the Israeli occupation. They are staunch supporters of the liberation of the Palestinian people to live in an independent homeland.

Former Guyana president Forbes Burnham broke diplomatic ties with Israel in the 70s and paid a heavy price for supporting the liberation of South/West Africa by allowing Cuba an airbase in Guyana, which they used to launch the Southern Africa liberation campaign. Black South African diplomats also travelled on Guyanese passports.

CARICOM was in unison in isolating Israel for its support of the Apartheid regime that ruled South Africa through institutionalized segregation. Israel was considered a pariah state by CARICOM for trading and selling weapons to Apartheid South Africa. Israel did not join the global embargo against South Africa to the dismay of the four founders of CARICOM, Forbes Burnham, Dr Eric Williams, Dr Norman Manley and Errol Barrow. This is why many CARICOM countries supported UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism to racism.

So its comes as a surprise when outgoing Israeli ambassador to Guyana and CARICOM, Mordehai Amihai-Bivas, said on July 8 that his government is “working to arrange a meeting between Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of state on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in September.”

He also noted that there is tremendous scope for cooperation between Israel and CARICOM countries, particularly in the areas of agriculture and mining. There is little to show of this in Guyana and Suriname. Maybe it exists, but not in the media? On the other hand, Israel suspended aid to Senegal and Angola after those countries condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestine at the UN.

So basically, Israel was saying it would “battle poverty in Africa only if it suits Israel’s propaganda interests”. Israeli consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, termed this quid pro quo a “diplomatic repayment”. Netanyahu’s aim, according to South African media, is to “dissolve” the pro-Palestinian bloc of African countries critical of Israeli policies at the UN.

CARICOM diplomats are tightlipped about any planned summit between Benjamin Netanyahu and CARICOM leaders this September in New York City. Some CARICOM leaders will boycott the summit if it happens. Many CARICOM leaders prefer to avoid this contentious meeting with Netanyahu, which is dividing CARICOM.

The ambassador said: “The recent terror attacks in Europe, the Middle East and the United States, and the ongoing tragedy in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, demonstrate that terrorism and bigotry know no borders and seek only to impose a new dark age on humanity.”

While condemning terrorism and bigotry, the Israeli diplomat forgot to add that his country, a nuclear power, has been an occupier for past 60 years, and the prime minister has been an impediment to achieving peace with the Palestinians, according to personal narratives of many western leaders.

A reputable Israeli daily, Haaretz, had this to say about prime minister: “Most Germans hold a clear position on who is responsible for the stalemate in the peace process. As almost everywhere in Europe, in Germany, too, Israel's reputation has declined, mainly because Prime Minister Netanyahu is considered one of the most disliked international politicians.”

Jansher Khan was born in Suriname and holds a degree in political science and international affairs.
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