Namibia’s Call for Sanctions Against Israel Draws Mixed Responses

WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA — Reactions have been mixed on Namibia’s call last month for an international boycott of Israeli goods and companies in response to Israeli policies and practices in the Palestinian territories.

If implemented, such a boycott could harm Namibia’s economy, as Israel is a key trading partner with the nation’s diamond mining industry.

Diamonds are Namibia’s largest export earner, bringing in at least 10% of the country’s gross domestic product. Trade figures from 2022 show Namibia exported $59 million worth of goods annually to Israel, mostly diamonds. The same year, Namibia imported $3.8 million in goods from Israel, mainly diamond-polishing equipment.

A Namibian businessman involved in the diamond trade, who did not want to use his name so that he could speak candidly about the industry, questioned the efficacy of such sanctions.

“You have to … ask, ‘[Does] that business directly support or in any way affect the support of IDF or that regime in what they are currently doing?’” he said, referring to the Israeli Defense Forces. “I mean, where do you even start to find that type of connection.”

Some analysts express concern over the impact of international sanctions against Israel on African nations.

Benji Shulman, director of public policy at the South African Zionist Federation, a pro-Israel umbrella organization, said African nations derive many benefits from trade with Israel.

“If Namibia were to follow a path [of sanctions], it would only hurt Africans who stand to benefit from Israeli innovations in water, health care, agriculture and technologies,” Shulman said.

Political analyst Rakkel Andreas said Namibia could rely on other buyers for its diamonds.

“I do not necessarily see Namibian diamonds not getting other buyers just because Israeli companies can no longer buy diamonds from Namibia,” Andreas said.

“I think there is no country that has ever supported the issue of sanctions on another country and not considered its own national interests and counted the cost,” she said. “If that’s the cost Namibia should carry in order for Palestine to be free, for the war to end … for the carnage to end, then so be it.”

The call for sanctions came at a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Namibia is among 52 countries that sought a nonbinding advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israeli policies and practices in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. 

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