Where do African countries stand with the Israel-Hamas crisis?

Breaking down the stance of African countries when it comes to the ongoing crisis between Israel and Hamas

African countries have been split regarding their stance on the ongoing crisis between Israel and Hamas, which stems from close to a century-long tension between Israel and Palestine after the Second World War.

African countries tend to play a much more significant role in crises in an international context. They offer a variety of foreign policies that benefit the world on a global scale. Therefore, their stance on this particular issue can provide new perspectives and possible ways to de-escalate it.

A historical development

The Balfour Declaration, issued by the British government in 1917, promised a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

After World War I, Palestine was conceded by the Ottoman Empire to the British via a mandate from the League of Nations: Britain’s promise and the severe Nazi persecution led millions of Jewish civilians to migrate to Palestinian land.

In 1947, the British proposed that the United Nations, the successor organization of the League of Nations, take over relations in the region and split Palestine into two independent states, with Jerusalem under UN trusteeship.

The Palestinians refused to recognize the resolution. On May 15, 1948, Israel declared independence and five Arab states fought against the creation of the state. Israel won the war, and the territory was divided into three parts.

The Gaza Strip is a 140 square mile land along the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by Israel and Egypt.

The Gaza Strip blockade explained in one map
The Gaza Strip blockade is explained in one map.

In 1967, Israel captured Palestinian Arab territories in the Six-Day War and began a decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories.

In 2005, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, and Hamas won an election to control the Gaza Strip. This prompted Israel to impose a blockade on Gaza.

Following the armed takeover, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, greatly restricting the movement of people and goods into and out of the area. Humanitarian groups have expressed concern about the conditions in which Palestinians are forced to live.

In the years following 2008, Hamas and Israel continued to engage in combat, with Israel engaging in several primary military operations.

Palestine has existed since the 12th century BCE. Many kingdoms and rulers, such as the Ancient Egyptian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Roman Empire and many Islamic caliphates, have ruled it. So, for a long time, Palestine has been home to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Even though religion is not the causing factor in the ongoing crisis, for Israelis, the land holds profound religious and historical importance as it pertains to Jewish heritage and scriptures, also encouraged by Zionism.

For the Palestinians, the land of Palestine is tied to their long-standing historical presence and cultural identity, a notion that is usually ignored.

The current events

On the 7th of October this year, Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant Islamist group attacked southern Israeli cities and towns across the border of the Gaza Strip.

Many lives have been taken on both sides, and the United Nations, other humanitarian organizations, and NGOs are trying to de-escalate the situation.

The Palestinian perspective

An essential phrase from this ongoing crisis is “Nakba”  in Arabic, which can be translated into catastrophe.

According to many Palestinians, the Nakba was the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from their homes after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Various factors caused it, including military actions, fear, and violence. The establishment of Israel led to a complex situation with multiple narratives and perspectives, and the displacement of Palestinians from their homes remains a core demand for Palestinians.

Another critical term, “intifada”, means uprising or rebellion. It is precisely the armed uprisings of Palestinians against the Israelis for their ethnic cleansing over the years.

The first intifada occurred in 1987, the second in 2000 and many called for a third intifada to occur whilst it is assumed that the Hamas attack is already an intifada.

The Israeli perspective

Many Israelis subscribed to the notion of Zionism, which encouraged the return and the claiming of the land of Jerusalem, which has been presumed to be in the land of Palestine.

During the rule of Hitler, who promoted Nazism, millions of Jews were expelled during the Holocaust. Many Jews scattered worldwide, especially from Germany to other European countries.

With the help of the British and the United Nations, which has the necessary legally binding and international law power, many Jews were granted land in Palestine mainly due to it housing  Jerusalem, presumed to be part of the Holy Land for Jews and Christians alike.

In hopes of claiming a home for Jewish civilians, the Israelis have broadened their territories within the Palestinian land since 1948.

Perspectives in Africa

There have been various views on the Israel-Hamas war, which stems from the tensions between Israel and Palestine. Since the inception of Israel, African countries have been divided on recognising either state or both.

Recognition of Israel and Palestine in Africa
Recognition of Israel and Palestine in Africa

As seen on the map by Reddit user ShafiLP, most African countries recognise Israel and Palestine as independent states. Cameroon and Eritrea stand out as recognizing Israel only, while many Northern African countries recognize Palestine only.

The recognition of Israel and Palestine by African countries is complex, and while some countries recognize one or both states, this doesn’t always translate to unequivocal support. The recognition may be influenced by diplomacy, bilateral relations based on historical significance or just an endorsement of the country’s policies.

For instance, Ghana has strong ties to Israel due to their historical relationship and has supported them in current events. On the other hand, despite Morocco’s normalisation with Israel, the Moroccan monarch, Hicham Alaoui, took to X to show support for Palestine.

 Pro-Palestine African countries

Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Sudan and Libya have supported Palestine during the current war.

South Africa resonates with the Palestinians more than any country in Africa. This is due to them linking their plights with apartheid to the plights of the Palestinians.

Nelson Mandela was the first South African to link the sufferings and encouraged South Africans to support Palestine. He once famously said, “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

South Africa recently protested to support Palestine and has participated in protests for more than a decade, engaging in an Israeli Apartheid week, an event that occurs in more than 250 cities.

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, has called on the United Nations to declare Israel an apartheid state.

Another steady supporter of Palestine is Algeria. Both countries share the colonial legacy of France and have protested for the cause throughout and, more recently, in the past week.

Earlier this week, the Algerian football federation offered to host Palestian’s international matches amid the crisis.

The government of Tunisia took to Facebook to show its support for Palestine, stating, “Tunisia expresses its full and unconditional stand with the Palestinian people… it has the right of the Palestinian to take it back and to take back all Palestinian land.”

The chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, expressed in a communique that a more cautious approach must be taken, highlighting that the occupation of Palestine by Israel is the cause of this escalation in the first place.

 Pro-Israel African countries

Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have supported Israel since the Israel-Hamas war. Kenya is a robust Western ally with close ties to the US, Israel’s strongest backer.

Kenya’s President Ruto took to X and stated, “Kenya joins the rest of the world in solidarity with the State of Israel and unequivocally condemns terrorism and attacks on innocent civilians in the country.”

Uniquely, Ghana was the first country to establish bilateral relations with Israel in 1958.  Ghana and Israel have enjoyed good diplomatic relations for close to 15 years. Therefore, Ghana extending its support to Israel comes as no surprise.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration released a statement condemning the Hamas attack and calling for the militants’ withdrawal from Israel.

The DRC and Rwanda have condemned Hamas, dubbing them as ‘terrorists.’

No affiliation

Other African countries have remained neutral during the situation, and some have called for peace negotiations.

Nigeria, which has strong relations with both countries, calls for both countries to ‘prioritise their citizens’. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has advocated for a two-state solution.



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