Vicious circle of bloody war crimes makes me feel sick to the core; we can’t bury our heads in the sand

Vicious circle of bloody war crimes makes me feel sick to the core; we can’t bury our heads in the sand
More than 1,200 Israeli civilians were murdered last weekend on 7 October. More than 1,200 Palestinians living in Gaza were murdered this week. (Photos: Mohammed Saber / EPA-EFE / Abir Sultan / EPA-EFE / Haitham Imad / EPA-EFE / Martin Divisek / EPA-EFE)

An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. No turning of the other cheek. The language of violence seems to be the only way to communicate in this very lopsided 75-year-old Middle East conflict

Dear DM168 reader,

The big news of this week makes me feel sick to the core. 

I watched the survivors of last Saturday’s Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on CNN and Al Jazeera speak about the horror of loved ones being blown apart by hand grenades, shot in the head, in the back, having to hide under dead bodies to evade the attackers; of families, parents, grandparents and children being slaughtered; of loved ones being kidnapped by Hamas fighters and taken to Gaza; and of waiting and waiting for help from the Israeli Defence Force, which arrived too late.

I watched the survivors of the subsequent retaliatory Israeli Defence Force attack on Palestinian civilians as they wandered wounded and broken by the bombardment of buildings in the Gaza Strip. I watched them speak on CNN and Al Jazeera of watching loved ones take their last breath as the buildings collapsed on them; I saw blood pouring down the cheeks of sobbing children, injured and confused. 

More than 1,200 Israeli civilians were murdered last weekend on 7 October. More than 1,200 Palestinians living in Gaza were murdered. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. No turning of the other cheek. A spectre of more and more war, and more and more carnage, because the language of violence seems to be the only way to communicate in this very lopsided 75-year-old conflict. 

A conflict that has its roots in the divvying up of spoils of World War 1, after the League of Nations split up the Ottoman Empire and handed Palestine to Britain in 1922, mandating it to secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, and safeguard the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion. 

Realising both Palestinian and Jewish desire for self-government in November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181(II), which called to divide Palestine into an unnamed “Jewish State” and an unnamed “Arab State” with Jerusalem under UN trusteeship.

That never happened.

Violent clashes escalated, including Zionist paramilitary groups killing hundreds of Palestinian Arabs in Deir Yassin, a village near Jerusalem in April 1948. The UK washed its hands of the Palestine problem and handed it over to the UN in May 1948. On 15 May, Israel declared independence, a day Palestinians mark as Nakba (catastrophe). Jewish territorial expansion forced Arabs off their land, leading to the first exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. Up until today, no Palestinian State has been established.

The remaining territories of pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and the Gaza Strip were administered from 1948 to 1967 by Jordan and Egypt, respectively.

Since June 1967, the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and the Gaza Strip have comprised the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

Peace brokering

There have been several international attempts at brokering peace in the Middle East, but none has succeeded. In September 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles on Palestinian Self-Rule, the first agreement between the two sides which became generally known as the Oslo Accords. Then PLO leader Yasser Arafat recognised Israel’s right to exist, renounced terrorism and agreed to change the portions of its charter that called for Israel’s destruction. Israel recognised the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

Fast-forward 30 years – that accord is in tatters. The militant Hamas vehemently rejected the accord, as did current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who with his far-right coalition has been the target of mass protests by Israelis for his attempts to weaken the independence of the judiciary and to dodge corruption charges. 

Journalists at independent Israeli publications The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz have reported that Netanyahu was so opposed to Arafat’s Fatah and Palestinian Authority and a united Palestine that he actively supported Hamas.

Writing in Haaretz this week, Dmitry Shumsky said: “… in 2009, that same Netanyahu developed and advanced a destructive, warped political doctrine that held that strengthening Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority would be good for Israel.

“The purpose of the doctrine was to perpetuate the rift between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. That would preserve the diplomatic paralysis and forever remove the ‘danger’ of negotiations with the Palestinians over the partition of Israel into two states – on the argument that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t represent all the Palestinians.”

