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Claiming to be neutral and even-handed, President Xi Jinping supports a ceasefire. Yet he refuses to condemn Hamas for its 7 October atrocities and criticises Israel. He knows a ceasefire would benefit Hamas – but also that it’s a crowdpleaser in the countries of the global south.

What really interests Xi is how Israel’s relentless assault on Gaza is making its US ally look weak and guilty by association in the eyes of the world while dividing the western democracies, alienating Arab states and discrediting the international rules-based order he hopes to replace.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/nov/11/two-faced-xi-jinping-exploiting-war-gaza-china-new-order

Why isn't the Global South pro-Israel like the west? I understand why Middle Eastern countries tend to be pro-Palestine, but I don't understand why countries in Latin America, South East Asia, Central Asia and Africa would be pro-Palestine. I would think, especially, that the countries in Latin America would be neutral on this issue, but it seems that overwhelmingly countries in the Global South are pro-Palestine in general looking at their voting records, why is that?

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    This question states as fact the opinion of a singular commentator for single newspaper. To make the claim even less interesting, it uses the term "Global South" which is largely meaningless, as few reasonable people would consider every nation in our planet's Southern Hemisphere to be politically aligned. To make this question useful, it would need more sources of such a claim and a concrete definition of "Global South" that matches a unified definition provided by each source. Nov 14, 2023 at 7:14

7 Answers 7

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"The rest of the world" / "Global South" terms being used here might benefit from consideration of whether the "Global South" is a larger or smaller slice of the UN's 195+ odd nations than the nations which unconditionally back Israel.


Keep in mind that vast majority of countries in the world do not share the West's undeniable collective guilt in the Holocaust. So, right now, they are seeing a strong and rich nation (Israel) picking on a weaker/denied and poor one (Palestine). With an emotional appeal to anti-colonialism thrown in for good measure. Hamas' atrocities on 10/7 may be somewhat conveniently ignored, downplayed or whatabout-ed by many (as we've seen here as well).

Many supporters of Palestine also confuse Hamas with "the Palestinians" - wanting to eliminate the first is seen as automatically wanting to do the same to the second. Some aspects of the IDF campaign, such as the blockade are plain nasty. While there is also justified concern at the magnitude of Palestinian civilian deaths, even with the very real risks that an urban operation has to civilians even with the utmost restraint.

Whatever restraint IDF actually observes on the battlefield, some (of the more whacko ones) in Israel's own politicians don't help:

Israel's Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu was suspended indefinitely after he said in an interview that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was “one of the possibilities,” the government announced on Sunday

And, in any case, whatever's Hamas' crimes and disregard for its own people, from the global PoV, the promises of the Oslo accords have not been kept. Largely due to Western pusillanimity in holding Israel accountable for implementing them. And, yes, very much also due to, Palestinian, groups like Hamas (but that will again be conveniently ignored).

Israel, in 2023, with a dominant military and an at least nominal recognition from the Palestinian Authority, is in a very different situation than in the 1970s. The "Global South" may be feeling that the West is not acknowledging that.

(that is not to deny either that the 1970s Global South/UN set up wasn't also quite anti-Israel at that time).

Nor is this to deny that Muslim solidarity and the animosity of at least some Muslims towards Jews isn't a factor in "Global South" countries where Muslims have a lot of influence.

Now, as far as China's motivations go, this mess isn't to the US's advantage, making the US look bad by vetoing ceasefires (whether those are good or bad) is a plus. And pulling off a serious diplomatic coup, like they did with Iran-Saudi, either in mediating a deal or somehow being part of a successful long term solution would be massive, massive, China win.

IF China genuinely wanted to bring about Middle East peace, then it shouldn't back Israel over-much at this time and needs to appear as an "honest broker", a role the US has long forsaken in this region. Not that I am accusing Xi of such high mindedness either.

Also, to cite Fizz's answer, the initial reaction right after the 10/7 attack was generally more sympathetic than it is now. At the time, only Israelis had been killed. Now that it is the Palestinians suffering instead, is it all that surprising that the sentiments have shifted somewhat?


