Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat is public enemy number one right now across much of Africa.
The African Union Commission Chairperson recently accorded Israel observer status to the continental bloc. There was an immediate hue and cry, with several governments saying Mr Mahamat made the decision unilaterally, and other pressure groups saying the man should be fired.
The response is understandable.
The African Union has long stood with the cause of the Palestinian people.
It is the natural default ideological and political position for a continent that endured centuries of slavery and colonialism. Africa and Africans understand what oppression is, and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is, to many, simply unpalatable.
Interestingly, Israel’s AU observer status isn’t really a new thing. It had that status under the OAU, and it was stripped of that when the bloc transformed into the AU in 2002. So in essence, Israel’s status has been restored.
Not that it makes a unilateral decision by Mr Mahamat any more acceptable!
After all, as recently as June 2021, Human Rights Watch published a 213-page report in which it categorically outlines how Israel routinely commits crimes against humanity.
Many critics of Israel say that country’s government is the world’s foremost proponent of institutionalised apartheid. The Apartheid Convention of 1973 defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purposes of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”.
There’s no arguing with the fact that this speaks eloquently to Israel’s political grotesquery.
But Israel’s continued and systematic crimes against the people of Palestine should not be the only problem that Africa has with the Mr Mahamat decision.
Israel is just as nasty – if not more brutal – when it comes to dealing with Africans.
Some may not know that chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, has called black people “monkeys”, and in a sermon has used the Hebrew equivalent of the word “nigger” to describe Africans.
Some may not know that another chief rabbi, Yisrael Lau, also used the word “nigger” to describe blacks on his very first day in office in July 2013.
Every year, Israel targets black people for deportation, summarily expelling thousands of people regardless of how long they have lived in Israel, how they have contributed to the Israeli economy, or even served in their security services.
Not only that, Africans are the subject of mob attacks on the streets of Israel, with politicians taking the front line in whipping up anti-black sentiment and inciting violence at rallies and in their speeches. Even Africans who have served in the Israeli military have been the victims of these attacks.
And you will be hard pressed to find an instance where the African Union, its Commission and our Mr Mahamat have issued a statement condemning this routine racism against Africans in Israel.
Instead, we give Israel observer status at the African Union!
But then again, we should not be too amazed or come down too hard on Mr Mahamat.
Israel has relations with 46 of the AU’s 55 members regardless of how Tel Aviv treats Africans.
Further, the AU has shown how powerless it is to deal with the oppression in Africa by Africans and so we should not really expect it to take a firm or principled stand when it comes to Israel and what it does in the Middle East.
Consider how the AU welcomed Morocco back into its fold in 2017 after a 33-year absence triggered by its anger with Africa’s recognition of the sovereignty of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara).
You see, Morocco has colonised Western Sahara. That’s right: one African country has been the colony of another African country since 1975. And the AU is going along with it get along.
There have been several United Nations resolutions in support of the self-determination of the Sahrawi people and the International Court of Justice has also upheld this position.
But Morocco is allowed to continue oppressing and exploiting the people of Western Sahara while the African Union looks on.
It matters not that Morocco insists on its “right” to colonise Western Sahara, and to use arms of war to do so. It matters not that nearly 200,000 Saharawi people live as refugees today. It matters not that Morocco is sitting atop the phosphate, uranium and oil potential of Sahrawi while the owners of that land live in abject poverty. It matters not that Morocco is escalating its military operations in Western Sahara. It matters not that Morocco is said to have used napalm, white phosphorous and other ugly weapons against unarmed Africans.
Maybe it is because Morocco’s ruling elite have blood ties to mighty Saudi Arabia. Maybe it is because Morocco is rich enough to unleash a slick economic diplomacy offensive that beguiles African leaders into looking the other way. Maybe it is because since 1950 Morocco has been the second-largest recipient of American money in Africa.
If Mr Mahamat and company can accept Morocco as a member of the AU in good standing, no one should be surprised that the bloc has given Israel observer status.