by Mordechai Kedar
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)
Those Africans who enter Israel illegally in order to find work are a very small part of the general global problem of emigrants from Africa who are searching for a new land that will allow them to live, even with only a minimum income and standards of living, and the main thing that drives them is survival. Their poor condition, in Israel, in Europe, in North and South America and in Asia, raises the question: how did an entire continent, where a billion people live, about one fifth of the world population, arrive at such a low condition, and how, among the 61 states and entities that it comprises, not even one offers its citizens security, education, health and welfare at a reasonable level. How did it happen that a whole continent is torn by never-ending wars, mass murders costing millions of lives, and famines that still threaten the residents, most of whom want only to flee from it.
The one answer to all of these questions is: Europe, or more accurately, the greedy lust of the European peoples in previous century, which was reflected in colonization, and the way in which the Europeans related to the peoples of Africa when they ruled it and in the way that they left Africa and abandoned it to its suffering.
We must remember that in Africa there were never “peoples” in the European sense of the word; there were tribes. These family-based groups, over the course of generations, grew and split off to form new tribes, but their members always remained loyal to tribal culture. Traditionally, each tribe has its own religion, language, customs, laws, dress, standards of behavior, living area, sources of livelihood and economic interests, around which every member of the tribe would unite. To defend themselves and their sources of livelihood, the members of the tribe formed a fighting group, without which function it would be extremely difficult for the tribe to survive. For thousands of years the tribes of Africa lived this way undisturbed, in continual balance between man and nature, between tribes and neighbors, between man and his beliefs.
The European conquest and colonization that began in the late 15th century, brought continual disaster upon the tribes of Africa: the colonialists saw the black continent as a source of raw material for European industry – gold, silver, copper, iron, zinc, aluminum, diamonds, rubber and wood, and later, oil. But worst of all was that the African was now seen as a slave, an amazingly cheap source of labor whose life had value only inasmuch as he could be exploited as a cheap source of labor. The most obvious example of this is the behavior of King Leopold II, king of Belgium (1835-1909), who ruled as Czar of the Congo from 1884 to 1908, and regarded the Congo, and all that it contained, as his private property. He used the residents of Congo as slave labor in his mines and rubber industry, and a third of the people met their death in this work. Slaves who could not fulfill the production quotas that were demanded from them were punished with amputation of a hand. Men were forced into slave labor, families were destroyed and whole tribes were wiped out by famine. Africans were considered lower than animals, and the wealth that the king stole from the lands of the Congo served his large construction building projects in Belgium. Many of the beautiful and stylish buildings in Belgium are the result of his conduct, which earned him harsh criticism from other countries.
During the period from the 16th to the 19th century, millions of Africans were captured by European, Arab and local slave traders and sold into slavery, mainly to South and North America. About one sixth of the slaves did not survive the journey by ship, mainly because of the miserable nutritional and sanitary conditions in these floating prisons. Slave hunters cast the tribes of Western Africa into a never ending chain of acts of reprisal because of their collaboration with slave traders.
At the Berlin Conference in the year 1884, the colonialist countries of Europe marked the borders of Africa as a “division of spoils”, and became wealthy from the raw materials and the slaves that were brought out from the lands of Africa. A not insignificant part of European wealth today is a direct result of this act – the greatest plunder in the history of mankind.
Failed StatesDuring the 19th and 20th centuries, colonialism gradually receded from Africa, leaving behind it states whose borders had been determined by the interests of colonialism, not the natural division of humanity in Africa. Borders included many disparate groups together which often were in conflict with each other, and in some cases tribes were divided between states. This situation created states whose populations struggle within themselves, and most were ruled, and are still ruled by one group which took control of the whole country. The tribe that is in control “buys” the loyalty of other tribes by political appointments and economic benefits, a phenomenon that creates a great deal of corruption in government.
The economy of the standard African state is controlled by the regime, which divides the wealth of the state according to its political interests. This situation causes groups who are not within the inner circle of the regime to be marginalized, and thus are under-developed, a fact which is reflected, among other ways, in a poor educational system. As a result of this, its people are doomed to be left behind in terms of vocational training, and they – a group that may amount to millions of people – are left to a life of poverty and unemployment because their area is under-developed in relation to other sectors of the state who are in the regime’s favor.
