By Sarang Shidore
A survey of official reactions from 11 Global South states outside the Middle East/North Africa region — Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam — reveals a consensus on condemnation of Hamas’ attacks.
But their statements differ on who’s to blame, what’s the solution, and what to do next. Most of the states selected in this survey are among the Global South’s key middle powers. Four smaller or less influential states — Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, and Singapore — also included.
In Latin America, Brazil said it “condemns the series of bombings and ground attacks carried out today in Israel from the Gaza Strip (and) expresses condolences to the families of the victims and expresses its solidarity with the people of Israel.”
“There is no justification for resorting to violence, especially against civilians,” the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a statement. “The Brazilian Government urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalating the situation.”
Brazil also “reiterates its commitment to the two-state solution…within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders” and “reaffirms that the mere management of the conflict does not constitute a viable alternative for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and the resumption of peace negotiations is urgent.”
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva also expressed his “rejection of terrorism in any of its forms” and called for a two-state solution. Brazil, as the United Nations Security Council president for October, called a closed emergency session of the Council this weekend. The meeting failed to agree on a statement.
Mexico’s foreign ministry “condemns the attacks suffered by the people of Israel (and) calls for an end to this inappropriate violence…to avoid an escalation that (will cause) greater…suffering to the civilian population.”
The Mexican statement also argued that it is “essential to resume the process of direct and good faith negotiations between both parties…within the framework of the two-state solution…within mutually agreed upon and internationally recognized secure borders in accordance with (United Nations resolutions).”
Turning to Africa, Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs “condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the unprovoked attack by Hamas militants” and called on both sides to “exercise restraint and seek a negotiated agreement” to the conflict.
Nigeria, for its part, said it is “deeply concerned” at the “outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas” and “calls for de-escalation and ceasefire” and a “peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue.”
South Africa called for an “immediate cessation of violence, restraint and peace.”
“The new conflagration has arisen from…illegal occupation of Palestine land, desecration of Al Aqsa mosque & Christian holy sites and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people,” the South African foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday, calling for a return to the “1967 internationally recognized borders with East Jerusalem as capital” and also mentioning “the right of return.”
Looking at Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quoted as saying he is “deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel, adding that he and his government “stand in solidarity with Israel.” The Indian foreign ministry had not issued a press release on the crisis at the time of writing.
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it “denounces the ongoing armed conflict between Israel and Palestine and deplores the resultant loss of innocent civilian lives (and) calls for an immediate ceasefire.”
“Living under the Israeli occupation and forced settlements in Palestinian territory will not bring peace,” the statement continued, adding that Bangladesh “supports a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel, living side by side as independent states free of occupation following UN Resolutions No. 242 and 338.”
Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “is deeply concerned with the escalation of conflict between Palestine and Israel.”
“Indonesia urges the immediate end of violence,” the statement said. “The root of the conflict, namely the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel, must be resolved, in accordance with the parameters agreed upon by the UN.”
Vietnam said it is “profoundly concerned” and called “on relevant parties to exercise restraint” and “refrain from taking actions that complicate the situation.” Hanoi added that it calls on “relevant parties” to “soon resume negotiations to resolve disagreements through peaceful means, on the basis of international law and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.”
Meanwhile, Singapore stated that it “strongly condemns the rocket and terror attacks from Gaza on Israel, which have resulted in deaths and injuries of many innocent civilians.”
“We call for an immediate end to the violence and urge all sides to do their utmost to protect the safety and security of civilians,” said a spokesperson for Singapore’s foreign ministry.
Malaysia said it “is deeply concerned over the loss of so many lives due to the latest escalation of clashes in and around the Gaza Strip. At this critical time…parties must exercise utmost restraint and de-escalate.”
“The root cause must be acknowledged,” the statement continued. “The Palestinians have been subjected to the prolonged illegal occupation, blockade and sufferings, the desecration of Al-Aqsa, as well as the politics of dispossession at the hands of Israel as the occupier.”
“There should be no…flagrant hypocrisy in dealing with any regime that practices apartheid and blatantly violates…international law,” Malaysia’s foreign ministry added. “Palestinians have the legal right to live in a state of peace within its own recognised borders based on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
While each of these 11 states has, as one could expect, condemned the horrific attack by Hamas, their statements reveal different leanings on Israel. India (though an official foreign ministry statement is still not out) currently seems closest to the Israeli and American position, by invoking terrorism with no mention of de-escalation, the two-state solution, or key UN resolutions on Palestine. Singapore too invokes terrorism. Kenya mentions terrorism indirectly, but calls the Hamas attack “unprovoked.” Though the official Brazilian statement does not mention the T word, Lula’s comments clearly label the Hamas attacks as terrorism.
The seven other states have not characterized the attack as terrorism. Nigeria however avoids criticizing Israel and couches its calls to peace in general terms. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Africa criticize Israel and specifically cite the Israeli occupation as the root cause. Brazil, Mexico and Vietnam stay focused on restraint, the two-state solution and UN resolutions or relevant international law.
If we were to project these reactions on a spectrum of the degree of alignment to U.S. and Israeli positions on the crisis (admittedly a challenging task due to the complexity of the issues involved and the early stage of the responses), India and Kenya seem to be at the end closest to the U.S. and Israel. They are followed by Singapore and Nigeria. Brazil, Mexico, and Vietnam appear to be next.
At the other end of this spectrum, and thus relatively the least aligned with Israeli and U.S. positions, lie Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Africa.
If the violence in the Middle East escalates much more, as seems likely, expect the diplomatic action to move to the United Nations. We will then know much more about where Global South states stand on the matter.
Previously published on Responsible Statecraft here.