Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – On Saturday at the opening of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Israeli delegate was asked to leave. Sharon Bar-Li, the deputy director of the African desk at the Israeli foreign ministry, was escorted out of the opening session by security guards, according to the Al Jazeera correspondent at the summit, who saw it happen.
In 2021, the African Union voted to accept Israel as an observer nation, over the objections of South Africa, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt ,among others. Palestine, which has been an observer since 2013, also called for Israel to be expelled on the grounds that it is an Apartheid state.
WAFA reports that Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that “the racist Israeli government has clearly stated that the Jewish people have the exclusive right to all the land of Israel, which is the land of Palestine, which means Israel’s desire to seize more lands and build colonial settlements in violation of all international covenants and laws.”
It may be that the African Union incident is the first response by the global South to the formation of a new Israeli government in late December that includes extremists, fascists and convicted terrorists.
Israel has long intensely courted sub-saharan African countries, most of them Christian and open to the blandishments of Christian Zionism or at least open to the economic benefits of good relations with Israel. Most recently, the United States has blackmailed post-Bashir revolutionary Sudan into recognizing Israel, making it a precondition for lifting the terrorism designation from that country, which has harmed its economy.
In 2022, the AU agreed to study the question of whether to continue proffering to Israel observer status.
The organization maintains that Ms. Bar-Li was asked to leave because she did not have a valid invitation. The invitation had only been issued to the Israeli ambassador to the African Union, Aleli Admasu, and was not, the AU officials said, transferable. AFP quotes Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for the head of the African Union Commission, as saying, “It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy.”
Israel disputes this account, insisting that Bar-Li had had permission to be there.
The Israelis angrily blamed South Africa and Algeria for, they alleged, coordinating with Iran to get Israel kicked out of the hall. The office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa retorted, “They must substantiate their claim.”
The Israeli attempt to drag Iran into the discussion is typical of the propaganda ploys of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has hundreds of nuclear weapons, but paints Iran as a nuclear threat even though Tehran has none. It is a form of what stage magicians call “misdirection.”
In any case, South Africa’s government is understandably touchy about Apartheid policies of the sort Israel implements in the Palestinian West Bank, which it militarily occupies. Algeria’s government has a long revolutionary history stretching back to the National Liberation Front’s struggle to get free of French colonial rule in 1954-1962, and it doesn’t need Iran’s prompting to take a stand for the occupied Palestinians.