Letter from the DM168 editor
My hope is that Israel and Palestine can find a path to peace
History reveals that all forms of oppression will be resisted, however sophisticated the war machinery is that keeps resistance at bay.
Dear DM168 reader,
We in South Africa are incredibly grateful for Gift of the Givers, a South African humanitarian aid organisation that has come to the rescue of many here in our country and abroad when both natural and human-made disasters have struck.
We are so proud of the good it does that many have said its founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, should be president of South Africa because of his incredible ability to organise doctors, engineers and aid workers to fix seemingly intractable problems wherever disaster strikes.
Gift of the Givers tragic loss in Gaza
This week, I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ahmed Abbasi, the head of Gift of the Givers’ office in Gaza. Abbasi has been described by all who have paid tribute to him as a humanitarian just like Sooliman. He was killed with his brother in a rocket attack on their way back from morning prayers.
Sooliman said Abbasi was responsible for the care of orphans, widows, the elderly and ill, delivering water, distributing food parcels and repairing damaged homes in Gaza.
Abbasi is one of many aid and health workers, doctors and journalists who have died over the past month as the Israeli government has pummelled Gaza with air strikes and its ground forces in retaliation for Hamas militants’ attack on Israeli civilians on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping 240 hostages.
Truth, the first casualty of war
In 550 BC, the Greek playwright Aeschylus said: “In war, truth is the first casualty.” And so it has been very hard to report accurately on Israel’s war in Gaza when communication is blocked, buildings are being bombed, air strikes are raining down and 42 journalists have been killed.
For the past two weeks our Daily Maverick journalists have been trying to interview doctors, nurses, aid workers and journalists in Gaza to get their first-person accounts and tell the story of human beings and what they are living through on the ground, as opposed to cold statistics.
In this week’s lead story in DM168, Tamsin Metelerkamp succeeded. Her stories of horror from the Gaza frontline will make you realise that the only human response to this carnage is to join the mounting calls across the globe for a ceasefire.
The tragedy of failed peace talks in Palestine and Israel
On our Daily Maverick WhatsApp chat group, investigative reporter Pauli van Wyk shared a fascinating reflection on the Israel-Gaza war by Haggai Matar, an award-winning Israeli journalist and political activist who is the executive director of +972 Magazine, a platform where Palestinian and Israeli journalists and activists report on and analyse what is happening, guided by humanism, equality and justice.
Matar reflects on how the Hamas attack and Israel’s retaliation have splintered even those in the Israeli and Palestinian communities who were working for peace and equality:
“From the failure to stand beside the people of Gaza who are facing the war crimes committed by our government, to the failure to speak up for those being persecuted by an increasingly authoritarian regime, Palestinian citizens feel abandoned and betrayed by many Jewish allies who, up until a month ago, were vehemently protesting on the streets in the name of ‘democracy’.
“These trends flourish in two communities that are caught up in very real grief, fear, and anxiety, both drawing on collective past traumas — the Holocaust and the Nakba — whose memories are being revived by genocidal rhetoric from leaders in Hamas and the Israeli government — and, in the Palestinian case, by actual expulsions and the discussion of plans for even more displacement. Needless to say, by each side retreating to the warmth and protection of its national or ethnic group, they are also unwittingly reaffirming the fears and disappointments of the other, creating a destructive dynamic of escalating mistrust and despair.”
This story brought home to me the tragedy of so many failed attempts at peace between Israel and Palestine, as well as the expansion of Israeli settlers into what many refer to as Israel’s apartheid state, while Palestinians are increasingly squashed into Gaza and the West Bank, which are the equivalent of SA’s former Bantustans, to which black people were condemned.
Reading Matar made me realise how the people of Israel were sadly duped into a false sense of security by the US-supported Israeli military-industrial complex, just as white South Africans were by the defence force and Security Branch under apartheid.
How South Africa averted an endless civil war
History reveals that all forms of oppression will be resisted, however sophisticated the war machinery is that keeps resistance at bay. Afrikaners resisted the British in the two Anglo-Boer Wars. In the many frontier wars before that, the Xhosa people resisted the British who encroached on their land. And so did the Zulu people with both the Afrikaners and the British. Even though the apartheid project sought to remove black people forcibly from the sight of white South Africans into distant townships and fragmented, impoverished Bantustans, it ultimately did not succeed.
This fact is buried under the debris of State Capture, corruption, historical revisionism and increasing racial polarisation. But South Africa could have ended up in an endless state of war, if not for the talks about talks and, finally, the actual talks at Codesa in the early 1990s, which led to the demise of apartheid and the formation of our first democratic state.
Some among us would love a return to the false sense of security of a protected minority past, and there are others who feel that Nelson Mandela betrayed the revolution and should have allowed the mass expropriation of all property and land owned by white people once the ANC was voted into power.
The power of talking, listening and compromise
I lived through the apartheid era and there is no way that anyone can claim that the forced under-education, impoverishment and dehumanisation of black people, the deaths in detention, torture and states of emergency are better than what we have today, however imperfect it is. I am glad my sons do not have to live in that country of legislated racism, fear and civil war.
Julius Malema may disagree, but I’m glad our political leaders came to the table to talk, to compromise and to pave the way for today’s constitutional democracy, which is not sunshine and sunflowers, especially for the poorest of us whose lives have not improved much since 1994. But it is much, much better than war and oppression.
It may be far-fetched, but if we can establish a democracy after centuries of conflict and distrust in this southern African cradle of humanity, I hope that one day those who seek justice and equality in Palestine and Israel can come to the table and negotiate a path of peace to end the long reign of the avenging angels of death and destruction.
Disagree with me, debate, let’s hear your views – write to me at [email protected]
And hey don’t forget to vote for your Daily Maverick People of the Year by clicking here https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2023-11-15-vote-for-daily-mavericks-people-of-the-year-2023/
Yours in defence of striving to stay as close to the truth as possible,
This story first appeared in our weekly DM168 newspaper, available countrywide for R29.