Western guilt???

Let's compare the Holocaust with the Rwanda Genocide. At a superficial level, they look the same. Extremists take over a country and, with the tacit acceptance of the majority, go on to murder a minority they have long-standing issues with. No, no country really helped the Hutus to murder Tutsis. And no country helped the Nazis murder Jews. If anything Western countries (and Russia) made huge sacrifices to get rid of Hitler.

But that's not the whole story. Rwanda's Hutu-Tutsi feud was by and large a Rwanda-only affair. Europeans on the other hand have a century-long history of discriminating against Jews. It really is only after WW2 that anti-Semitism in the West became a no-go.

...etc...

It is comforting, and convenient, to limit the guilt of the Holocaust to only Germany. The Holocaust happened in Germany sure, with 3 ingredients: anti-Semitism, WW1's loss and Hitler. Given similar circumstances could have happened just as well in other Western countries. Absent a - Europe-wide - latent tendency to demonize Jews it is hard to see how Hitler would have managed to mobilize support for early moves like the Jewish business boycott, as early as 1933. Unlike Rwanda, this cultural background was not limited to Germany.

These considerations sure as heck don't concern a country like Thailand. So, yes, Western circumstances are different from the non-Muslim "Global South"'s.

As a European myself, I don't normally engage in self-flagellation about our past. But, in this instance at least, it seems fairly relevant to remember that not every group arrives in the Israel-Palestine conflict with the same historical perspectives.

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  • That [last point] doesn't have a lot to do with 10/7. The vote on Hamas was nearly identical in 2018 in terms of numbers, although I've not looked at the exact countries list then. Nov 12, 2023 at 4:17
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    @Fizz Exactly, but it still certainly still an effect to mention here. The Economist said 2-3 weeks back that Israeli offensives against Hamas or Hizbollah run on a time limit: initial support after they get attack, then disapproval when suppressing the attackers results in lots of civilian casualties, then eventually a ceasefire. The first 2 steps are according to schedule, but the body count of 10/7 makes it uncertain when, or if, #3, the ceasefire will happen. Nov 12, 2023 at 4:23
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    I'm a bit sceptical about "the West's undeniable collective guilt in the Holocaust" – isn't this mostly Germany (and maybe some of its allies/collaborators in WW2)? Nov 13, 2023 at 0:44
  • @PaŭloEbermann: It is; but the rest of the west decided the cost would be paid by returning Israel to its land (which was a British holding at the time, so they could do this). But for reasons not known to me, the land was double promised and from there things went off the rails.
    – Joshua
    Nov 13, 2023 at 0:55
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    Just a few days ago, 151 UN member states voted for the "permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people" and against Israel (and 6 opposed that). Even pro-Israel outlets seem to accept that the UN doesn't support Israel.
    – NotThatGuy
    Nov 14, 2023 at 8:52
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Gaza and Palestine in general are part of Global South income-wise, with around 5k GDP per person/yr.

This is in contrast with Israel proper, which has $40k GDP per person/yr, a developed country level.

So the Global South sees this conflict not as Muslim vs. Zionist, not as Terrorists vs. State, but as a Global South country invaded by First World. Obviously their sympathies are with the former.

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  • @alamar And you certainly know how Global South sees conflicts? Do you somehow relate to Global South?
    – troyan
    Nov 13, 2023 at 7:52
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    "Global South seems this conflict not as Muslim vs. Zionist..." okay, but a huge chunk does. Nov 13, 2023 at 15:56
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Things are bit more nuanced in Latin American, depending whether left-wing or right wing parties are in power. You can be sure that Bolsonaro would have voted for Israel through and through. It just so happens that many Latin American countries that see alternation in power are now run by left-wing governments, which have more pro-Palestinian view, but not quite Hamas loving.