Mohammed Deif, the leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, is believed to be the mastermind behind the military operation launched from the Gaza Strip that caught Israel off guard on 7 October.

His motive, according to a recorded speech captured by Al Jazeera, shows that the build-up of years of Israeli blockades, military occupation and disregard of Palestinians’ right to autonomy is the tinder that sparked the horrible violence unleashed last weekend: 

“In light of the continuous crimes against our people, and in light of the occupation’s rampage, and its disregard for international laws and resolutions, and in light of the American and Western support [of Israel] and the international silence, we have decided to put an end to all of this, with the help of Allah, so that the enemy understands that the time that it could go on a rampage without being held accountable is over.”

In the Holy Land that gave birth to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, no human life is sacred. No international law is sacred. War crimes are committed on both sides. The Israeli and Palestinian civilians who were callously murdered face to face and in remote air strikes and rocket attacks are not seen as fellow humans, mothers, daughters, brothers, fathers, friends – they are all considered legitimate targets, cannon fodder to coerce the enemy into submission. 

I am not sure it will help, but I’m glad that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered to mediate this crisis that is a blight on all humanity. I wish more world leaders would think of ploughing resources into preventing the growing humanitarian catastrophe, and put human life above business deals and the vagaries of global politics to prevent further bloodshed and loss of life, but this war is not my story to tell. Read what an Arab-Israeli journalist, Hanen Majadli, who writes for Haaretz, feels:

“If being a Palestinian Israeli is a complex experience in normal times, it is almost impossible in these times. Because since the start of the war, I and 2 million more Arab citizens are seen as guilty. Because we are quiet, or scared, or because we dared to compare or because – and this is the worst – we talked about context and the occupation.

“I feel it is my duty to object to all the calls for revenge and for blind collective punishment: cutting off water and electricity, mass starvation of a civilian population, the total destruction of the heart of Gaza. None of these things is an appropriate response or a solution. These are war crimes.

“I admit I don’t know what the solution is, but Israel not only did nothing to offer Gazans a horizon of normal life under its military blockade, it did all it could to embitter their lives. Palestinians deserve justice and freedom, and with all my heart I want my people’s liberty not to be soaked in Israelis’ blood, and I dearly hope that there are a few Israelis left who feel the same way.”

Her colleague Gideon Levy, a Jewish Israeli journalist who also writes for Haaretz, had this to share: 

Seventeen years of the blockade closed Gaza off to me. I presume it has changed since then. A new generation was born into even greater despair. But is it possible to remain indifferent, even to joke in some cases, at the sight of the images from Gaza? How is this possible? How is it possible to forget that these are human beings whose ancestors were expelled from their land and placed in refugee camps where they would remain?

“These were human beings whom Israel dispossessed and expelled, whom it conquered again in their land of refuge and then turned into animals in a cage. They’ve experienced indiscriminate bombardments before, but now the worst of all is ahead of them. Israel has already announced that all the restraints it supposedly used in previous attacks will be lifted this time. Yes, hundreds of Gazans committed atrocious crimes, an outgrowth of 17 years of blockade and 75 years of suffering, with a bloody past and no present or future. But not all of Gaza is to blame.

“As I sit in my neighbour’s safe room in Tel Aviv, I can’t help thinking about my friend Munir, who has nowhere to run to in his home in Lakiya, or even the ability to run after the stroke that he suffered. I am thinking about the Gazans now when it seems like no one else in the world cares what happens to them any more.”

Be grateful for troubles that we can fix

Sorry for bringing the troubles of the world to your inbox, but I could not bury my head in the sand. I don’t think any of us can. We can be grateful that our country may have its divisions and differences, but none that we cannot take the time to understand and fix. I truly believe this. 

In our lead story in DM168 this week, Business Maverick’s Ray Mahlaka finds out what’s potting with Pravin Gordhan’s control-freak behaviour as regards the senior executives of pivotal SOEs Eskom and Transnet. 