The internal division of the states between those in favor and those who are not, creates tension between the tribes, which adds to the accumulated tensions that have existed between the tribes for many generations. The result is tribal conflicts that degrade the situation and cause civil wars to break out in the states quite easily. Examples of this are many: Biafra at the end of the 60s, which split off from Nigeria, resulting in wars for independence that left hundreds of thousands of fatalities caused both by the sword and by hunger; Rwanda during the nineties was an arena of horrific acts of slaughter between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes; the Second Congo War (1998-2003) took the lives of more than five million people; Uganda experienced acts of mass slaughter in the days of Idi Amin; lately Charles Taylor, a former dictator of Liberia, was indicted for crimes against humanity, meaning against his citizens; Somalia is experiencing a continual situation of tribal war which, as of today, has cost the lives of tens of thousands, and its lack of government is responsible for the phenomenon of piracy in the Indian Ocean; bloody wars for 60 years between the Arab-Islamist government of Sudan and sectors of the Christian-Animist South, which, during the last year gained independence; the slaughter of hundreds of thousands during the past decade that the government of Sudan carried out against the people of Darfur, which is in the Western part of the state; in Kenya, bloody street riots break out between the tribes every time there are elections and in many other cases when there are bloody conflicts.
These conflicts stem from no other reason other than the demographic situation of the states of Africa, each of which is a combination of different groups who are hostile to each other and share no unifying factor. The modern framework of a state – institutions, a flag, a hymn and symbols of sovereignty – have failed in the most important task, which is to settle in the hearts of the people and to substitute traditional loyalty to the tribe with a new loyalty to the state. The differences between the tribes can even be seen in external appearance – height, color, shade, the shape of the facial features – as well as the level of education and development. These differences are clear and continue to be a basis for discrimination and various coalitions, and are used as a way to obtain the favors of the regime or to be excluded from them.
In the states where there is oil, Nigeria for example, the population is divided between those tribes who profit from the oil, (usually those who live in areas from which the oil is extracted or in land through which oil is piped), and those tribes who see no earnings from the oil. The tribes with oil defend their interests with hoarded weapons, and the state can buy their allegiance only at a high price. However, many times, tribes sabotage the pipes in order to steal and sell the oil, and these acts of sabotage result in explosions and fires that leave hundreds of dead, wounded and burn victims. In Sudan, oil is the reason for the war in the past few months between the state of Sudan, whose capital is Khartoum, and the new state of South Sudan, whose capital is Juba. It is from this failed state that many of the illegal aliens who came to Israel originated.
The Influence of Islam
The states of the Sahara Desert in North Africa – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco – are all Muslim, and also the states south of the Sahara – Chad, Mali, Niger, Tanzania, Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya and Nigeria – are mostly Muslim or a large proportion of their population is Muslim. In these states, in addition to the tribal tensions, there exists a high degree of religious tension, because Muslims see themselves as believers of the true religion (“din al-haq”), while the others – Christians and Pagans – are infidels who adhere to a false religion (“din al-batil”).
During the past twenty years, in some of these states, struggles have developed over the status of Islamic religious law (Shari’a), compared to civil law, and the Northern sections – the Muslim sections – of Nigeria, where tens of millions of people live, are ruled today according to Muslim law. This is the direct result of the Islamic Wahhabi penetration by propagandists who were schooled in Saudi Arabia and work under its inspiration and funding. Struggles develop in these areas stemming from the existence and activity of non-Muslim houses of worship, modern schools, the sale of wine and other spirits, and the status of women and their presence in the public arena. In African Islamic countries, radical Islamic organizations are active which have adopted the generic name, or label, “al-Qaeda”. The processes of religious radicalization that the African Muslim societies are undergoing is described in an article that we published here a number of weeks ago.
This situation has poured oil on the fire of traditional tribal rivalries which are now quarreling and fighting with each other because of religion in addition to the previous reasons. As a result of this, the civil framework of the country is weakened still further, and additional sectors of its population have become economically, socially and politically marginalized.
The eternal conflicts in the failing African states cause many sectors to be lacking in basic necessities, and they search for any possible way to save themselves from the poor economic situation and the social, political and religious oppression that they experience. Many millions of Africans are on their way to the developed world, in order to find a new, peaceful and decent life. Millions have passed and continue to pass through the Northern Sahara desert, in a journey that for many of them will end in the desert with a gathering of vultures hovering over their carcasses.
Some of them arrive to states in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia) and from there they sail in ships via the Mediterranean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. Sometimes a ship sinks, and its passengers become food for the sharks. Others enter one of two Spanish enclaves – Ceuta and Melilla – which are located on the Northern shore of Morocco; from there some of them are taken to Spain, and some are sent back to their death in the Sahara. Some of those who reach Egypt continue to Israel via Sinai, and if the Bedouins do not kill them on the way to harvest their organs for transplant, they arrive – at the end of a journey of continuous torture and humiliation – to the border of Israel.