If you look at who voted to condemn Hamas at the UNGA, there are quite a few Latin American countries still:

  • Argentina [despite left-wing gov't]
  • Brazil [despite left-wing gov't]
  • Chile [despite left-wing gov't]
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Mexico [despite left-wing gov't]
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Uruguay

One might think that list was swelled by the nature (and time proximity) of the 10/7 attacks, but that doesn't seem to be the case. There was a December 2018 attempt to condemn Hamas at the UNGA. Earlier in that year Hamas conducted various rounds of rocket attacks & mortar attacks on Israel (which apparently had peaked in May-July; although that was then dwarfed by the clashes in November), but the result was nearly the same as in the 2023 vote.

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The UN presser quotes one of these Latin American counties saying back then

The representative of Chile called on Israel to lift the restrictions imposed on the people of Gaza. “There is no reason to justify acts of terrorism,” he said. Reiterating full support for a two‑State solution and declaring that both Palestine and Israel have the right to coexist peacefully, he said Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community outside of the Middle East.

The current president of Chile--Boric-- was elected with support of a rather broad leftist coalition, while his predecessor--Piñera--was on the right-wing (liberal-conservative).

OTOH Ecuador abstained back in 2018 (but voted for condemning Hamas in 2023). In 2018 they said:

The representative of Ecuador said her delegation abstained from the vote, citing the responsibility to pursue a fair solution to the crisis. She voiced support for a two‑State solution and reiterated her Government’s full support for relevant United Nations resolutions. “The situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question require an urgent peaceful solution,” she said, condemning all forms of terrorism.

The current president of Ecuador--Lasso--is rather on the right-wing/neoliberal side of politics. His predecessor--Moreno--was part of the "pink tide" left-wing side.

Somewhat oddly, Guyana abstained back in 2018, but voted against condemning Hamas in 2023. I could not easily find statements from them, but nowadays, English-speaking Guyana has a (seemingly populist) left-wing government with Irfaan Ali as president. OTOH the previous president, Granger [more associated with the defense establishment], was also supported by a left-wing party, but also by a more liberal one. (Also, the left-wing parties in Guyana appear split by ethnicity.)

Jamaica [which had the same PM back then] voted for condemning Hamas in 2018, but abstained in 2023. Since [English-speaking] Jamaica is part of the Commonwealth, its position was a bit more discussed in press I can easily read like, the The Guardian:

The prime minister, Andrew Holness, after Hamas’s murderous madness, came out to show solidarity with Israel and tweeted that Jamaica stood with Israel. He called for a cessation of hostilities and a return to peace within internationally agreed guidelines, and urged them to pursue diplomatic solutions.

Now that Israel has shown its overreaching response against the Palestinians, he has said no more and, to add insult to injury, Jamaica was still deliberating on Friday while the UN general assembly (UNGA) vote was going on. What was there to deliberate? [...]

Holness' party, the JLP is considered on the right-wing/conservative side, despite having 'Labour' in its name. The fact that they've appeared to change tack after Israel's massive response is perhaps illustrative of the process that ItalianPhilosopher's answer suggests, although TBH there aren't a lot of countries where this change was super overt.

In 2023, at the UN, Jamaica abstained on condemning Hamas (the Canadian amendment) and then made a 'disappearing act' in the vote on the unamend resolution that more generically called for all sides to cease violence (and an immediate ceasefire). Later they said:

Regrettably, consultations were underway w/ Kingston which did not conclude in time for the close of vote. [Jamaica] welcomes the action taken by the UNGA, and hopes that it contributes to progress.


As for Africa... al-Jazeera notes that only a handful of these countries openly supported Israel:

But Kenya, Zambia, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among other African nations that have aligned with Israel’s position.

Of these, only Kenya and Ghana voted on the Canadian ammendment though.

As for why... South Africa is one of strongest supporters of Palestine, and they often throw their own legacy in argument, e.g.

In July 2022, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor called on the United Nations to declare Israel an “apartheid state”.

This despite the fact that (probably owing to ties established earlier on)

South Africa, one of Israel’s fiercest critics on the continent, is also its biggest trading partner in Africa – by far.

