July 20th, 2016

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Why Is Israel More Popular With African Governments These Days?

One of many interesting developments over the last few weeks with regard to Israel, its relationship with Africa and other developing nations.

While the US and EU left denounce Israel as "colonialists" building an "apartheid state," Israel's standing with East African nations and a number of other developing nations (such as Paraguay) are growing stronger.

Why? Many reasons, but here are a few.

1. Israel has a lot of what the developing world wants and needs. First, it has incredible technology for water efficiency and reclamation. It has advanced agriculture science geared to a water-scarce environment. It has a substantial venture capital community able to provide necessary investment capital for African nations like Kenya, which are turning entrepreneurial now that they are reaching the necessary critical mass for development. Israel has a huge generic drug industry which -- unlike Pharma -- is willing to sell life saving drugs in the developing world at a reasonable cost (at least when compared to US and EU based drug companies).

And none of it comes with the trade strings that make dealing with the US and EU, aka "El Norte," such an economically losing proposition (see below).

2. Israel is a counterweight to "El Norte."
For most of the developing world, the real "neo-Imperialism" flows from trade agreements which privilege large multinational companies based in the EU and US. This is particularly true on the intellectual property front, where US and EU trade deals have vastly expanded the scope of patent and copyright protection to reenforce monopolies by major agriculture and pharmaceutical companies.

By contrast, Israel pretty much just wants trade and international recognition as a normal state. They have no interest in getting other countries to change their internal laws to promote the interests of Big Pharma or Ag.

Additionally, Israel's increasing ostracism by the US and the EU paradoxically boosts its stature with the developing world. When the US and other major imperialist powers like France, Germany and the UK embraced Israel openly, the more suspicious the developing world was of Israel as a mere extension of El Norte. With increasingly vocal elements in El Norte denouncing Israel, Israel now appears much less threatening as a trade partner.

3. Failure of the BRIC countries to emerge as leaders of the developing world.

Y'all remember in the late 00s when the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) were going to displace US hegemony and El Norte generally? Now, not so much. I won't get into the various issues of BRIC and the developing world, but suffice it to say they failed to provide the necessary source of what the developing world wants and needs for its own economic development.

4. Israel is very clearly motivated to fight terrorism and is a much more reliable ally on this front than the US or EU.

We now start to get into some areas that modern progressives may find equally damning to Israel and the developing world, particularly East Africa and the Sunni states of the Middle East. But the US and the EU are increasingly seen as fickle friends with regard to maintaining regional stability. By contrast, Israel is seen as (a) extremely interested for its own safety in opposing extremist groups such as Al Qeda and ISIS, and (b) equally opposed to letting Iran or Turkey gain dominance in the region. Also, Israel is not nearly as hung up about all that "human rights stuff" that makes dealing with the US and EU such a pain in the ass. "Blah blah oppress religious and ethnic minorities, blah blah morality of using drones to kill at a distance, blah blah."

From the perspective of the East African and Middle Eastern regimes, Israel is much less annoying because it doesn't do the whole Jimminy Cricket thing, and Israel (so far) pretty much has zero interest in trying to protect human rights outside its borders (other than Natan Sharansky, and nobody listens to him). Mind you, it's not that Israelis *like* seeing human rights violated by Arab or African states. But it does give Israel a great deal of smugness about itself as compared to other countries in the region. Besides, it's not like pushing for human rights in other countries helps Israel on foreign relations because the Left is pretty much gonna keep calling them colonial oppressor apartheid racist pigs. So, like any rational actor, Israel is all like "Fuck it!" If the progressive left thinks we're worse than Uganda -- which makes being gay or lesbian a death penalty offense, why the Heck should we try to change Uganda? It'll only get dismissed as "pink washing."

So at a time when the US and EU are becoming more annoying over all that human rights stuff, having a potential partner that shares your core concerns (stoping people who want to blow you up), is not bothered by the fact that you are going to use the technology you buy and training you buy to oppress your own people, and doesn't give a crap about that "due process" stuff for killing terrorists with drones looks increasingly attractive.

5. The Developing World is a lot less sympathetic to Palestinians than they used to be -- in part because they actually went through an anti-colonial period and think the PA are being obnoxious, spoiled demand-y brats who should have taken their deal a long time ago.

Countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopa and a bunch of others actually went through historic periods of colonial rule and know what happens when you declare independence and get de-colonialized. it does not look *anything* like what Palestinians are demanding and progressives are supporting.

Most folks in the U.S. and EU either do not pay attention to the Palestinian demands for ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population of "Palestine" or support it because the Jewish population are supposedly imperialist colonials. News flash: none of the East African nations ever got to get rid of all the white colonialists. That was a precondition of independence. Yes, a lot of the white settlers voluntarily went home. But white settlers who had lived in the country for any length of time got to stay if they wanted to stay. That's why Kenya still has white people. Ditto Uganda. Check this general Wikipedia entry on "white Africans."

Nor did any natives of any African decolonialized nation have any kind of "right of return" to go colonize England, or have their own special agency within the UN entirely devoted to their care and feeding, etc.

So if you are Kenyan, and you read the Arab and Palestinian press, and you read the combination of continued cries for Jihad against the Jews, refusal to accept independence that does not involve removal of the Jewish population of "free Palestine" and insisting on special refugee status and perks as refugees for people who are about 3 or 4 generations removed from the original refugee crisis -- you get kind of annoyed. This is especially true when all these guys are demanding you put aside your own self-interest to support them out of "solidarity."

6. Many of these governments are extremely suspicious of establishing precedents that will come back to bite them in the ass.

It's not just resentment against Palestinians for publicly demanding in all their news outlets to refuse to take a deal that any of the African countries would have been happy to take in their decolonization period. It's the fear that if you can establish a precedent under International law that does what the Palestinians and El Norte progressives want, it will come back to bite them in the ass.

It used to be easy to laugh about norms of international law and stuff. Everyone understood that you could pull that shit on Israel at the UN and there was no need to be consistent. But now, with the ICC and all those annoying human rights activists and the EU making pronouncements with actual precedential value, it's not fun any more. If what Israel did in 2014 in Gaza was a "crime against humanity," then the standard security practices in most of these countries are going to be prosecutable.

We saw an example of this when the PA tried to get sanctions against Israel at FIFA, and they got forced into a compromise where FIFA refused to consider their claims in any official way. Why? Because what the Palestinians were claiming was all apartheid treatment equivalent to South Africa, etc. is what most developing countries call "Tuesday." Interference with freedom of movement for security checks? Scheduling issues with checkpoints? General "humiliation" by going through military checkpoints and inspections. Hell, that is routine.

Likewise, of refugee status is heritable forever, that is going to really change who various ethnic minorities in developing nations get treated. Is everyone descended from someone who fled Rwanda in 1994 entitled to come back and claim full Rwandan citizenship? En masse?

All of this taken together creates a rather lovely paradox. The greater the success of BDS and other anti-Israel efforts in the US, EU and "El Norte" generally, the more attractive Israel becomes to the actual developing world. I do not suggest that this is necessarily a good outcome or bad. But it does suggest that mainstream political analysis in the Global North is increasingly out of touch with the emerging reality on the ground.

Needless to say, btw, the Arab Press is not in the least pleased: http://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/netanyahu-s-move-into-africa-is-more-than-a-charm-offensive-1.1865921
(and I love the anti-Semetic picture that goes with the article)