7.1.07

Senegalese elections: the latest Arab-Israeli proxy battle

In the summertime, I related my brush-up with Israeli security in Dakar, thanks in no small part to the "decoy" Jeep I was driving. But in the end, I became friendly with all the Senegalese personnel involved, and made the acquaintance of a couple young Israeli diplomats.

But it seems that others who raised the suspicion of the powers-that-be at Independence Square had a less chummy fate, according to the Senegalese newspaper Le Temoin. The fact that the blunt view expressed herein was found in a news brief on page 2, not in the editorial section or the opinion page, gives a bit of the overall flavor of the paper, which seems to be anti-government and then some – not entirely professional in any case.

I leave the original in French below, since the article is not online, but basically it explains how some French, Italian, and Moroccan tourists have been arrested just for pointing at the Israeli flag. The piece begins, "Truly the authorities of the Israeli embassy in Dakar 'shit on' (literal translation) people since their country represents nothing in this world. Except for barbarism, massacres, and abuses of power…these diplomats reign arbitrarily in the center of town like in the Occupied Territories. Everyone who dares to glance upon the Israeli flag is locked up like a suspected suicide bomber."
Vraiment les autorités de l'ambassade d’Israel à Dakar emmerdent les gens alors que leur pays ne représente rien dans ce monde. Sauf dans la barbarie, les massacres et les exactions. Ayant leur siège à la place de l'Indépendance à Dakar, précisément a l’immeuble CBAO, les diplômâtes israéliens règnent arbitrairement au centre-ville comme dans les territoires occupes. Car, toute personne qui s'aventure a jeter un coup d'oeil sur le drapeau hébreu est embastillée comme un kamikaze suspect. Plusieurs fois, les autorités de l'Ambassade d'Israel ont fait arrêter des touristes. De pauvres français, Italiens ou Marocains qui n’avaient que le tort de prendre de l'air dans les jardins de la place de l'Indépendance ou prendre des photos. Mais la plupart des victimes ou cibles de l'état hébreu, ce sont les passants de type arabe dont la majorité sont des Sénégalais d’origine libanaise. Pas plus tard qu'hier, un jeune libanais a été arrête et conduit a la Sûreté Urbaine de Dakar. Son crime? Le bonhomme a fait plus de 30 minutes sur un banc public faisant face à l'Ambassade. Repéré par les caméras de surveillance, il a été arête et mis a la disposition de la Sûreté Urbaine. Laquelle l'a transféré à la Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire ou il a été entendu sur les raisons de sa longue présence à la place de l'indépendance. C’est scandaleux dans un État de droit comme le Sénégal. En tout cas, certains responsables de la communauté libanaise encourages par des parties politiques comptent organiser une journée de protestation devant l'Ambassade d'Israel afin de mettre à ces interpellations arbitraires.
The end of the article explains how a young Senegalese citizen of Lebanese origin was arrested for sitting on a public bench for 30 minutes, across the street from the embassy (which is literally in the center of town). It also suggests (the whole piece is scant on details) that leaders in the Lebanese community are going to organize a protest march and demonstration at the Israeli embassy, like during the summer war. The interesting bit is that some of the political parties who will compete in the Presidential and Legislative elections that take place on February 25 have encouraged this development. While the Lebanese population in Senegal is less than 1%, it is an economic powerhouse and an important political ally for any ruling coalition.

This whole situation could put incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade (a crafty old-timer with considerable diplomatic credentials - he has played host to the divergent likes of George W. Bush, Moamar Khadhafi, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) in a vice. More on this as the election approaches – we will see what demonstrations actually take place and how much chatter they generate.

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