Empty promises – how the Africa-Israel alliance was severed

May 14th, 2018 has become a day of great joy or pain depending on who you are. I won’t talk about recent events, as some much more eloquent than I am have spoken to the recent riots in Gaza at Israel’s border. What we know based on the past few weeks, is that some Hamas terrorists are posing as civilians and mixing in with the crowd of protesters, bringing weapons and even small children with them as a part of their Dead Baby Strategy which you can read about here. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are playing with the lives of their people, and it is the cause of all of this mess. The fact remains that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. If historical artifacts, the Great Revolt, and and a 3000 year Jewish presence in the region doesn’t convince one of that, I’m not sure what else will.


This article is directed mainly to my peers here in the US. There are some crucial bits of history that must be set straight if we can even begin to have a conversation about Israel and Gaza, if we seek to have a conversation.


The question I hear most often on college campuses in every Israel/Middle East related event is something like “…but how do you justify Israel forcibly driving out of the Palestinians in 1948?” or “what about the Palestinian refugees?” and less so, but still very prominent in light of other recent events, “what about the African refugees?”


Propaganda and emotion seem to prevail over the truth. Pseudo-intellectualism and platitudes are what seem to get much of the stage time these days. Nonetheless, no matter how many times, no matter how fervently and passionately a lie repeated, it is still a lie.


First, Israel does more for Africa than any other nation. I won’t get into that here, because I have done so already in my first article. Take a look here if you haven’t already. But let’s a bit deeper.


Who is responsible for Palestinian refugees?


Like a broken record, it has been repeated for decades now that Jews moved in and drove out about 750,000 Palestinian in the process, which is the basis for the Palestinian right of return. Proponents of Palestinians returning to the land also come from the notion that the Jews in Israel all came from Europe and had no presence in the Middle East until 1948. These two notions could not be further from the truth.


750,000 Palestinians were indeed coerced to leave Palestine in 1948, but not by-in-large Jews, but by Arab leaders in the MIddle East. The Arab leaders did this and promised the Palestinian people the Arab armies would defeat Israel in battle, and once the battle was done, the Palestinians could return from their temporary displacement. This was a known, clear, and undisputed fact at that time. There was no need for Zionists to tour college campuses and explain this. There was no need for articles like this one and many others to be written to clarify this. This was a truth of which both Israelis and Palestinians were very much aware; so aware in fact, that Palestinians and Arab leaders alike were stating this. These are quotes from Jordanian newspapers and Arab leaders during this time:


  • “The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.” (Filastin Newspaper, February 19, 1949)
  • “The Arab government told us: ‘Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in.’” (Ad Diofaa, September 6, 1954)
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said declared: “We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place where the Jews seek shelter. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.” (Myron Kaufman, The Coming Destruction of Israel)
  • Syrian Prime Minister, Khaled al Azm: “Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees…. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave.” (Khaled Al-Azm, Memoirs [Arabic])
  • King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan: “Since 1948, Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner. They have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and I could say even criminal.”

Again, these are all accounts of Arab leaders, and Palestinians themselves. There was no alternative story, no counter argument, no disparate point of view. The leaders of Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq caused the Palestinians to leave because the Arab States were going to wage a war on the Israelis that would wipe out the nascent Jewish state. The Arab States failed. The Palestinians who left, despite Israel pleading with them to stay, instantly became refugees, and the ones who stayed became citizens of the Jewish State. Why haven’t some of those same Arab countries taken in Palestinian refugees? That is a question for another time.


What also happened in 1948 was that Arab leaders expelled Mizrahi Jews from their countries where they have resided for centuries; Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, and Yemen. In short, the Arab States are responsible for the displacement of almost 2 million people, both Jews and Palestinians. That, ironically enough, is how 650,000 out of 850,000 Mizrahi Jews came to the new state of Israel; by force of expulsion. Today, over half of Israel’s population is Mizrahi. There were some cases of Arabs who unfortunately were expelled by Jews from the state of Israel, and while there is a lot more to that fact that deserves to be explored, these cases were very marginal. The overwhelming majority of the mass exodus took place either by choice of the wealthy Arabs who anticipated the war, or at the prompting of the Arab leadership.


In the 1960s and 70s, the Arab nations urged, bullied, and lied to the African countries to cut ties with Israel, but did not fulfill any of their promises. In 1976, no less than twenty-one African countries broke ties with Israel. Of those twenty-one, fourteen did so because of bribes by Libya and Saudi-Arabia.


  • “King Faisal [of Saudi Arabia] said in Algiers that if Ethiopia broke diplomatic relations with Israel, he would try hard for Ethiopia to get much aid from the Arabs and for the Eritrean problem to be peacefully resolved. To please him and the Arabs, Ethiopia canceled the diplomatic relations she had with Israel in one day. In exchange she got nothing. On the contrary it was confirmed that the amount of aid in arms and money given to the Eritrean bandits after the Algiers conference was even much greater than before.” (Tom Hess, Will Africa Be Blessed Or Cursed?)
  • “The events were dictated by Amin’s need for ready cash… [Amin] met with Gaddafi and got promises of massive financial and military aid.” (Henry Kyemba, A State of Blood)
  • “The Arabs threatened sanctions and promised free oil but never delivered, to the bitter disappointment of the Senegalese,” said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry official who negotiated the restoration of diplomatic relations in 1994. (Full article here)


Other African countries that were bribed included, but are not limited to Chad, Congo, Niger, Mali, Burundi, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Zambia. Much was promised to these countries by their Arab neighbors, and not a single promise was fulfilled.


It is crucial to look at how these countries were doing economically before severing ties with the Jewish State. In Zambia’s case, Israel was involved in training their military, providing technical assistance in agriculture, and constructing the only university at the time, the Lusaka international airport and Zambia’s largest teaching hospital, among many other buildings. A number of Zambian students went to Israel to study. The Zambian Kwacha was equal to the British pound; such was the Egyptian pound which was also greater than the US dollar. Countries like Singapore would come to Zambia and Ghana to study and learn as Singapore was coming into its own. Many of Nigeria’s housing projects, universities, and major highways were constructed by Israeli companies. Ethiopia was Israel’s second best business partner, next to New York. The list goes on.


The work that Israel is doing in Africa today, as incredible as it is, is just a shadow of what Israel-Africa relations used to be.  And although there are other factors that resulted in Africa’s economic decline and Palestinian disempowerment, no other factor had a larger impact than breaking ties with Israel, only to be gifted with empty promises from an impostor.

About the Author
Joshua is the Director of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI) where he plans events and speaks. He’s a composition graduate of the University of Pacific’s Conservatory of Music. Joshua was formerly IBSI’s Director of Special Events, and planned music performances featuring The Hebrew Project Artists (THP) across the country. Joshua is also a graduate of CUFI’s 2016 Diversity Outreach Mentoring Endeavor (DOME), where he received training in Israel advocacy for diverse audiences. He was chosen to travel to Israel twice; once as part of CUFI’s millennial outreach, Israel Collective, and again as part of a music performance with Victor Styrsky’s Wild Branches & Friends. His other musical endeavors include writing for the Boston Pops, and music directing for other artists. Joshua is also a featured author on a collaborative book called 'Israelophobia and the West: The Hijacking of Civil Discourse on Israel and How to Rescue It' by Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs official, Dan Diker.
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