Other less heavy reads include:

Maverick Citizen reporter Tamsin Metelerkamp writes about a husband-and-wife duo who are working to create a safe space in which local children can learn and grow on a small farm in Redhill, an area that lies between Scarborough and Simon’s Town in Cape Town’s deep south.

Don’t miss getting your funny bone tickled by Shaun de Waal’s satire about renaming diseases and utilities after the ministers who mismanaged them.

Our avid southern African explorer Bridget Hilton-Barber writes about baobabs and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins as she winds her way back to Limpopo.

And, finally, if you are intrigued by the absurd, we have two bizarre stories of identity theft and fraud – one by Michelle Banda about a fresh-faced young man who hoodwinked his social media followers into believing he was a medical practitioner and another by Dianne Hawker about legal loopholes being tightened after a man had to go to court to prove that he was not dead and that he did not have a grandson to whom he bequeathed his estate.

That’s it for today. The jacarandas are blooming in the capital city and, hey, that makes me happy.

Stay connected. Share your thoughts with me at [email protected]

Your in defence of truth,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM168 front page 14 October


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Israel seems strategically inept.

    Have they paused for 5 seconds and considered that they are reacting EXACTLY how Hamas intended.

    It’s similar to how the SA opposition parties dance to the tune Zuma designed.

    • Bee Man says:

      Please enlighten us Johan. How should they have reacted??

      • Enver Klein says:

        Chris, please reread: “The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz have reported that Netanyahu was so opposed to Arafat’s Fatah and Palestinian Authority and a united Palestine that he actively supported Hamas. Writing in Haaretz this week, Dmitry Shumsky said: “… in 2009, that same Netanyahu developed and advanced a destructive, warped political doctrine that held that strengthening Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority would be good for Israel.”

        What must the Palestinians do to get their “promised” “Arab” state? Netanyahu wants to ensure all of the land is part of the “Israeli State” and will do anything to ensure that. And therefore, I ask you, what would you do if you were a Palestinian?

  • douglas wade says:

    The depressing truth about the mass killings on each side is that they guarantee another 70 years of mutual hatred. Sadly both sides claim to their own satisfaction justifications for their actions. While clearly slaughtering hundreds of Israeli civilians is completely wrong, attacking Hamas by murdering hundreds of Palestinian children is just as wrong, and both are huge political mistakes.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Like the only ‘civilised’ people they and America (their creator and hence unashamed defender ) claim and profess to be ! Maybe it is the reason why these two countries (besides some others) will not join the ICC … because it would put them in an ‘inconvenient’ position ? It is American ‘law’ (more like might) and not international law that is at stake .

  • Denise Smit says:

    Sadly again DM this is one sided reporting. The journalist has chosen sides and has chosen the other journalists comment accordingly. Denise Smit

  • Esskay Esskay says:

    lobsided reporting. You did not mention that when Israel declared independence, it was attacked on all sides by the Arab world and had to defend itself. It did not attack Palistinians – they attacked Israel with the intention of destroying a Jewish state – and so it has gone on.

    • Maryam Lawal says:

      Defend itself from what exactly?! Stole people’s land, imprisoned them in their own land, put them under surveillance. They wouldn’t even accept a two-state solution.

      You are here, able to travel the world and even type on social media but there are over 2 million people trapped in a small piece of land without any hope of getting out! and you call that “defend itself”?
      They must return the land!

