South Africa said Monday that it would remove all its diplomats from Israel because of mounting concerns over “the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territories.”
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told reporters that Israel’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack “has become one of collective punishment.”
“We felt it important that we do signal the concern of South Africa while continuing to call for a comprehensive cessation (of hostilities),” she said. On Saturday, Chad also recalled its senior diplomat from Israel in “indignation” of the Gaza war.
Other countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Chile, and Colombia have recalled their ambassadors and diplomats from Israel to protest Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
South Africa is “one of the most prominent voices critical of Israel globally” and “unwavering support for Palestinian nationhood,” is a keystone of its foreign policy since 1994, Asher Lubotzky writes in The Conversation. The South African government, led by the African National Congress (ANC), attributes the ongoing war in Gaza to Israel’s “continued illegal occupation of Palestine land” and stated that ”South Africa’s apartheid history is occupied Palestine’s reality.” The ANC’s pro-Palestine stance reflects its allegiance with China and Russia in challenging the U.S., Lubotzky notes, while liberal and more moderate South Africans have recently expressed support for Israel, as they seek to align themselves with the West.
Most of the African continent is split on its support for either Israel or Palestine. Algeria, like South Africa, stands in “full solidarity with Palestine” due to the country’s shared history of occupation. Other countries like Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have aligned themselves with Israel. The divisions are likely due to each government’s interests, experts say. As one of the world’s leaders in agricultural technology, Israel has helped countries like Uganda battle drought, floods, and extreme weather. Israel has also been a leading exporter of machinery, electronics, and chemicals to the continent, particularly in sub-Saharan African countries.