Defend Truth


Israel risks pulling the rest of humanity into the abyss at a deeply critical moment in history


Natale Labia writes on the economy and finance. Partner and chief economist of a global investment firm, he writes in his personal capacity. MBA from Università Bocconi. Supports Juventus.

And into the abyss we go. The question is how deep? Whenever it seems we have reached the nadir of darkness and evil, humanity goes ever deeper still.

It is far too early to begin the analysis which the past two weeks will eventually demand. Humanity is grieving. Perhaps all one can do at this stage is reflect on the enormity of what has happened, and try to gain some semblance of perspective.

The siege of Gaza has started and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised “mighty vengeance”, vowing to “eliminate” Hamas after the horror unleashed on Israel on 7 October. 

Hamas may be driven out from the impoverished Gaza Strip; Netanyahu claims his actions will “change the Middle East”.

Despite the epoch-altering event that was 7 October for Israel, already their response looks not only disproportionate, but also ill-considered. 

These attacks have been likened to 9/11 for Israel. If that is indeed the comparison, then should one not also consider the consequences of America’s response to its loss of innocence 22 years ago? Among others, they led to a series of financially ruinous wars, illegal torture camps and the Taliban regaining power in Afghanistan.

Perhaps another comparison is also apt: that of 1982 and of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Then, Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon vowed to purge the Middle East of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. He too wanted to change the Middle East, by sending his troops all the way to Beirut, and besieged the city for two months. 

It became a quagmire, and turned into a major strategic blunder by Israel. 

Not only did the invasion result in the mass slaughter of Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, it created the axis of resistance which persists to this day – from Tehran right through Damascus to southern Lebanon. 

Sadly, however, even this awful chapter of death and destruction would pale in comparison with the humanitarian catastrophe that could play out over the following weeks and months in Gaza.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East News Hub

When US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken makes thinly veiled comments saying that “how Israel does this matters. We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard … That’s why it’s so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians”, Israel should listen. 

Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister of Jordan – a state which recognises the State of Israel and is a firm ally of the US – was even more specific, saying that Israel’s order to Palestinians in northern Gaza to move to the territory’s south when war was “raging” was a “flagrant violation of international law, international humanitarian law, and the law of war”. 

Safadi said on Saturday that Israel’s offensive was causing a humanitarian catastrophe that represented the “collective punishment of more than 2 million Palestinians” and was “pushing the entire region towards the abyss”. 

Meanwhile, Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, has warned that Israel may be on the verge of a “mass ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians in Gaza. 

The World Health Organization echoed these sentiments, saying on Sunday that “forced evacuation of hospitals may amount to a violation of international humanitarian law”.

What Hamas committed were vile acts of evil for which it will, and indeed must, be punished. The key change is that, previously, the horrors of war were regrettable but perhaps inevitable consequences. 

Now, horror is central to the precise methodology of war, and there are few organisations which illustrate that vileness as vividly as Hamas. 

Read more: The End of the Future? Absence of peace in Middle East may escalate into global war

Some Western countries, notably Norway, do not regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation, partly in the hope of some day fashioning an unlikely resolution – but that surely is now a policy open to question. 

However, the effective eradication of Hamas does not entail the mass slaughtering of civilians and depriving millions of basic necessities such as water, humanitarian aid and electricity. 

Such medieval tactics are not only unbefitting of a supposedly law-abiding democracy, but they will also sow the seeds of ever greater extremism and hatred in the future. 

The majority of Palestinians, in Gaza and beyond, are not part of Hamas.

This is especially important at this deeply critical moment in world history. 

Israel is even being lectured by the likes of Vladimir Putin, who has himself committed war crimes in his slaughter of Ukrainians. 

“In my view, it is unacceptable,” Putin told reporters at a summit in Kyrgyzstan last week, comparing Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War 2. 

“More than 2 million people live there. Far from all of them support Hamas by the way, far from all. But all of them have to suffer, including women and children.” 

In one volte-face, Putin has instrumentalised Israel’s tactics and assumed the moral high ground versus the West. Hamas, backed by Russian ally Iran, and with the tacit approval of China, has created a new Middle Eastern front of the Second Cold War. 

Preaching the rule of law and human rights to Putin, while allowing Israel to commit the same crimes, is exactly the kind of hypocrisy which Putin knows will sow divisions in the West’s alliance and weaken its resolve on winning the war in Ukraine.

As South Africans, we should be fully aware that the only way to defeat an illegal, vengeful force of evil is what we learnt from Mandela. As he famously said, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

He would not expect anyone to accept the heinous acts that Hamas committed last week. But surely, if he was alive today, he would ask everyone to teach love, empathy and care to the young and innocent, both within Israel and throughout the occupied territories of Palestine. 

