Israel supports new South Sudanese state, provoking Arab antisemitism
Aug 3, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz
Throughout its history, Israel has been at odds with the various leaders of Sudan. This enmity was demonstrated recently when Israel allegedly destroyed an arms convoy in Sudan that was headed for Gaza and when, also allegedly, Israel subsequently assassinated a key Hamas weapons smuggler in Sudan, who had allegedly been liaising with the Sudanese authorities to maintain said smuggling route.
With their mutual enemy in Khartoum, it is natural, therefore, that Israel and the South Sudanese would form an alliance. In fact, even before the recent declaration of statehood by South Sudan, Israel had taken in some 6,000 refugees fleeing persecution from the regime in Khartoum. As noted by Renee Ghert-Zand in the Forward yesterday, Israel was tacitly supporting the South Sudanese rebels for some time during the decades of conflict with their Muslim oppressors, creating even more good will towards Israel within the South Sudanese leadership.
Under-the-radar support given to the Christian South Sudanese rebels by Israel in recent years is helping to smooth the way to the quick establishment of economic ties. South Sudanese rebel leader John Garang was even treated for an eye injury in an Israeli hospital.
It came as little surprise, therefore, when Israel was one of the first countries to recognise the fledgling state and, as reported by AP last Thursday, to establish formal diplomatic relations:
JERUSALEM – Israel and the newly independent country of South Sudan have established diplomatic relations, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.
“The cooperation between the states will be based on the firm foundations that guide them in forming friendly ties, out of equality and mutual respect,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.
The Jewish state does not have relations with Khartoum, which it has accused of serving as a base for Islamic militants, and has instead supported the rebel movement of the mainly Christian and animist south in its decades of struggle against the government in the mostly Muslim north.
As Ghert-Zand goes on to note, Israel is now helping South Sudan develop state essentials such as infrastructure, security and public services, whilst also building trade links and even, potentially, boosting tourism.
Israeli companies seeking contracts in industries such as agriculture, security, medicine and infrastructure are being welcomed by the leadership of the world’s newest nation.
South Sudan has turned to Israel for security advice as well as for expertise in how to train its new army and police force. A company based in Ramat Hasharon has reportedly been asked to put in a bid for the contract to provide protection to the new president of South Sudan.
Solel Boneh is examining the possibility of paving roads and building infrastructure in South Sudan, and the medical supply company Sarel is looking into opening operations there or entering contractual agreements to help with setting up the country’s health care system.
Unfortunately, these positive developments have been met with the typical hateful, anti-Semitic response in some forums within the Arab world. This is demonstrated in the following cartoon from a Saudi newspaper, which depicts the “apple” of South Sudan falling into the hands of the Jews.
The pernicious antisemitism that permeates the Middle East – which, as documented recently by British scholar Aymenn Jawad, includes its Christians – is surely one of most severe obstacles to any recognition of the Jewish State by its neighbours.