On Saturday 18 February 2023, a senior official from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was ejected from the opening ceremony of the two-day African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sharon Bar-Li, who is the Deputy Director of the Africa Division at the ministry, was escorted out of the meeting by AU officials and security as delegates looked on. The episode was captured on a video that was widely circulated on social media. The official explanation from the AU is that Bar-Li had used credentials issued to the Israeli Ambassador to the AU, which are non-transferrable.
The Israeli Foreign Affairs swiftly condemned the incident and blamed South Africa and Algeria who are allegedly under the influence of Iran. The back story is that South Africa and Algeria, along with Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia and others, vehemently opposed the decision by the AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to grant Israel observer status in 2021. These countries openly support Palestine in the Palestine-Israel conflict. South Africa went as far as to call for Israel to be labelled as an apartheid state in July 2022 because the experience of Palestinians mirrors that of Black South Africans before 1990. The Palestinian Authority has been an AU observer since 2013.
Not every African country is hostile towards Israel, which enjoys warm relations with Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia, among others. The growing tension between the Pro-Palestine and Pro-Israel factions is creating a dangerous rift on the continent that could spill over into other areas such as trade, undermining the progress that has been made in recent years.
We will continue to follow this story.