The danger now is of more strategic blunders that will only perpetuate the violence for years to come. 

All parties involved in this sordid and unspeakably awful situation should take heed of Nietzsche, when he warned that “whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster”. 

“If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” DM


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  • Ben Harper says:

    As the son of the Hamas leader said – the day Hamas loves it’s children more that it hates the Jews is the day there will be peace

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Yes – there is no rationalty here.

      One thing I noted in the series Fauda was how the Jewish SSA were able to blend in so easily “under cover” and whether the intention of the series or not, it was apparent to me that this was because there are not the differences between them that they may think.

      It is so sad how easily our species forgets that unlike war, making love is fun, and no one dies.

      • Ben Harper says:

        Spot on Ricky. 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arab, Israel encouraged Arabs to remain to build a new nation together, they were rewarded by an outright attack in an attempt to obliterate them.

    • Louise Louise says:

      That may or may not be true? Isn’t it rather more complex than that? Hamas was funded initially by the US, as was Al Qaeda/ISIS. The recent attack by Hamas was seemingly allowed to happen for 7 hours without any retaliation/response by the IDF. The Iron Dome and the top of the range security systems which Israel is supposed to have apparently “failed”. Several retired IDF personnel have come out to say they are astounded that the attack happened, especially given the apparent warnings by Egypt several days ahead that something was going to happen.

      Whatever the truth is about how this horrific atrocity happened, ultimately human beings on both sides (with the majority being children in Gaza) are dying in their hundreds, if not thousands and being maimed in their thousands. Israel is committing war crimes without impunity and the useless UN sits back and does nothing. The UN is a perfectly useless body for the normal people – when has it ever prevented wars or genocides?

      Putin has not slaughtered civilians. The conflict in Ukraine is a military one and no, I’m not condoning it at all. All war and conflicts are wrong and barbaric. One hopes that soon the funding by the US will be cut off to Ukraine and the conflict will end.

      The rot in Palestine started when the British paved the way for the Jews to go to Palestine, resulting in several million Palestinian refugees seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. This horrible situation just snowballed from there.

      • Ben Harper says:

        Putin has not slaughtered civilians? Really???

      • Ben Harper says:

        Please educate yourself, there is so much wrong with what you’ve written here

        • Jaine Hannath says:

          Thank you for that balanced piece, Natale. I fully agree with your post Louise. My thinking is Israeli provocation at the Al Aqsa mosque played its part in unleashing the Operation Al Asqu Hamas attack. The Israeli Iron Dome failure, professing lack of intel plus their poor response at the time of the attack speaks to me of known sacrificial collateral damage for the Israeli’s – knowing Hamas would respond to Israeli’s provocation and open the door for a full on attack on Gaza. Mr Harper, your response to Louise’s post – your opinion, delivered in sound bite responses are appalling – revealing your unwavering bully-take on any subject contrary to your belief. You revealed your own ignorance today in giving credit of Golda Meir’s astute and profound 1948 quote ;
          “The day Hamas love their children more than they hate Jews, is the day there will be peace” to Hama’s is just spreading Hama’s propaganda. They use it to strike fear, convey their brutality and disregard for life – at the expense of their own children, let alone innocent Palestinians and Israelis.
          That is my opinion.

          • Ben Harper says:

            Take off the rose tinted glasses

          • Steve Davidson says:

            Well said – and don’t forget their disgraceful actions in the West Bank either. Harper is a Zionist troll. Ignore him if you can.

          • Ben Harper says:

            Ah, Mr Davison, the man who likes to throw homophobic slurs and is openly anti-sematic in the extreme

      • Dawie CT says:

        There is the main issue that you forget and that is that Israel was given status as a country 14 May 1948. Palestinians were offered a country, BUT they want to be in control of Israel & declared that they want to ‘wipe’ the Jews off the face of the earth. So they did not become a state as they want Israel. Check out the ‘pay for slay’ scheme that Palestine is using to pay their terrorists and their families for killing Israelis & see where the real atrocities are in this issue. Mandela spoke about loving others and not born as a hater. In Palestine they indoctrinate their kids to WANT to be suicide bombers as they hate the Jews. Kids younger than 10 openly say they want to be a ‘martyr’ by killing Jews. How do you teach your kids this & think it will not cause problems???
        Get the truth about the Palestinians, who are neither Jews or Arabs, then ask yourself why none of the Arab countries want them in their borders. The last election in Palestine was when Mahmoud Abbas was elected many moons ago. When they voted in 2005, 44% of them voted for Hamas (Hebrew = violence, see Genesis 6:11). Since 2007 they are the majority in Palestine with NO elections. Check the details then stop the slander of Israel, the ONLY democracy in that region.
        I can add lots more, but it’s not necessary. Check these facts & see the evil for what it is. This is a fight between evil & good.