Likewise:

President Ramaphosa has pledged the ANC's solidarity with the Palestinians, saying their history had echoes of apartheid - and South Africa's struggle against white-minority rule.

Although he did condemn the Hamas assault, a week later he led 60 party leaders as they waved Palestinian flags, while wearing the traditional chequered black and white Palestinian scarf, the keffiyeh.

"They are people who have been under occupation for almost 75 years," he said of the Palestinians. "They have been waiting and waging a war against a government that has been dubbed an apartheid state. [...]

Large pro-Palestinian protest marches have been held around South Africa since the conflict began. Smaller pro-Israel marches and rallies have been held in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

A lot of Africa is [also] close to China in some regards because of anti-colonialism and the non-aligned movement etc. And China's influence is also non-negligible in Africa more generally because e.g.:

China has far surpassed the U.S. as an economic player in Africa.

China is Africa’s largest two-way trading partner, hitting $254 billion in 2021, exceeding by a factor of four U.S.-Africa trade. China is the largest provider of foreign direct investment, supporting hundreds of thousands of African jobs. This is roughly double the level of U.S. foreign direct investment. While Chinese lending to African countries has dipped of late, China remains by far the largest lender to African countries.

It's not mentioned by Al-Jazeera, but Nigeria (the most populous country in Africa) and South Sudan also voted for condemning Hamas.

And so did India voted condemn Hamas at the UN in both 2018 and 2023. It's been pointed out in a comment however that India doesn't list Hamas as a terrorist organization in its domestic legislation/regulations.

(Even some European governments [still] don't internally list Hamas as terrorists. E.g. Switzerland still doesn't (AFAICT) although their executive is pushing for that, in view of Oct 7. The Swiss do have such a list internally, but it only lists al-Qaeda & IS related organizations. And that's because the internal Swiss designations insofar has been tied to the UN-decided status of those organizations, where Hamas definitely has more fans [or at least protectors] than those two. The Swiss MFA however has "condemned Hamas' terrorist acts" and they voted similarly at the UN, both in 2018 and 2023.)

According to one academic observer, India generally avoids mentioning Hamas at all, either to give them some kind of implicit recognition or to explicitly condemn them.

“New Delhi neither recognizes Hamas nor describes it as a terrorist group but pursues a delicate balance between its support for the Palestinian cause and opposition to terrorism,” P R Kumaraswamy, who teaches contemporary Middle East politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told DH [...]

Unlike Switzerland however, and despite India's votes at the UN in condemining Hamas

the [Indian] MEA press release on Saturday [Nov 4] still refrained from blaming Hamas for the October 7 terrorist attacks on Israel.

As also pointed in that last article, India also abstained on the (unamended) UN resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire "as it had not included any explicit condemnation of the terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7". (That resolution passed the UNGA as such though.)

So there is that.


Some have commented below that many (if not all) the countries I listed above also condemn Israel for continued occupation of Palestinian territories, at least in the West Bank. That's true. And Oct 7 didn't really change any stances in that regard, as far as I know. My point with this answer is that such countries essentially take a position that "two wrongs don't make a right": they can condemn Israel for occupation, and can also condemn Hamas for their methods, at least.

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    As for why the left generally does dig Palestine more politics.stackexchange.com/questions/6163/… Nov 12, 2023 at 4:00
  • @Rushi: ehh, the OP wrote "pro-Israel like the rest of the world" which is pretty interpretable. The world didn't change its opinion on the status/legality of OPT [pretty much at all] as a result of Oct 7. I guess I could make that more clear in my answer, but it seemed obvious to me. Nov 13, 2023 at 9:50
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    @Rushi: I think my post was much more clear than the Q. I don't see you having written any complains under the Q. Except to repeat your point here that India (in your opinion) has changed stance. It's apples to oranges and you're drawing the wrong inference from them voting on two different issues. Nov 13, 2023 at 10:11
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    @Rushi: India voted to condemn Hamas in 2018 and 2023. And it's in the "global South". So I see no reason to remove that. Nov 13, 2023 at 10:14
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    @Rushi: many more countries voted to condemn it at the UN than those who list as terrorist in their own domestic legislation. Some countries don't even have such an internal framework (Taiwan comes to mind--there are probably others.) Nov 13, 2023 at 10:20
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There are multiple reasons for the different treatment of Israel by the Global South vs. the rest of the world. Some of these reasons stem from the fact that Israel is often viewed through the lens of the conflict between Israel/Jews and Arabs/Muslims.