      • Ben Harper says:

        Hahahahahahaha. There has never been a Palestinian state

        • Enver Klein says:

          Ben, very amused that you are always posting your “enjoyment”. No orthodox or “true” Jew will support what the zionists are doing as per the Talmud: “The Three Oaths is the popular name for a midrash found in the Talmud, which relates that God adjured three oaths upon the world. Two of the oaths pertain to the Jewish people, and one of the oaths pertains to the other nations of the world. The Jews for their part were sworn not to forcefully reclaim the Land of Israel and not to rebel against the other nations, and the other nations in their turn were sworn not to subjugate the Jews excessively.”
          Among Orthodox Jews today there are primarily two ways of viewing this midrash. Haredim who are strongly anti-Zionist often view this midrash as legally binding, and therefore the movement to establish the state of Israel and its continued existence would be a violation of Jewish law, whereas Religious Zionists have the view that either the oaths are no longer applicable or that they are indeed binding, but the current movement is not a violation of them. Both buttress their positions by citing historic rabbinic sources in favor of their view.”

          • Enver Klein says:

            Based on my post, Israel is therefore a Zionist State and not a home for Orthodox Jews. As per your comment: “There has never been a Palestinian state”, was there a “Zionist State” thousands of years ago?

          • Dietmar Horn says:

            The three oaths are a symbol of how God envisions peaceful coexistence between Jews and other nations, both in the land he promised the Jews and in the lands of other nations. Why might it be that people are unable to comply with God’s desire?

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    Children of Abraham killing children of Abraham. Of course, the ancient texts to which both still subscribe glorify a genocidal, misogynistic, jealous, capricious and megalomaniacal god. How else is it possible for someone to shout ‘Allahu akbar’ while shooting a child or ‘God is Great’ while sending a missile into an apartment complex in Gaza?

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      And … off course Israel does NOT ever bomb or missile attack Palestinian targets … and if they do … like all their apologists … it can be defended as DEFENCE or collateral damage … as the US would have us believe. Do you remember how only one American president (Obama) dared ask (not demand) “can’t they just stop building new settlements on occupied land?”

      • Ben Harper says:

        Every time a cease fire has has been agreed and implemented it’s Hamas that breaks it. EVERY TIME

        • Enver Klein says:

          Well, if the “Israeli State” will allow an Arab State side by side, Hamas won’t need to break it. The ceasefire takes place with lots of promises that never lead to fruition.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    ‘A conflict that has its roots in the divvying up of spoils of World War 1’

    I think you might be slightly wrong there, Heather. As I understand it, Rothschild got Balfour and the British government to agree to creating Israel in return for financing their WW1 efforts. The war that was started by the late Queen Elizabeth’s great uncle, Kaizer Wilhelm. Yet another example – like South Africa – of a right ‘royal’ stuff up.

    • Dietmar Horn says:

      Just for historical accuracy: It is now a scientific consensus that the First World War had many fathers, in the mixture of nationalism, imperialism and colonialism. Placing sole blame on “Kaizer Wilhelm” is a propaganda story by the victorious powers at the time in the wake of the Peace of Versailles.

  • Hiram C Potts says:

    Horrific! No actions by either can be “justified” in this conflict. Two tribes are willing to fight to the death over a small piece of land.

    Both claim a God-given right to this land, and enabled by their mythological religious beliefs, will stoop to the lowest levels of savagery and barbarism to achieve their goals. How does one justify or apply morality to that?

    Netanyahu & the Jewish settlers are provocateurs who then let the army fight their battles. The ultra-orthodox have made it clear for decades that they wanted the whole pie at any price, and the Palestinians could either submit or die -it doesn’t take a genius to see that there would be repercussions.

    Those on the Palestinian side massacring civilians in cold blood, also want the whole pie, at any price. People who wanted a true two-state, compromise solution have been out-voted, and out-shouted.
    Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish right-wing extremist, Hamas took over in Gaza with their ultimate goal being the annihilation of Israel.

    People whose identity and actions are based on their version of a book of old fairy tales, are bound to end up committing and justifying atrocities. It’s why I’m not just an atheist, but an anti-theist.

