The ‘Other’ Axis: Disparate Global South coalition seeks to hold Israel to account

New Delhi (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, borrowing from the former US President George W. Bush, calls his ‘Triple H’ adversaries the “Axis of Evil”, while the Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis prefer the term “Axis of Resistance”. There is another global axis, though, that seems determined to bring Netanyahu’s regime to account.

As the Hamas-Israel conflict marks its 100th day of spiralling death and destruction, it is a disparate coalition of African, South American leftists, and Asian countries that has taken the moral high ground.

This grouping, led by South Africa and comprising Brazil and Turkey among others, has not only expressed serious concern about the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, but is also taking action in various global fora, than are most of the Arab regimes in the surrounding areas.

And the less said about the Western powers, which deem themselves the global beacons of rights and well-being but expressing unqualified support of Israel and even staying quiet when it snubs their polite requests for restraint as the toll in Gaza mounts, the better.

There are, however, some notable exceptions – Ireland, Spain, and Norway had expressed disquiet over the current situation in Gaza as far back as November.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, visiting the Rafah border crossing the same month said the Israel “needs to respect international humanitarian law” and condemned the “unacceptable” destruction in the Gaza Strip, while his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez, who accompanied him, also termed the “indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians” in the Palestinian territory as “completely unacceptable”.

As expected, their statements drew Israeli fury but they did not retract.

Among the Arab world, it is Jordan which has taken the most active stand, while to be fair, Egypt and Qatar are engaged in behind the scenes diplomacy, including achieving the first, though short-lived ceasefire/cessation of hostilities.

However, it was Bolivia, which, on October 31, announced it had “decided to break diplomatic relations with the Israeli state in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive taking place in the Gaza Strip”.

The South American nation, which broke off ties with Israel in 2009 too after its Gaza invasion then, was not the only one to go to the diplomatic extreme step over the Gaza conflict, and was joined by Belize. Some other South/Latin American countries also recalled their ambassadors.

Among these was Colombia whose President and former guerrilla leader Gustavo Petro had also engaged in a bitter war of words with the Israeli envoy in October, citing how Israeli agents had provided training and equipment to the FARC and other paramilitary groups. The others were Chile, which hosts one of the oldest and largest Palestinian communities outside the Arab world, and Honduras.

Regional giant Brazil was also at the forefront of calling for a ceasefire, also moving a proposal for this in the United Nations Security Council but the US vetoed it.

Among the others freezing diplomatic ties were Turkey and Chad and from the Arab world, Jordan, which had become only the second Arab nation to ink a peace treaty with Israel in the 1990s, and Bahrain, which had come to an understanding with Israel in 2020 under then US President Donald Trump-pushed Abraham Accords.

However, the champion was South Africa, which not suspended ties, but, in end December, also dragged Israel to the International Court of Justice for “committing genocide” in Gaza and seeking a halt to the indiscriminate military operations that have left over 23,000 Palestinians, largely children and women, dead.

As 2024 dawned, Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia as well as The Maldives, Namibia, and Pakistan expressed support for Pretoria’s move.

The reason for South Africa’s active stand is not just the warm relations Nelson Mandela and the other ANC leadership enjoyed with PLO chief Yasser Arafat, but something more intrinsic in its recent (apartheid) past.

It was just little over three decades back when the then South African regime proclaimed itself the only “democracy” and “outpost of civilisation” in the region, drew on its sophisticated military capabilities (including a covert nuclear programme), conscript army, and influential Western friends to make itself feel secure, undertook military operations at will in neighbouring states, while repressing dispossessed natives of the land with institutionalised mistreatment, enforced segregation, and violence.

The parallels with the Israeli-Palestinian situation could not have been more evident, given the sort of siege that Gaza has been undergoing since Hamas came to power in 2006-07 and the “Bantustan” existence that Palestinians of the West Bank are subject to.

The ‘Global South’ has long been a catchphrase but these nations seem determined to make it a force for rights long ignored by the “enlightened West”.

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