  • Many of the Global South countries are themselves Arab/Muslim or have a sizable fraction of Arab/Muslim population.
  • Many of the Global South countries are autocracies (or democracies without checks and balances), which makes them more similar to the Arab/Muslim countries than to Israel.
  • The Arab/Muslim countries combined are a greater political power than Israel. The Global South is more vulnerable to political pressure than the rest of the world.
  • The Arab/Muslim countries combined export more products and raw materials than Israel. These are often products that are vital for the economies of other countries. This includes such important (often critical) commodities as oil and gas. The lessons of the Arab oil embargo of 1973 are not lost on the Global South, which, due to its lower GDP, is more vulnerable than the rest of the world.
  • The Arab/Muslim countries combined are a greater economic power than Israel. Muslim world GDP (US$5.7 trillion) dwarfs that of Israel (US$522 billion). Similarly, the Global South is more vulnerable to economic pressure than the rest of the world.
  • Antisemitism is more pervasive than anti-Arab or anti-Muslim movements world-wide, and is associated with (although not the same as) anti-Israel movements around the world. In the rest of the world, with its stronger and more stable and independent judiciary, there are more laws prohibiting the worst of the antisemitic acts than in the Global South.

Needless to say, not all reasons apply to all countries equally.

References:

World Muslim Population Map

The world map shows the countries and regions with Muslim populations. The colors on the map indicate the number of Muslim population in each country and administrative region.

Map of the World Muslim Population - Nations Online Project


The 2022 Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index map

The 2022 Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index map legend

The Economist Democracy Index - Wikipedia


The economy of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) combines the economies of 57 member states. 53 are predominantly Muslim states. As of 2013, the combined GDP (nominal) of 49 Muslim majority countries was US$5.7 trillion. As of 2016, they contributed 8% of the world's total. Those 57 OIC countries have a combined GDP (at Purchasing power parity; PPP) of US$22.149 trillion.

Economy of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation - Wikipedia


Percent of people who
harbor antisemitic attitudes

The ADL GLOBAL 100: An Index of Antisemitism

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    If such comparisons are made and one side contains all Muslim countries, surely the other side must contain at least the US which is a closer ally to Israel than e.g. Indonesia is to the Palestinians.
    – Stefan
    Nov 12, 2023 at 9:01
  • I believe the OP said he didn't understand specifically why countries in Latin America, South East Asia, Central Asia and Africa would be pro-Palestine, because OP understands why Middle Eastern countries tend to be pro-Palestine (presumably because they are Arab/Muslim)
    – troyan
    Nov 13, 2023 at 4:30
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    @troya I believed I addressed all of these, plus the Middle Eastern countries, to be more comprehensive w.r.t. what most people consider the Global South. I did not limit myself to just the Middle Eastern countries. In particular, the maps cover the entire world. Nov 13, 2023 at 12:37
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I would think, especially, that the countries in Latin America would be neutral on this issue

In Latin America, anti-Semitism presents in classic manifestations of populist scapegoating and hyper nationalism on both the political right and the left, including in the form of conspiracy theories, particularly in times of economic or political crisis. Anti-Zionism and Iran’s malign axis of influence in the region also play significant roles.

