Israel’s charm offensive in Africa collapses with foul-mouthed radio rant

Member of parliament Ras Mubarak at a demonstration in Ghana’s capital Accra, to protest US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, December 2017. (via Facebook)

The Israeli ambassador in Ghana went into an abusive meltdown in a radio interview about Israel’s refusal to allow a prominent Ghanaian lawmaker to enter the occupied West Bank.

Ras Mubarak had been trying to travel to Ramallah from Jordan on Wednesday for a conference about Jerusalem organized by the Palestinian Authority.

Mubarak was elected to the West African nation’s parliament in 2016, the year his party, the National Democratic Congress, lost power and went into opposition.

He was among more than 60 participants from countries including India, Bosnia, Sri Lanka and Australia who were denied entry by Israeli occupation authorities.

After being refused entry to the West Bank, Mubarak returned to Amman where he addressed the conference by video.

But in a live interview with StarrFM radio in Ghana’s capital Accra on Wednesday, Israeli ambassador Ami Mehl suggested Mubarak was a liar and called him a “propaganda machine of the Palestinians.”

Mehl flew into a rage at the radio host for referring to the “OPT” – which is short for occupied Palestinian territories.

“Excuse me, excuse me, lady! You’re saying something that is unacceptable for me. If you want to talk to me use the terminology that I used. If you want to use the terminology of Ras Mubarak then speak with somebody else, OK?” the ambassador scolded presenter Naa Dedei Tettey.

“There is no OPT, there is no Palestine, there was never a Palestine. It’s Israel,” Mehl stated.

The host put to the ambassador Mubarak’s contention that he was denied entry because of his opposition to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“It’s bullshit. It’s propaganda,” the ambassador responded. “He is a propaganda machine of the Palestinians. We don’t treat him seriously because he is not a serious person.”

Mehl also insisted that Mubarak had not been turned away.

“There is no instruction whatsoever to me not to give a visa to people like him. He was not denied or refused entry to Israel,” the ambassador claimed. “He came without a visa to the border and was asked to wait. I was in the middle of a conversation with Israel when I was notified that he decided to go back to Jordan.”

Permit revoked

Speaking from Amman on Thursday, Mubarak told The Electronic Intifada what happened a day earlier when he went to the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan into the West Bank.

Mubarak traveled to the crossing with one other person from Ghana, and a four-person delegation from Ivory Coast. He had with him a visitor’s permit on Palestinian Authority letterhead, delivered to him by the PA embassy in Accra.

Such permits can only be issued with Israeli approval at the request of the PA, which has no power to issue visas on its own.

The document seen by The Electronic Intifada bears a permit number and details in Hebrew, including that Mubarak was permitted a single entry via the Allenby Bridge between 8 April and 5 May for a maximum stay of 30 days. It lists “Palestinian Authority” as his address during his stay.

At the crossing, Mubarak presented the document to the Israeli officials. “They told me they were sorry, they had to cancel my permit,” he said.

After a wait of about five hours, the Israelis told Mubarak and the other travelers that they would be allowed only to enter “Israel,” but not Palestinian Authority areas.

“They came back and told me my permit had been revoked, but if I wanted to go to Israel I could go to Israel,” Mubarak recalled. “I told them my interest was to go to the West Bank and take part in the program and return to my country and that I had no interest to go to Israel.”

It was at that point that Mubarak and his fellow citizen from Ghana – having been denied entry to the West Bank – returned to Jordan.

According to Mubarak, the Ivory Coast delegation took the Israeli offer because they wanted to go to occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel purports to have annexed in violation of international law, in order to pray at al-Aqsa mosque.

Emboldened to fight apartheid

“I also found it very disrespectful that as a sitting member of parliament from Ghana with a diplomatic passport that Israel would make me wait for hours,” Mubarak said. “But it’s not surprising, it’s part of the strategy to harass and intimidate friends of Palestine.”

“Disappointed as I am, it has given me the tiniest idea what my brothers and sisters from Palestine are going through,” Mubarak added. “I can only feel emboldened to stand with them in the cause of justice.”

Mubarak said that the incident will help him highlight the Palestinian cause in Ghana, where Israel has been trying to curry support as part of its broad diplomatic push into Africa.

“Israel is aggressively trying to confuse people by doing a lot of charity work,” he said, such as awarding scholarships and digging wells in rural areas.

“But people understand that it is an issue of justice,” he added, noting that Ghana has supported Palestinian rights at the United Nations.

“The people of Palestine are suffering under apartheid and that should not be allowed to continue in the 21st century,” Mubarak said, urging people around the world to boycott Israel.

Irish “surprise”

On Wednesday, Israel announced that it had denied entry to Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha, who was traveling to the same conference, after the Dublin City Council voted to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

But Mac Donncha got in anyway, as Israeli officials had misspelled his name when transmitting the banning order to personnel at the airport.

On Thursday, Alison Kelly, the Irish ambassador in Tel Aviv, expressed “surprise” at Israel’s attempt to ban Mac Donncha, but pandered to Israel by reaffirming the Irish government’s “firm opposition” to BDS.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign slammed the Irish government’s response as “pathetic” and said the embassy should have “defended Dublin City Council’s principled, democratic decision to support Palestinian rights and criticized attempts to bar Dublin’s Lord Mayor from Palestine.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the steering group for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, called the Dublin City Council vote “the strongest response to date to Israel’s latest massacre against unarmed Palestinian protesters in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip.”

“This is the most impressive win yet for the BDS movement in 2018,” the BNC added.

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The Israeli ambassador's strident insistence that his interlocutor subscribe to terminology which nullifies the existence of Palestine is a prime example of the extreme authoritarian character of the state he serves. His demand is all the more striking in that the nomenclature he requires of her is at odds with that employed by all diplomatic agencies around the world as well as in defiance of rulings by international courts and the United Nations, that Palestinians do indeed live under a military occupation imposed by Israel and that they are entitled to statehood. The ambassador's intemperate remarks simply sharpen and amplify the long-established impression that Israel has nothing to offer in the way of example or of friendship. Frankly, I'm glad he spoke as he did, for the same reason that the rantings of Ayelet Shaked, Naftali Bennett, Miri Regev, Avigdor Lieberman and their confederates make the case eloquently for full-scale BDS.

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