        • Kanu Sukha says:

          Did you get your ‘education’ during the apartheid era ? Sounds like it is going to be some while … before you get beyond it .

          • Pieter van de Venter says:

            Kanu, is it a question of Kanu read, or do you justs read the propaganda!!

            Remember, there are at least 2 sides but it is true, the Palestinians have said no on many more occasions as the Israeli’s. At least they tried to compromise.

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          Well considered response. Unfortunately the geo-politics can’t be seen in isolation, and therefore I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion

      • A.K.A. Fred says:

        My initial response was flagged, but maybe this one will post. Putin is a butcher and is illegally occupying a sovereign state. His war and his occupation will not go away if the USA cut off funding to Ukraine.

      • Pieter van de Venter says:

        I echo – Putin has not slaughtered civilians? Really???

  • Alexis Kriel says:

    “Israel risks pulling the rest of humanity into the abyss at a deeply critical moment in history”. No, my friend – if Israel was obliterated, the world would still be left with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. It just so happens, that Israel is on the frontline. They are not “pulling the rest of humanity into the abyss”. But, of course, Israel will be blamed.

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    Disappointing to see the comments above trying to demonise the general Palestinian population – typical evangelical/right-wing propaganda devoid of truth or decency. There’s a long history of violence in which Palestinians generally got the short end of the stick; progressively lost their land and thereby creating fertile soil for extremism. It’s just to easy to say Israel want peace while occupying vast tracts of Palestinian land. Hamas has turned into a great evil and meets every definition of a terrorist organisation (along with it’s allies), but trying to paint Israel as noble state fighting for freedom is absolute bull. We’re dealing with the hell of war in which monsters trample the people on both sides. The international community should punish both Hamas and Israel for their war crimes – it’s not one or the other.

    • Enver Klein says:

      I do not condone the violence nor support war, however there are far bigger schemes at play here.
      What I can really not to get to grips with, is the claim that the land belongs to the “Jews” because they have had it for thousands of years? Why did the Jews “lose” the land so many times? Because each time they went against God’s law. As per the Talmud they cannot take the land back by force, yet that is exactly what the Zionists are doing and therefore going against the law again. Zionists will not rest until there are no longer any Palestinians left in the land, Hamas is just an excuse to assist them is this plan. Netanyahu supports a strong Hamas.

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        Some pertinent observations Willem .

      • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

        Unfortunately, many memo’s seem to have missed you. Nowhere in the Talmud is this said – in fact Joshua took Israel by force the very first time, even though it was the Promised Land to his predeccessor Moses. And on it goes throughout the Talmud. Next – if you know anything about modern-day zionists, they have tried too hard, and forever to their own detriment, to placate everyone and co-exist with so-called “palestinians” (another falsehood, because Jews are actually real palestinians until the PLO hijacked the term). And in what planet would Netenyahu support a strong Hamas, let alone the exitence of such an evil organisation?

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    The buzzword “disproportionate” will seemingly always pop up at this time. What would be “proportionate”? Or to reframe the discussion in these terms – why is the “humanitarian crisis” always framed in terms of the “2 million civilians in Gaza” in reference to Israel and not “7 million Israelis” in reference to the Arab world that surrounds it? When a phrases like “from Jordan to the sea” are chanted at protests – are their supporters suggesting another holocaust?

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Surely the ‘siege’ of Gaza did not start on October the 8th ? Has it not been in place for some 60 odd years … with Israel ‘allowing’ Palestinians (for which they will have to be eternally thankful it seems) a few of them to cross into an ever expanding Israel (with unrelenting illegal settlements in occupied territory with the complicity and condonement of the US) … as cheap labour. Remember how our apartheid regime use to allow ‘black’ people from ‘homelands’ into city’s for work only but not ‘residence’ ? And the two entities that unconditionally supported that regime right to the end … not so strange … US and Israel ! Some people just don’t learn from ‘history’ it seems ? Imagine living in a territory in which the water and electricity (amongst others) infrastructure is controlled by the occupying force/regime ? In fact one US president (Obama) even had the audaciousness to ask a question to the effect of – “can’t they just stop building the illegal settlements on occupied land ? ” How impertinent of him !

    • Ben Harper says:

      So why does Egypt keep it’s border with Gaza closed? Why are none of the neighbouring Arab states welcoming the Palestinian people from Gaza with open arms?

    • Ben Harper says:

      As I thought, you can’t or rather won’t answer the question. Nikki Haley said it perfectly, the Arab nations do not want terrorists in their countries

  • jared lee says:

    Surely if you are bringing up the Sabra and Shatila massacre that you should mention it was perpetrated by the Labanese and not the Israelis?

