Israelis and Africa’s First World War

by Terry Crawford-Browne, August 4, 2018.

We South Africans are still reeling in shock six years after the cold-blooded murder of 34 miners by the Police at the Marikana platinum mine in 2012 – just one massacre, not dozens as in the Congo.

Lonmin’s British parent company, Lonrho, was once described as the “ugliest face of capitalism.” Both South Africa and the Congo are countries richly endowed in natural resources, but with disgraceful and appalling levels of poverty amongst miners and their families.

Here is the two minute trailer to a full length documentary about Marikana. The trailer leads into the full length film which, although winning international awards, has until now been suppressed from widespread public viewing in South Africa.

There are three points about the Marikana massacre that I want to make:

  1. Lonmin claimed it could not afford better wages for the miners,
  2. Yet whilst claiming financial difficulties prevented payment of better wages, Lonmin was evading payment of taxes in South Africa of about US$200 million a year by false claims of marketing expenses. It was laundering that money overseas via tax havens in the Caribbean, and
  3. The semi-automatic rifles used by the Police at Marikana were Israeli Galil weapons manufactured in South Africa.

During the 1970s and 1980s, there was a secret alliance between Israel and apartheid South Africa. Israel had the technology, but no money. South Africa had the money, but lacked the technology to develop nuclear weapons, drones and other military equipment. Destabilisation of neighbouring “frontline states” and false flag operations were also given special priority.

South Africa in effect paid for development of the Israeli armaments industry. Having decided that apartheid and human rights abuses constituted a threat to international peace and security, the United Nations Security Council in 1977 imposed an arms embargo against South Africa.

The embargo was hailed at the time as the most significant development in 20th century diplomacy because human rights would now be the measurement for international relationships.  Apartheid itself collapsed relatively peacefully and, with the end of the Cold War, there were high hopes of a new era of peace.

Sadly, those hopes and expectations were misplaced, with subsequent United States abuses of its veto powers that have destroyed the credibility of the United Nations.  Nonetheless, new options are developing in the 21st century.

The Israeli arms industry is now one of the biggest in the world, with exports last year amounting to $9.2 billion USD. Israel exports weapons to about 130 countries, and has become a menace not only to Palestinians but to people all over the world. More than 150 unarmed Palestinians have been murdered in Gaza since March 2018, plus several thousand more severely injured, by the Israeli army.

In response to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign modeled after South Africa’s experience during the 1980s is gaining world-wide momentum. In addition, there is also growing promotion by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for an arms embargo against Israel.

The Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper has written a book entitled “War against the People” in which he asks how does tiny Israel get away with it? His answer:  Israel does the dirty work for the U.S. war business in deliberate destabilization of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Israel makes itself indispensable to repressive regimes by filling a niche with weapons, technology, spies and other strategic systems.

Israel markets its weapons internationally as “battle tested and proven against Palestinians,” based upon its experience in “pacification” of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Other than Palestine, nowhere is the “ugliest face of capitalism” and the war business more evident than in the Congo. President Joseph Kabila is kept in power by Israeli security systems and a mining magnate called Dan Gertler. On his instruction, the Union Bank of Israel financed Lawrence Kabila to take over the Congo when Joseph Mobutu died in 1997.

As payback for keeping Kabila in power, Gertler has been allowed to loot the Congo’s natural resources. An estimated 12 million people have died in what is referred to as “Africa’s First World War,” so described because the root cause is the natural resources required by the “first world’s” war business. Many of these people were killed by Rwanda President Paul Kagame’s army.  Kagame and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni are staunch Israeli allies in the Great Lakes region.

Even the U.S. government is finally embarrassed by extensive civil society documentation of Gertler’s looting, and has recently blacklisted 16 of his companies. This blacklisting means that Gertler’s companies are no longer permitted to undertake transactions in US dollars or through the American banking system.

Gertler’s South African partners include Tokyo Sexwale and former President Zuma’s nephew.  In addition, the world’s largest mining company and commodities trader, Glencore has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for its associations with Gertler. Glencore itself has a highly notorious history, including because of its operations in Congo but, ominously, has an association with South Africa’s new President Cyril Ramaphosa. Mr. Ramaphosa was a director of Lonmin, and was complicit as an accessory before the fact to the Marikana massacre.

Because of its unique mineral wealth, the Congo is the extreme example in Africa. But, in addition, there are Angola, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan plus other countries in Africa where Israel rigs elections, as in Zimbabwe this past week, or instigates civil war as in South Sudan.