Today, there is a strong tendency to equate Jewish communities with the State of Israel. When there are growing tensions in the Middle East, anti-Semitic incidents elsewhere in the world tend to increase. Latin America is no exception. In Venezuela, even though there is no legislation discriminating against Jews, for years the government of former President Hugo Chavez (and now that of President Nicolas Maduro) have created a hostile atmosphere for the Jewish community. Particularly during the Chavez days, there were manifestations of open hostility toward Israel, and the Jewish community suffered several anti-Semitic incidents that were directly promoted by the government.

Home to around 500,000 inhabitants of Palestinian descent — the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East — Chile also experiences an aggressive anti-Israel agenda bordering on anti-Semitism. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an initiative that seeks to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, is more solidly anchored in Chile than anywhere else in Latin America.

Anti-Zionism also manifests politically at the U.N. and other multilateral organizations, where hostile governments continue to cast anti-Israel votes.

Similarly one could look up "antisemitism in South Asia" and "Antisemitism in [other regions of interest].

Having realize that this community values links more than personal opinions and perspectives, I recommend googling different regions with "Antisemitism" as it might help find relevant information without any perspective of my personality.

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  • I think BDS support a two-state solution, thus not eliminating Israel.
    – gerrit
    Nov 13, 2023 at 7:55
  • They want to eliminate "Jewishness" in the State of Israel and end discrimination of minorities like Christians Muslims
    – troyan
    Nov 13, 2023 at 8:40
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    @troya Right, which would also be the consequence of a one-state solution. I would call that reforming Israel, not eliminating Israel (rewriting the constitution does not destroy a country). Unfortunately, "eliminating Israel" makes it sound like they're in the same camp as fanatics who want an Islamist Palestine without Jews.
    – gerrit
    Nov 13, 2023 at 11:08
  • I wish they meant what they said without need for editing. It's easier to eliminate the state altogether, then understand what they want.
    – troyan
    Nov 13, 2023 at 12:56
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Question:
Why isn't the Global South pro-Israel like the rest of the world?

Short Answer:

Africa and South America are two continents where China has greatly increased their financial investments and also their political influence since the turn of the century. China has been promoting criticism of Israel where it holds political influence as a wedge issue to score political points against the United States in it's ongoing global soft power struggle with the same. That subjectively is the greatest reason for the changing political views on Israel across the global south which has become most notable recently over Gaza.

Answer:

The "Global South" is dominated by South America and African continents. Those continents are increasingly tied to China financially. That financial investment has bought China significant political influence on these continents and their criticism of Israel is directly reflected by those investments and this growing influence.

As China Looks to Broker Gaza Peace, Antisemitism Surges Online

China’s state-run media has blamed the United States for deepening the crisis, while perpetuating tropes of Jewish control of American politics.


  • China’s Growing Influence in Latin America For more than two decades, China has developed close economic and security ties with many Latin American countries, including Brazil and Venezuela. But Beijing’s growing sway in the region has raised concerns in Washington and beyond.

China has created 25 economic and trade cooperation zones in 16 African countries and has continued to invest heavily across the continent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a government report about Chinese–African economic and trade ties. The zones, registered with China’s Ministry of Commerce, had attracted 623 businesses with a total investment of USD 7.35 billion at the end of 2020, according to the China-Africa Economic and Trade Relationship Annual Report (2021).

China expands Africa investment to boost trade cooperation

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It really depends on who you regard as "us" and "them". Other answers here already present a "poor" vs "rich" or "Muslim" vs, well, "non-Muslim" (I guess?) perspective.

One important consideration is also whether you are "colonialist" or "colonized", where obviously many currently or previously colonialized countries will side with the colonized, i.e. the Palestinians. It probably doesn't help that Israel is perceived as a sock puppet of the United States of America, the prime remaining colonialist power.

Also, irrespective of what our heads of state say, many of us in the North / West are not supportive of Israel, or, more specifically, its current administration and their apartheid project.

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    It is so surprising to find the colonialist argument about this subject, which I thought was pretty much the most important point. Of course the Global South will not side with Israel. They still remember the horrors they went through during the previous European colonization period.
    – Neerkoli
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:51

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