Despite Troubled History, Israeli-African Relations Growing

3rd Annual Africa Night to Honor Israel - Minneapolis, MN
Members of the Africa Night to Honor Israel planning team – Minneapolis, Minnesota – led by Dr. Francis Tabla, CUFI’s African Outreach Coordinator

Last year was the 40th anniversary of the infamous United Nations resolution 3379 – Zionism is racism. It was a deviously cynical attempt on behalf of certain Arab states and the former Soviet Union to delegitimize the Jewish state of Israel. The futility of the Arab wars against Israel beginning in 1948 caused Israel’s enemies to attempt to do in the UN what they could not do on the battlefield: destroy the Jewish state. Though UN 3379 was rescinded in 1991, the ideological damage was done, and to this day Israel’s detractors still use the human rights lexicon to demonize the Jewish state.

Sadly, many African nations voted in favor of UN 3379, having been coerced to do so by the Arab oil producing states. Thanks to anti-Israel propaganda, many Africans were also told Israel’s armed struggle against North African nations like Egypt were signs of “Zionist imperialism.”

Yet, there is another 40-year anniversary that we should remember. 40 years ago this July Israel successfully rescued nearly 100 of its citizens who were being held hostage in Entebbe, Uganda. Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked an Air France flight that originated in Tel Aviv and was headed for Paris. Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin aided the hijackers, welcoming them into his country. While all 148 of the non-Israeli passengers were released in the days that followed the flight’s arrival in Africa, the Jews were not.

One week later Israel responded by launching Operation Thunderbolt, more commonly known as the Raid on Entebbe. 100 Israeli commandos rescued all but one hostage who was sick in a Ugandan hospital. The only soldier to lose his life in the operation was Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

This July, Mr. Netanyahu will be the first Israeli prime minister to visit Africa in 50 years. He will do so both to further champion what has been an explosion of Israel-Africa cooperation, and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the rescue of Israel’s people from Uganda. Included in the prime minister’s Africa tour is the nation of Kenya, the country that allowed the Israeli military plane to refuel in order to make the flight into Uganda. The president of Kenya at that time (Jomo Kenyatta) is the father of current president, Uhura Kenyetta. Thus, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Kenyetta will observe the 40-year milestone of an event that has deep personal meaning for them both.

“Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is returning to Israel in a big way,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a recent Knesset Caucus on Israel-Africa relations.

Likewise, Kenya’s president termed Israel “a dear and very special friend,” and praised Israel for the “excellent support” that it has given Kenya on security matters such as training of personnel and supply of defense equipment. He also encouraged Israeli investments in his country.

As full circle as the Israel-Kenya moment will be this summer it goes much further. Israel’s renewed and vibrant diplomatic ties with Africa include the nations of Ivory Coast, Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Liberia, and Senegal just to name a few. And Africans across the continent are voicing their strong support for Israel and the Jewish people.

Just a few weeks ago hundreds of delegates from all over Africa gathered in Ghana to show their support for Israel and the Jewish people at the Africa-Israel Summit. They all joined Israeli Danny Elinson in singing the Israeli national anthem HaTikva. They also unveiled their new logo (clearly inspired by the seal of Christians United for Israel).

Even in South Africa, the country most targeted by anti-Zionist forces, support for Israel is growing. Parliament member and founder of DEISI (Defend, Embrace, Invest-in, Support Israel), Rev. Kenneth Meshoe will be a guest speaker at CUFI’s 2016 Washington Summit. And this fall I will join Rev. Meshoe in South Africa and help lead the first ever CUFI South Africa Night to Honour Israel, hosted by DEISI.

After 40 years of wilderness and testing, the Israel-Africa alliance is emerging stronger than ever. A new generation of Africans and Israelis are ensuring that the distancing of the past never occurs again. As Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Belaynesh Zevadia said, “the greatest time is yet to come.”

Dumisani Washington is the Diversity Outreach Coordinator for Christians United for Israel.

About the Author
Dumisani Washington is the National Diversity Outreach Coordinator for the over 3 million member Christians United for Israel (CUFI); and the Director of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI). He is a husband, father, pastor, and musician based in Stockton, CA.