Marshall Rufura Ndlela
THE recent escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine has once again exposed the deep divisions in the international community over the long-standing conflict.
While many Western countries, led by the United States, have expressed their unwavering support for Israel and its right to self-defence, many African countries have shown their sympathy and solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom and dignity.
This is not surprising, given the historical, political, and socio-economic ties that bind Africa and Palestine. Since the early days of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, many African countries have recognised the parallels between their own experiences of oppression and dispossession under colonialism and apartheid, and those of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
They have also shared a common vision of liberation, justice, and self-determination, as well as a common resistance against foreign domination and interference.
Africa’s support for Palestine dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when many African countries gained their independence from colonial rule and joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a group of states that advocated for peaceful coexistence and mutual co-operation among nations. The NAM was instrumental in advancing the Palestinian cause at the United Nations and other international forums, as well as providing diplomatic, political, and material support to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the representative body of the Palestinian people.
In 1974, the NAM recognised the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and endorsed its right to establish an independent state on its national soil.
In 1975, the NAM also supported the UN General Assembly resolution that equated Zionism with racism, a resolution that was later revoked in 1991 under US pressure. In 1980, the NAM held its summit in Havana, Cuba, where it adopted a comprehensive plan of action for solidarity with Palestine, calling for a total boycott of Israel and its supporters, as well as for armed struggle against Israeli aggression.
Africa’s solidarity with Palestine has continued in the post-Cold War era, despite the changing geopolitical dynamics and the challenges posed by globalisation, neoliberalism, terrorism, and civil wars.
Many African countries have maintained or established diplomatic relations with Palestine, while severing or downgrading their ties with Israel.
They have also condemned Israel’s violations of human rights and international law in Palestine, especially its illegal settlement expansion, its siege of Gaza, its annexation of Jerusalem, and its use of disproportionate force against civilians.
Moreover, Africa has not only offered moral and political support to Palestine, but also practical and tangible cooperation in various fields.
For instance, South Africa has shared its experience of overcoming apartheid with the Palestinians and has offered to mediate between them and Israel.
Egypt has facilitated several rounds of reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.
Algeria has provided scholarships and training to Palestinian students and professionals.
Morocco has hosted several conferences on Jerusalem and its Islamic heritage. Sudan has recently normalised its relations with Israel after decades of hostility.
Additionally, Africa has also engaged in trade and economic relations with Palestine, albeit on a limited scale due to Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian movement and access. According to data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Africa accounted for about three percent of Palestine’s total exports and two percent of its total imports in 2020.
The main African trading partners of Palestine are Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Mauritania.
The main products exported from Palestine to Africa are fruits, vegetables, olive oil, textiles, pharmaceuticals, furniture, plastics, and handicrafts. The main products imported from Africa to Palestine are cereals, sugar, coffee, tea, spices, oils, metals, machinery, vehicles and livestock.
The trade volume between Africa and Palestine is expected to increase in the future as both sides seek to diversify their markets and enhance their economic cooperation.
In 2019, Palestine signed a free trade agreement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a regional bloc that comprises 21 African countries.
The agreement aims to facilitate trade by eliminating tariffs and non-tariff barriers on goods originating from Palestine or COMESA member states.
It also provides for preferential treatment for Palestinian products in terms of rules of origin, customs procedures, technical standards, sanitary measures and dispute settlement mechanisms.
The agreement is seen as a significant step towards integrating Palestine into the African continental free trade area (AfCFTA), which came into force in 2019 and covers 54 African countries with a combined population of 1, 3 billion people and a gross domestic product of US$3, 4 trillion.
The AfCFTA is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of participating countries and has the potential to boost intra-African trade, industrialisation, and development.
Palestine has expressed its interest in joining the AfCFTA and has received positive responses from some African countries, such as South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Talking of Zimbabwe, Palestine and Zimbabwe have a long history of solidarity and cooperation, dating back to the liberation struggles of both peoples against colonialism and apartheid.
Both countries have faced oppression, dispossession, and violence from foreign powers that sought to exploit their land and resources. Both countries have also resisted foreign domination and interference, and pursued their own paths of development and self-determination.
Palestine and Zimbabwe have maintained diplomatic relations since 1988, when Zimbabwe became one of the first African states to recognise the State of Palestine.
Since then, the two countries have supported each other politically, diplomatically, and economically.
They have also exchanged visits, expertise, and assistance in various fields, such as media, agriculture, health, education, and culture.
Palestine and Zimbabwe have also shared a common vision of liberation, justice, and peace in the region and the world.
They have advocated for the respect of human rights and international law, as well as for the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and negotiation.
They have also condemned the aggression and occupation of Israel in Palestine, as well as the sanctions and isolation imposed on Zimbabwe by the West.
Palestine and Zimbabwe have faced similar challenges and threats from the West, led by the United States, which has supported Israel’s colonialism, apartheid, and war crimes in Palestine, and has imposed illegal sanctions, regime change agendas, and destabilisation efforts on Zimbabwe.
The West has also shown hypocrisy and double standards in dealing with the two countries, ignoring their legitimate rights and interests, while imposing its own interests and values.
Palestine and Zimbabwe have also shown resilience and determination in overcoming the challenges and threats posed by the West.
They have relied on their own resources, capacities, and innovations, as well as on their regional and international allies. The two countries have also sought to diversify their markets and enhance their economic co-operation, especially with other African countries.
The trade and economic relations between Africa and Palestine are not only beneficial for their mutual interests, but also for their political and strategic objectives.
By enhancing their trade ties, Africa and Palestine can strengthen their solidarity and cooperation in the face of Israel’s aggression and occupation, as well as the West’s bias and complicity.
They can also assert their sovereignty and independence from external pressures and interference, and pursue their own development paths based on their own needs and aspirations.
The recent escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine has once again exposed the hypocrisy and double standards of the West, led by the United States, which claims to uphold democracy, human rights, and international law, but in reality supports Israel’s colonialism, apartheid, and war crimes.
The West’s unconditional backing of Israel not only undermines the prospects of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, but also threatens the stability and security of the region and the world.
Africa, as a continent that has suffered from colonialism, racism, and oppression, has a moral duty and a historical responsibility to stand with Palestine and its legitimate rights. Africa should not succumb to the pressure or temptation of normalising relations with Israel in exchange for economic or security benefits. Africa should not abandon its principles or betray its friends for short-term gains or illusory promises.
Africa should not forget its history or ignore its destiny.
Africa should stand with Palestine until Palestine is free.
*Marshall Ndlela is a Zimbabwean based in South Africa. He is a holder of a Master’s Degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of Chichester, England. He can be contacted on [email protected]