Letter from the DM168 editor

My hope is that Israel and Palestine can find a path to peace

My hope is that Israel and Palestine can find a path to peace
Ahmed Abbasi, described as 'a kind, gentle, warm human being' was killed in Gaza whilst returning from morning prayers on 16 November, 2023. (Photo: Gift of the Givers)

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

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.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Nit Wit says:

    The accusations of Apartheid Israel is preposterous. The Palestinians have been offered land and statehood over and over again and every time it is rejected by the Palestinians! They don’t want land or statehood – they want to annihilate Israel and wipe every Jew from the face of the earth. This conflict is not about land because if it was then why do the Palestinians keep rejecting offers for land?

    Just one example of many:
    In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank and split Jerusalem in two so the Palestinians can have the West Bank and half of Jerusalem. That was rejected. If anything it is the Palestinians who are behaving like Apartheid because they refuse to share the land. They want it all or nothing!

    I feel sorry for the loss of life on both sides and that of Ahmed Abbasi but what about the murder of peace activists, young children, etc. when the Palestinians attacked Israel? Israel has a right to defend itself. Additionally Israel have dropped pamphlets and send soldiers door to door at great risk to themselves to tell people to get out before military operations are carried out. The IDF is doing their best to reduce the loss of life but sitting back while rockets and missiles rain down on Israel is not an option. Giving up the right of surprise is never done in military operations!

    • Alan Salmon says:

      I totally agree with the above. Israel has to destroy Hamas infrastructure and we all hope the work is nearly done – the loss of life is of course appalling. But what happens next ? How do you create a separate Palestinian state ? If you look at the map you cannot join Gaza and West Bank without splitting Israel in two. There seems to be no obvious solution to this endless cycle of violence.

    • Izzy Trees says:

      You are right that comparison to South Africa’s apartheid are poor. Many scholars all over the world (including Israeli scholars) agree that Israel’s oppression of Palestine is far, far worse. The regime includes systemic dehumanisation of Palestinians, ongoing land grabs, incarceration without trial, humiliating checkpoints, illegal blockades on food and basic service, and much more. Address the underlying injustices and organisations like Hamas will disappear.

      Your statement that Israel is doing their best to reduce loss of life is incorrect. So far, the IDF have bombed hospitals, refugee camps, ambulances, mosques, UNRWA schools, UN shelters and much more – resulting in a civilian death toll of 12,000+, most of which are children!

      • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

        I agree with you all the way, i have lived in Apartheid south africa and post apartheid south africa as a black person the worse part was the system, in our own space where we worked together we had silent envy for each other and unspoken love hence the easy migration to the rainbow nation that is why when it comes to services we dont shy away from appreciating things at that time and now, dont deny there were pockets of unruly white people but they were protecting their uneducated selves from loosing privilleges

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      except when you tell people to evacuate you also tell them where to and it cannot be to a closed wall and you dont bomb them along the way, were they supposed to go to perhaps i am looking at the wrong map of Gaza enclave the well known open prison in the world.

  • Charles Edelstein says:

    Truth is the first casualty in war.


    I have been an avid supporter of Gift of the Givers as long as I known of its existance. But the statements as “fact” by them that one of their members was directly targeted by the IDF without any evidence to show is vexing. Also the extremely partisan and emotive judgmental wording of “apartheid” Israel and “genocidal killings” by the ANC and so on means that some commentators and journalists and even the ANC and our rulers are making assumptions that may not be truthfull and that they are taking sides.

    This is simply wrong and polarizing.

    The comment today in DM is a little more tempered using the word “claimed” and I quote: “On Thursday, their Gaza office head was killed in what has been claimed as a deliberate, targeted killing by the Israeli military.” Even that comment should be withheld as it does and will feed into people’s confirmation bias and is polarizing.

    What is not mentioned in the media or explained is how are the innocent citizens unaware in a very densely populated city like Gaza of the hundreds of thousands of tons of earth , steel and wood and other support structures moved around to make hundreds of km of tunnels. And then how are the citizens unaware of tens of thousands of tons of materials and weaponry moved into Gaza to make the more than 7000 rockets that have been fired into Israel since 7 October and still are being launched, around 500 in the last week. Some 20,000 in the last 9 years. Each rocket weighs around 40 to 50Kg. By comparison a Russian ship docks in Simons Town ostensibly loading weapons and we all know about it through DM. And we still do not know the truth of that ship and its cargo.

    The only truth is that we just don’t know what the truth is! And we should stop making judgments and using emotive polarizing commentary.

    DM please vet your commentary and journalism and keep it factful and truthful and not partisan and polarizing or I shall cancel my subscription.

  • Anthony Starkey says:

    It is important to remind ourselves that the Afrikaners and the Jews saw themselves as a Chosen People.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    All the world’s hope and prayers will never end the suffering of either parties in this war. The only end ever to the death and destruction would be when there is no one left to hate.

    In the same way the destruction of ZA will not end until the ANC is dead and gone or the people in its care are dead. Regularly the annual ZA murder rate is quoted as a foil to the ANC’s response to the middle east slaughter, but the actual figure of ZA dead at the hands of ANC and its dismal “leaders” and their destruction of public service structures, dwarfs the slaughter in the middle east.

    Who are rushing to come to our defense?

  • Justin Pringle says:

    I believe we shouldn’t be mortally confused about the Hamas attacks nor the Netanyahu government. It was not oppression that lead to the Hamas attacks, but deep rooted ideology. I believe the only way to defeat this ideology is by recognising it and strong communication between parties (excl Jihadists) on a common path forward. I am sure the only way for that to occur is focus on a common future. We have all failed with responding emotionally in seeing this conflict incl Gift of the Givers.

  • Ken Shai says:

    The great source of info is Al Jazeerah channel 406, with all the real life footage! Several Al Jazeerah journalists sacrificed their lives to produce this most detailed footage right from the spot, but Israel cannot close down Al Jazeerah as the wished because they still need Qatar as the mediator.
    Comparison of Israel with South Africa are an insult to white South Africans, it has never been even remotely as bad as in Israel. It is impossible to imagine apartheid government waging war against hospitals or bombing churches. The crucial difference is that in South Africa, perhaps several people, such as Verwoerd in the government considered themselves a master race and blacks human animals, but in general white people had empathy for the blacks, but in Israel the master race mentality for whom living space has to be cleared up by depopulation of land from natives, is the prevalent mentality among the Jews. Hence in Israel there is absolutely no hope of South African peaceful resolution.

  • Denise Smit says:

    Matar in his article suggests a possible solution in future would be negotiations with the PLO. Do they still exist? Gift of the Givers are usually the first to become involved with negotiations about hostages. They now have a reason not to become involved but becoming politically involved in asking for the expulsion of the Israeli embassy. Are their negotiations only reserved for non-Jews?

  • Denise Smit says:

    Your article does not pass the test for truth and objectivity

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