With less than two months left in the life of its rooftop diplomacy policy, Botswana has been silent as Israel finalizes plans to deport some 40 000 African immigrants.
Having fled war-torn Sudan and autocratic Eritrea, the immigrants qualify as refugees in terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention that Israel itself helped formulate. The Convention imposes duty on countries to protect people fleeing trouble spots. However, as contrivance to circumvent this obligation and deport the refugees, Israel ÔÇô including its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, calls the refugees “illegal labour infiltrators.” A plan is now in train to deport the 40 000 refugees and those who remain will be imprisoned. The first part of the plan involved Netanyahu’s visit to East Africa last year – the first such visit by an Israeli prime minister. He visited Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Uganda. In the latter country, Netanyahu met African leaders in a special summit that was attended by the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania.
At the time of this trip, Israel had reached a settlement with Uganda and Rwanda to resettle the 40 000 refugees who had entered its territory through Egypt. Israeli media is now reporting that in the particular case of Rwanda, for $5000 a head, the Rwandan government will accept African migrants deported from Israel. The problem though is that both Rwanda (a dictatorship) and Uganda (also a dictatorship with an active, long-running civil strife in one part of the country) are dangerous and life-threatening destinations.
It is something Israel will never admit but the motivation for the expulsion of the African immigrants is rooted in racism – which is directly linked to the type of state Israel was created to be. An Israeli opposition leader has told a radio station that “one of the greatest dangers to the Jewish people is the phenomenon of mixed marriages.” Black men who date white Jewish women risk brutal physical attacks. Israelis’ racist disdain for blacks is no secret and in 2014, a basketball team owner in the United States called Donald Sterling was caught on tape telling his Latino girlfriend to not socialize with blacks.
“You go to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs,” he says on the tape.
The expulsion of the African immigrants is the final solution and is scheduled to begin in April. One would expect a black African nation that has been shouting from the rooftops about nuclear missiles in North Korea and genocide in Syria to condemn Israel for treating blacks like dogs but that is not happening.
“Despite our developing nation status, Botswana has remained steadfast in articulating her position with regard to the violation of human rights, poor governance and lack of democratic credibility as well as fanning conflicts based on ethnic, racial and religious bias and/or territorial claims,” said President Ian Khama in his last state-of-the-nation address. “The principal culprits have been named in the past and we will continue to do so in our press releases. The United Nations Security Council has on many occasion failed to provide the required leadership on such issues as some are part of the problem instead of the solution.”
It is unlikely Khama’s successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, will continue the policy of rooftop diplomacy when he takes over on April 1 this year.