Why it's important for African countries to rally behind Israel

 Ambassador of Israel to Kenya Michael Lotem.  [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The visionary of the Jewish state, the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Zev Herzl, described in 1902 his vision in his book “Altneuland”. His famous words “If you will it, it is no dream” later became a slogan and inspiration to the Zionist movement.

Relevant to us here, in Africa, is what he had to say then, in Europe, more than 100 years ago:

“…there is still one important question that remains standing, a national disaster that has not been resolved to this day, one which only Jews are willing to get to the bottom of, and that is the question of the blacks…Imagine those despicable memories of the slave trade. People, notwithstanding being black in colour, were stolen like cattle, captured and sold. Their ancestors raised in contempt in a foreign country due to their differing skin colour. And I, have no shame in saying this, and if they laugh at me, so be it: After I have been lucky enough to see the homecoming of my people of Israel, I am keen to assist for the homecoming of the blacks as well”.

Let me underline; these words were written years before the UN was established, before many of the liberation movements were born and they were written by a Jewish journalist in the midst of the most conservative empire in Europe.

Sixty years later, Foreign Minister Golda Meir led Israel’s embrace of Africa, developing assistance and cooperation programmes with a special emphasis on female empowerment. This is what she has to say about it in her autobiography:

“We had no past history of being exploitative colonialists that could stain our relationship, and we came in pursuit only of friendship.

Were we looking to collect votes in the UN? Yes, of course, but that was far from being the most important factor. Our main goal of our African adventure was that we had knowledge and experience to share with other young and less experienced nations than our own…"

We came into Africa to teach, and everything that we taught, was internalised. What transpired when thousands of Israeli experts in agriculture, hydrology, planning, public health, engineering, public services, and medicine arrived to dozens of African countries between 1958 to 1973, and what those thousands of Africans who had trained under their instruction, took home from these Israeli experts. The benefits that were reaped during those years are not, and will never be, lost.”

Today Israel is fighting in self-defence. It is not a territorial dispute nor a religious one, it is an existential one. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and their patron – Iran, all state very clearly; "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before (first paragraph of the Hamas covenant, 18.8.1988)>

On October 7, 2023, over 1,200 people were cruelly murdered, slaughtered in their homes, burned alive, sexually abused, kidnapped and taken hostage into Gaza.

A testimony of an eyewitness to the October 7 atrocities: “The first victim she said she saw was a young woman with copper-colour hair, blood running down her back, pants pushed down to her knees. One man pulled her by her hair, and made her bend over, another penetrated her…every time she flinched; he plunged a knife into her back. She said then she watched another woman “shredded into pieces” while one terrorist raped her, she said, another pulled out a box cutter and sliced off her breast” (New York Times, December 29, 2023, 'screams without words')

Reacting to my descriptions of the Hamas terror attack, a clever and experienced African stateman told me a few weeks ago, "we've seen so much suffering in Africa, we know this very well. Another young and challenging journalist asked/told me: We have so many problems in Africa, why should we worry also about this?

Well, my answer to both: Simply because you had enough and simply because you don’t want more!

Boda boda and Toyota pickup trucks have been in use by terror groups in Africa before being used by Hamas. It is not the means or the technology, it is the copycat syndrome you should worry about. It is using civilians as human shields you should worry about. It is the constraint put on your self-defence you should worry about!

Two Tanzanian students were murdered by Hamas on October 7. Clemence Mtenga was brought back home for burial on November 28, 2023, but not Joshua Mollel. His body is still held by Hamas’s terrorists in Gaza along with 136 Israelis and foreign nationals kidnapped by Hamas who are also currently held captive in Gaza.

Israel came to Africa with a clean record and pure intentions. We are still here with the same aims and goals. We need your friendship, love and support. If the African Union or any other regional organisation including the upcoming Non-aligned Movement summit wants a theme to unite around, let it be: Fighting radicalism and terrorism and demanding the release of information regarding the whereabouts of the only African citizen held in Gaza; the only African citizen whose body is still in the hands of Hamas and cannot be brought home for burial.

African countries should not be manipulated again! Stand with humanity!

I hope that this long-lasting relationship will come to mind and that the legacy of these mutual benefits garnered over the years has not been lost.