The Israeli Mossad has operations throughout Africa. Mossad was exposed in 2013 for rigging the elections in Zimbabwe, and is likely to have again been key to this week’s fraudulent fiasco. Another Israeli diamond magnate, Lev Leviev was the driver behind the Marange diamond field massacres which funded Robert Mugabe and his cronies when the Zimbabwean economy collapsed.

Having lost its wars unleashed in the Middle East over the past 17 years since 9/11, the U.S. is looking increasingly at destabilizing Africa under smokescreens either of combating terrorists such as Boko Haram or, alternatively, in offering U.S. army assistance against Ebola.  The world annually spends $2 trillion USD on war, half of that by the U.S.

A fraction of that money could redress most of the world’s social crises and poverty as well as climate change. But the vested interests in the U.S. war business including banks are enormous. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower back in 1961 warned about the risks of what he described as the “military-industrial complex.”

It can be more accurately described as the “war business.” This is also true of Israel, a highly militarized state where associated corruption in the arms trade and looting is encouraged under the guise of “national security.” The U.S. these days subsidises the Israeli arms industry to the tune of $4 billion USD annually. In reality, Israel has become the research and development laboratory for the U.S. war business.

The war business is not about defending the U.S. from foreign enemies, or “national security.” Nor is it about winning wars which the U.S. has been losing since Vietnam and earlier.  It is about making obscene amounts of money for a few people, irrespective of the misery, devastation and deaths that the war business inflicts upon everyone else.

It is 70 years since the state of Israel was established in 1948, and when two-thirds of the Palestinian population was forcibly expelled.  Palestinians became and remain refugees. The UN annually reaffirms their right of return to their homes, which Israel simply ignores. Israeli obligations under the Geneva Conventions and other instruments of international law are also ignored.

The Israeli arms industry needs a war every two or three years to develop and market new weapons. Israel markets its weapons as “battle tested and proven against Palestinians,” based upon its experience in “pacification” of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.  Gaza is a prison of two million people living in desperate and hopeless circumstance.

The UN estimates that Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020 or earlier because of the deliberate collapse in Gaza by Israel of electricity supplies, and the resultant collapse of the medical facilities, water and sewerage systems. Raw sewerage runs into the streets and contaminates the Mediterranean Sea.  Meanwhile, Israel loots Gaza’s offshore oil and gasfield.

Israeli policies and practices are to make life so impossible for Palestinians that they “voluntarily” emigrate.  Combined with Israeli settlement thefts of Palestinian land and water in the West Bank in contravention of international law, Israel is fast becoming a pariah, just like apartheid South Africa during the 1980s.

The nation-state law passed last month blatantly confirms that Israel is an apartheid state, a law perversely fashioned after the Nazi race laws of the 1930s. Despite a sense of gloom now prevalent in the Trump era, the world has actually made progress since the 1980s. This offers a glimmer of hope that should also apply in the Congo.

Genocide, as in Gaza, is now a crime under international law in terms of article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Not only is apartheid a crime against humanity in terms of article 7 but, more interestingly, there is growing debate that “grand corruption” is also a crime against humanity. This is of particular relevance to the Congo.

The crime of “grand corruption” is not just a matter of bribing a policeman or a politician.  It is the systematic looting of a country – i.e. the Congo — so that its people can never recover socially or economically. “Grand corruption” is exemplified by repeated holocausts which the Congo has suffered over the past two centuries and, most especially, “Africa’s First World War.”

The financial proceeds and money laundering of the looting of the Congo’s natural resources by people like Gertler are then transferred back through the international banking system into the Israeli economy. This is 21st century-style colonialism.

Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes have been outlawed by the ICC for the past 20 years.  In turn, both the European Union and Belgium are obligated by law to uphold and enforce the Rome Statute.  It comes down to the mantra “follow the money.”  Human rights abuses and corruption are invariably inter-connected.

Together with a Belgian lawyer, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and World BEYOND War are researching the practicalities in Belgium and the EU of enforcing those and other legal obligations. Her preliminary report is positive. With Palestinian civil society and the BDS movement, we are investigating how to file criminal charges in Belgium against EU institutions that launder the financial proceeds via Israeli banks from looting the Congo into the Israeli economy. We also intend to develop a parallel petition from Congolese refugees here in South Africa which details their sufferings because of “Africa’s First World War.”


The author, Terry Crawford-Browne, is the South Africa Coordinator for World BEYOND War and a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He delivered these remarks at “The Congo: NATURAL RESOURCES, HIDDEN SILENT HOLOCAUST,” a symposium on August 4, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. Terry may be reached at

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