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Ajcongress Study Says Israel-black Africa Relations Improving

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In a year-end survey, the American Jewish Congress reported today that relations between Israel and Black Africa were “improving slowly but surely” as the result of recent diplomatic overtures and new information on trade with South Africa that put Israel’s relations with that country in proper perspective.

The survey cited several examples of the thaw in relations. Thus, in a complete turnabout of policy, Nigeria–the largest and richest Black African nation–declared at a recent United Nations Economic Conference that it would seek to erase references to “Zionism as a form of racism” from all international resolutions in which it takes part. At the UN, the delegate from Malawi, J.T.X. Muwamba, accused African colleagues and their fellow sponsors of “double faced hypocrisy” in voting for General Assembly resolutions that condemned Israel for selling arms to South Africa while ignoring more blatant abuses from other countries.

The Malawi delegate’s statement followed a report by the AJ Congress comparing Israel’s “miniscule” arms sales with the “massive arms traffic” through which the Pretoria government has imported more than $1 billion worth of weapons from France and other countries since the 1963 UN embargo on arms shipments to the apartheid regime. That report went to every UN delegation and to UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.

The AJ Congress study also said that South Africa’s armed forces were equipped with British tanks, French and British armored cars, French and British missiles, French submarines, British helicopter, British patrol boats, British bombers, French jet fighters, Italian and French air transports, French helicopters and American and Italian training planes.

Israel’s military relationship with Pretoria “pales into insignificance” compared with South Africa’s arms traffic with other countries, the study said, adding: “The sum total of Israel’s arms deals with South Africa…consists of two items: Israel is building six Ramta-class patrol boats, essentially corvettes, for South Africa. Israel is supplying a quantity of Gabriel II surface-to-surface missiles to arm the six corvettes. And that is the whole of it.”

EXAMPLES OF IMPROVEMENT

The year-end survey by the AJ Congress cited several examples of Israel’s close ties with Black Africa. They included: members of Zambia’s Parliament called for a return of the Israeli agriculture experts who had been forced to leave when Zambia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel under heavy Arab pressure; and several Black African countries that had severed relations with Israel in 1973 have quietly resumed sending personnel to Israel for special training courses.

Also, President Leopold Senghor of Senegal told Premier Yitzhak Rabin at the Socialist International Conference in Geneva in November that the African states had not permanently severed relations with Israel but merely suspended them “temporarily.” Newspapers and private citizens in Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone have called for a full restoration of diplomatic ties.

The AJ Congress survey also noted that Israel in turn has reiterated its opposition to the practice of apartheid, and may re-examine its relations with South Africa. Foreign Minister Yigal Allon declared last September: “In order to dispel any doubt that our maintaining of diplomatic relations with South Africa might be interpreted either directly or indirectly as endorsement of the policy of apartheid. I must add that, as a democracy, Israel is opposed to this policy in principle, and it is our hope that a peaceful solution will be found to this painful problem.”

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