  • David Crossley says:

    There appears to be mounting evidence that it was not Israel that attacked the hospital, but of course this will be challenged by all and sundry in countries supporting the Palestinians – Israel is on a hiding to nothing trying to prove that they had nothing to do with the hospital explosion.
    The Jews have been persecuted, enslaved and slaughtered for thousands of years and have been forced into a diaspora all over the world.
    Inevitably, they will make a stand in the Holy Land because they have a right to be there – but so do the people of Palestine, so best the 2 sides broker a permanent agreement, no matter what.
    The key in my opinion is to outlaw Hamas, Hizbollah and the other terrorist organisations that hold their people to ransom and let a more moderate and pragmatic government negotiate a permanent solution – and that goes for the Israelis as well – they must oust their ultra-right-wing government and look to pragmatism as well.

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      Unfortunately, this isn’t a battle for pragmatists. On the one hand you have an Arab world, and a large part of western liberal democracy (with unfinished antisemitic business) who want a country “from the Jordan to the sea”, completely “judenfrei”. On the other are 7-odd million Israeli Jews (excluding about the same in the diaspora), who have already experienced a holocaust within their living memory. Difference is that now we have a country, and one of the most powerful armies in the world. Jewish blood is no longer cheap.

      • Dietmar Horn says:

        “…and a large part of western liberal democracy (with unfinished antisemitic business) who want a country “from the Jordan to the sea”, completely “judenfrei”.”???

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          Perhaps you’ve missed the mass street protests in places like London, or the letters of support from all of the Ivy League institutions in the USA, etc., etc. Expect more in these liberal democracies (who so easily seem to be able to swallow up women’s rights abuse as long it’s the Taliban, or gay rights abuse and the death penalty as long as it’s the Arab world). Nothing unsurprising or unexpected. Expect an increase. Within hours of the largest single-day massacre of Jews since the holocaust their true colours came out.

          • Dietmar Horn says:

            Liberal democracies with a plural society are always challenged by parts of this society that hate the values ​​and principles of liberal democracy. If such excesses are countered using constitutional means, they will not immediately disappear from the scene. This is exactly what distinguishes liberal democracy from autocratic states. To equate liberal democracies in the same sentence with Arab states in which anti-Semitism is the reason of state is inappropriate and does not serve Israel’s interests.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      “The Jews have been persecuted, enslaved and slaughtered for thousands of years and have been forced into a diaspora all over the world.”
      If true, I wonder why?

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Mr. Labia, please tell me what Israel is supposed to do in order to be able to live in peace? Israel has a lot to be ashamed of, like all the new settlements on what is supposed to be Palestinian land and other things of the past. Not all Palestinians are Hamas, but from what I have seen and heard, many of them seem to like them a lot. Let’s not forget who started this “war” and how they did it.

  • Rael Chai says:

    Israel needs to respond proportionately? How would you have Israel respond proportionately? Send soldiers into Gaza to slaughter whole families in their bed? Cut their throats? Burn them? Or do you expect Israel to send Hamas a strongly worded email? I don’t think people who call for a proportionate response even know what they are calling for.

  • Why is the world on edge as Israel prepares to enter ground operations in Gaza

    Why was there not a single demonstration from these same empathetic Muslims and human rights activists toward the millions of lives destroyed in Syria under Bashar al-Assad where According to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, 135,501 civilians had been killed until June 2020. According to the Statista Research Department, at least 207,000 civilians had been killed by March 2023 this year , including about 25,000 children.

    Where is the empathy or care for Black September (Arabic: أيلول الأسود Aylūl al-ʾAswad), also known as the Jordanian Civil War …an armed conflict between Jordan, led by King Hussein, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), led by chairman Yasser Arafat…between 16 and 27 September 1970, where 30000 were slaughtered in a week… .

    What about The Circassian genocide,or Tsitseku the Russian Empire’s systematic mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and expulsion of 95–97% of the Circassian population, resulting in 1 to 1.5 million deaths during the final stages of Russo-Circassian War, The peoples planned for extermination were mainly the Muslim Circassians

    Where is human rights demonstrations on mass on darfur , Cambodia , Myanmar, iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Ukraine , boko haram Nigeria and and and and

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      You know who can’t be blamed here right?

    • Ben Harper says:

      Well, the fact that a US Congresswoman used photos of children murdered by the Syrian regime in an abhorrent chemical weapon attack claiming these were children killed by Israel says it all. There is a fake narrative that certain elements need to push incessantly to try and give terrorist organisations some kind of credibility and gain them sympathy to hide their atrocities. It’s actually quite sickening

  • Martin Smith says:

    Only Israel has agency; other parties respond like automatons (apparantly).

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