I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 23. Although my objective was to address various Kenyan audiences at universities, public forums and the media, I also came here to learn. Kenya, like the rest of Africa, is a source of inspiration for all anti-colonial, liberation movements around the world. As Palestinians we can learn a great deal from the Kenyan struggle.
Alas, Israeli hasbara [propaganda] is also a source of much confusion among those who learn about the realities in Palestine through Western mainstream media.
At one of my recent talks, I was asked by a young participant about ‘Palestinian terrorism’. I replied that Palestinian fighters of today are Kenya’s ‘Mau Mau’ rebels of yesteryear. That, if we allow western and Israeli propaganda to define the discourse of national liberation on Palestine, then we condemn all national liberation movements throughout the Southern hemisphere, including Kenya’s own freedom fighters.
Like most colonised countries in the Southern hemisphere, Africans fought disproportionate battles to gain their precious freedom. Here in Kenya, which became an official British colony in the 1920s, freedom fighters rose in rebellion against the brutality of their oppressors. Most notable among the various resistance campaigns, the ‘Mau Mau’ rebellion of the 1950s, remains a stark example of the courage of Kenyans and the cruelty of colonial Britain. Thousands of people were killed, wounded, disappeared or imprisoned under the harshest of conditions.
We have never hesitated in our support for the right of the people of Palestine to have their own land.
Palestine fell under British occupation, the so-called British Mandate, around the period that Kenya also became a British colony. Palestinians also fought and fell in their thousands as they employed various methods of collective resistance, including the legendary strike and rebellion of 1936.
The same British that operated in Palestine and Kenya around that time, also operated, with the same degree of senseless violence, against numerous other nations around the world.
While Kenya achieved its independence in December 1963, the Zionist Movement established the State of Israel in May 1948.
Indeed, the occupation of Palestine is not a “conflict” as the Israelis like to present it as. Israel is a colonial power that is ethnically cleansing an entire indigenous population in order to legitimise and grow its colony. And like all people, we Palestinians have the right to resist colonial domination and occupation. This is an inalienable right enshrined in international law.
It is this right that justified Africa’s anti-colonial struggles and wars of liberation in the 1950s and 1960s. This right also legitimates Palestinian resistance, whether through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, prosecution of Israeli war criminals at the International Criminal Court, or any other legitimate forms of struggle.
Dedan Kimathi is celebrated as a hero to Kenyans because of his resistance, not because of his subservience, to colonialism and occupation.
Understanding the significance of Kenya and the rest of Africa in terms of its economic and political potential (for example, support for Israel at the UN General Assembly), right wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has launched his own ‘Scramble for Africa’.
Kenya is one of Israel’s success stories. In November 2017, Netanyahu attended the inauguration of Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, who supposedly received an astonishing 98 per cent of votes in the last elections.
Netanyahu’s strategy in Kenya, as in the rest of Africa, has been based on the same logic of Israel using its security technology to support various regimes, in exchange for their political support.
As Palestinians, however, we must shoulder part of the blame of why our narrative as an oppressed, colonised and resisting nation is now misunderstood in parts of Africa.
Throughout these years, Palestinians mostly abandoned their far more meaningful alliances in Africa. Instead, they endlessly appealed to the goodwill of the West, hoping that the very colonial powers that have primarily created, sustained and armed Israel, would miraculously become more balanced and humane.
However, Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, etc, remained committed to Israel and, despite occasional polite criticism of the Israeli government, continued to channel their weapons, warplanes and submarines to every Israeli government that has ruled over Palestinians for the last seven decades.
Alas, while Palestinians were learning their painful lesson, betrayed repeatedly by those who avowed to respect democracy and human rights, many African nations began seeing in Israel a possible ally. Kenya is one of those countries.
Palestinian leadership, intellectuals, artists and civil society ambassadors must shift their attention back to the Southern hemisphere — Africa, in particular — rediscovering the untapped wealth of true, unconditional human solidarity that is provided by the peoples of this ever-generous continent.
The legendary Tanzanian freedom fighter Mwalimu Nyerere, who is also celebrated in Kenya, knew too well where his solidarity lay. “We have never hesitated in our support for the right of the people of Palestine to have their own land,” he once said, a sentiment that was repeated by the iconic late South African leader Nelson Mandela and many other African liberation leaders.
This generation of African leaders should not deviate from that noble legacy.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.