The phenomenon of the emigration of the poor and tormented Africans has stirred the peoples of Europe, and in a gesture of remorse for what they did in Africa, they drafted an international covenant demanding the modern states to treat the refugees in a fair way. The salient point in the covenant is that a developed country is prohibited from sending a person back to a state in which his life will be in danger. This rule applies to the great majority of Africans who arrived to Europe illegally, consequently there is no legal way to return great numbers of illegal immigrants in Europe back to Africa. Europe ruined their lives in Africa, and now they come in hordes to Europe, changing its character beyond recognition. This is history’s sweet revenge.
The UN World Conference Against Racism – Durban 2001
Toward the end of the previous millennium some African intellectuals initiated the claim that Europe should be made to pay damages to the African peoples for hundreds of years of economic exploitation, mass murders in the mines and the fields, slave trade and having established failed states. The amounts that were mentioned in this connection were in the hundreds of billions, and just having raised the claim aroused horror in the hearts of the European governments. They knew that the post-colonial discourse that developed in Europe in the previous generation would cause broad ethical support for the African claim.
In order to introduce the claim onto the international agenda, the African states decided to convene a conference against racism, which would condemn the racism of today and of the past, and would impose upon the European states the responsibility for the racist way in which they related to the peoples of Africa in the previous century. This responsibility would be the basis for the monetary claim. This conference met in Durban, South Africa in September of 2001.
Politicians and European public figures, who have no desire to open the wounds of the past and stand in front of the mirror of history that will reveal their great wealth from Africa and their ethical nakedness, searched out a scapegoat, onto whom it would be possible to place all of the sins of their colonialism. Together with Arabs (descendants of the slave traders) the sacrificial victim was found: Israel. Their preparatory conference, which was held in Teheran (a well-known stronghold of human rights) determined that (1) Israel is an apartheid country and therefore they must impose boycotts and condemn the countries that support it. (2) Israel is a country of occupation, and occupation is a crime against humanity and endangers world peace. (3) Zionism is racism. (4) The state of Israel violates the human rights of Palestinians. (5) Israel carries out genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and therefore it is necessary to conduct an armed struggle against it. (6) There has not only been one holocaust. Relating to the holocaust in the plural demonstrates that the Jewish people have not undergone a unique holocaust experience compared to disasters that have occurred to other peoples in the world, like the slaving of the blacks in Africa or the holocaust that Israel carries out upon the Palestinians. (7) The state of Israel was conceived in sin because it was established by means of ethnic cleansing of the Arabs in the area.
Since the Durban conference, an anti-Israel spirit has dominated the global discourse on human rights, so much so that most of the decisions of the Human Rights Council of the UN relate to Israel, while ignoring -partially or totally – wholesale violations of human rights in most countries of the world, from China to Russia, from Myanmar to Venezuela, not to mention Iran and the Arab countries. Only the Arab mass murders during this past year drew the attention of this council enough to produce some lukewarm decisions concerning the situation of human rights in the Arab world.
The Durban Conference, which was originally intended to deal with the sins of European racism and the compensation that Europe should pay to Africa, was hijacked by the Arabs with European collaboration, in order to represent Israel as the last colonialist left in the world, upon whom it would be possible to impose the responsibility for all the sins of European colonialism. The Durban Conference and the world “forgot” that Britain still rules many colonies, some of which are thousands of miles distant: Islands in the Atlantic Ocean: Falklands, Corex, Caicos Islands, South Georgia, Sandwich Islands, Ascension Island, Saint Helena, Tristan da, Montserrat, Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands and Bermuda. In the Indian Ocean – Diego Garcia (from where British and American planes left to bomb Iraq), in the Pacific – Pitcairn, and even in Europe – in Gibraltar and in Cyprus – Britain still maintains colonies.
France also maintains its colonies thousands of kilometers from France: Guadeloupe, Reunion, French Guiana, Butte, French Polynesia, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia and Hadley. There are those who claim that also the French rule of the Mediterranean island of Corsica is a foreign occupation. Does anyone in the world remember this French colonialism, that continues until today? And this is not the end of the list of colonies that still remain under the rule of European countries.
European colonialism is alive and well, and continues to ruin the fabric of life in Africa and in many other places. Israel serves Europe as a scapegoat on whose head they can pile their dirty sins of repulsive European racism that were accumulated over hundreds of years. Israel must cope today with the difficult problem of infiltrators from Africa, and it must solve this severe humanitarian problem according to international law, established mainly by … Europe.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar ([email protected]) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission of the author.
Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.
Copyright – Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.