  • ilike homophones says:

    there were always wars on this planet …. … … and there will always be wars on this planet …. …. …. nothing you see or read is new …. ….. it all happened before …. ….. ….. just across the border in zimbabwe a pregnant woman was sliced open in jail after arrested in a protest …. … … babies are murdered all the time … …. during war and not during war …. ….. …… to claim that the war makes you sick, …. … … is just looking for attention …. …. …. you do not have to read or look at anything if you do not like it …. …. ….. there is no reason to judge anybody, …. …. …. not in normal life, …. …. … not during a war …. …. …. everything happens for a reason …. … …

  • André Pelser says:

    David Fromkin’s book – ” A peace to end all peace” should be read by all for understanding of the situation in the Middle East. Also Kissinger’s Phd dissertation “A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822” and his subsequent books about his “shuttle diplomacy” in the Middle East during the Nixon administration. Records of the deliberations of the imperial powers at Versailles are also insightful. Africans are living with the same issue after the partition of Africa at the Congress of Berlin.
    But, can this arbitrary past justify the scale and nature of subsequent conflict ? Can this cycle of violence be stopped when generations grow up with a thirst for vengeance and retribution?
    A step in the right direction would be a global conference at which all nations and states can define the parameters of a new world order and embark on a fairer global dispensation – separate from the UN with is super power vetos, bigger than Davos.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Based on your observation … I assume the ‘righteous’ Israeli regime is expecting to generate ‘allegiance’ amongst ordinary Palestinian people … many of whom may have ’embraced’ Hamas, in the face of their longstanding and ongoing daily humiliation and destruction ? Strange logic perhaps ?

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Your eminently feasible proposition is one which the current superpower (and obdurate war-monger?) America would find unacceptable … because it would involve ‘giving up’ your self assumed right to ‘dictate’ to the rest of the world. Much like its refusal to recognise/join the ICC ?

  • Agf Agf says:

    The people of Gaza voted Hamas into power. They did this with the full knowledge that the stated aim of Hamas was the annihilation of Israel and the slaughter of every single Jew. They voted for war.

    • Bee Man says:

      True. And Hamas attacking Israel as they did, knew the consequences ie they have sacrificed their own people in this.

    • Peter Wrensch says:

      Hamas legitimacy is spuriously based on an election 17 years ago yielding a minority 44 %.
      Netanyahu hardly has more based on a succession of minority support that has required coalitions to govern.
      It is probably safe to assume that warmongers are a minority on both sides, as most humans seek to live lives of joy and fulfilment, free from endangering extremists.
      It’s the innocents that suffer at the expense of greedy power-crazed megalomaniacs intent on corrupt state-empowering enrichment.

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    Heather, what jumps out in your article is this simple sentence: “but I’m glad that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered to mediate this crisis that is a blight on all humanity.”
    Am sure he will give it his best shot with his kafyia (Hamans scarf) draped over his shoulders in a bold statement of ‘impartiality’.
    That ‘impartiality’ has been on display since 24th February 2022!!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      While I have serious problems with CR, did you not forget to also brand or dismiss the Arch (who had no dog in the fight) who years ago following a visit to Gaza … described it as an open air prison ?

  • Judith Miller says:

    Thanks for this opinion piece. This morning, as a subscriber, I took a look at DM168 online, searching for a bit of journalism on Hamas-Israel war… I was disappointed to find nothing… it’s the biggest news in the world in the last week, so I was really surprised that I could not read about this in the paper to which I subscribe. Did I overlook something?

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Thank you for a reflective ‘take’ on a thorny issue. It was Gandhi who said .. “an eye for an eye … makes the whole world blind. ” From some of the adamant views expressed I can only conclude that only those that concur with our personal ones … are admissible/acceptable … it seems ?

  • David Pennington says:

    Have they considered the growing extent of their carbon footprint

  • Ben Harper says:

    75 year conflict? Try a couple of thousand years’ conflict

    • Enver Klein says:

      Ben, every time the Israelis were conquered and removed from the land into slavery was due to their disobedience to God’s law. Why did Moses have to lead them back to the Promised Land, why were they enslaved in Egypt? What happened to the 12 tribes (Jacob’s Sons) of Israel? Why did Britain want a “home” for Jews? I can carry on, but please do some research.

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