Obama and Africa: The Ethiopian-Israeli Position

AFP has an interesting story about the passion the candidacy of Barack Obama is generating in the land of his father’s birth, Kenya. “Since being given a hero’s welcome here in 2006, Obama has stirred interest among Kenyans, not least from the country’s Luo community to which his father belonged and sees his presidency as a harbinger of hope for the east African country,” the French wire service reports.

This week I received an interesting e-mail from somebody about whom Gitell.com has reported on previously. Last year, I wrote about Bruck Teshome, a student and worker at Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry, who subsequently emigrated to Israel when his pro-democracy work got him into trouble with government authorities. He had an interesting and refreshing perspective on Israel’s domestic and international troubles: “I come from a very problematic part of the world,” he said. “But we don’t have the media attention Israel has.”

Teshome, who is now studying in England, recently posted his thoughts as an Ethiopian-Israeli on the prospects of an Obama presidency.

Teshome’s first observation relates the stir the early news of Obama’s candidacy caused when he told his classmates about him back in February, 2007.

“Have you heard?” I said shifting the conversation, and told them about the Black senator who was bidding to be the next occupant of the White House. They scoffed at my story, “A black man in the United States as President?” I just said, “Well, we shall see….” but they went on to remind me how racist America really is by citing their experiences in the US. I could not argue for or against based on experience, since by then I had never been to the US and all that I know of the country was what I read, saw on TV or heard from those who had been there. Well we never really did discuss Barack Obama; until he was all over the news outlets and the fever of his ascendancy in the Democratic primaries were all over the news. By January 2008 and after the Iowa caucus, one of my colleagues who had remained to work in the company had officially become an Obama supporter. We then began to freely discuss, if he really can beat the former first lady. Well, he won Iowa, and won South Carolina riding the African American voters’ wave, but can he really win the Nomination.

Teshome hints that Obama’s election could even impact Israel’s domestic politics:

The US is definitely on the way of being more of a multicultural state, the rise of a multiracial and multicultural candidate maybe the strongest indication of that.

Hope is perhaps what I can share with my lady friend as to the fate of Israel’s black population, would there be a time ever that a black man can rise to an occasion of this magnitude in Israel. Well not in the near future anyway, but as Dr. King dreamt a generation ago so can we that one day we shall cease to fear and start to hope even if it means on a small thing as our first job out of university. After all we came to live and be a part of Israel, not to stand aside and watch.

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