As I sit at my desk, I write in stillness. I write thoughtfully, both wearily and warily, and also angrily. It’s a strange combination of emotions from someone who only realised the full extent of what is happening in the Middle East later in life. Yet what has happened recently has left me dumbfounded. To reiterate, I am a blogger, and all the facts (or what you may think they are) are available widely, what I present is simply my opinion.
My first inkling of what was happening there was at a very young age. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister was assassinated in 1995. I was 10 years old. It was a big news story, but it still never hit me how big the situation was over there. “Over there” is an apt description for this problem, but more about that later. In South Africa we were basking in the afterglow of our democracy and hard-won freedom.
Ten years before that I was born during a state of emergency in South Africa. Stones were thrown, rocks were hurled and people were arrested. Gross human rights were inflicted on a people who wanted dignity and freedom which they felt they deserved. If I were not an infant, had I been born twenty years earlier, I probably would have been on the front line throwing a stone myself, or even a makeshift bomb. Who could say how one would act, and react, when forced to live that way?
The world turned its back on South Africa, and its apartheid policies and the concept of good neighbourliness. After all, (I say with extreme sarcasm, lest it not be detected by some) we were neighbours! Europeans and non-Europeans were given their own land and were told to be content with said land, despite the immense discrepancy between the two, and the non-Europeans being deprived of rights available to others.
So am I excusing Hamas of firing rockets at Israel? Without being an apologist, and at the risk of being reductive, yes I am.
Because just like if I were an adult of apartheid South Africa, which also started in 1948, the same year as the inception of the state of Israel, then there’s no saying what I would have been doing or where my life would have ended up. Similarly, the ghettoization of a people extends to the ghettoization of the mind. Ideological and physical spaces are related, and the two are absolutely affected. Therefore the frustration felt by the collapse of endless peace talks and promises, and the hopelessness they must face, while the other side of the wall flourishes, should be enough of a reason for this whole “war” to end immediately.
So yes, I can’t condemn Hamas for firing those rockets. Now WHO they are firing them at is unfortunate, because I do not want a single death or injury, especially innocent civilians.
What I don’t condone is anti-Semitism and Hitler comparisons. That is cruel and not fair. I sympathise with Israeli people, because they simply wanted a land of their own, especially since the end of the holocaust. But to expel others from their land, and then constantly violate human rights and international law is deplorable. The fact that the irony of this escapes Israelis is very sad to me. But I get the feeling that Israeli people do not want sympathy; they want to hang on to that land, whatever it takes. They want the image of being in charge and in control, so no, I don’t foresee a bright future here.
Israel is a broken nation, of broken people. They are hurt and need to heal. This is another South African similarity expressed so beautifully by poet Lebo Mashile on an episode of The Big Debate. The episode was about race, yet I feel her comment about white South Africans was one of the most insightful indictments I have ever heard. See that here.
While I believe that the Jewish people deserve a homeland, I do not understand why it has to be at the expense of the Palestinians. The political rhetoric is an indication of how this is a “war” that will be waged for a very long time. But like I always say, if you trace a problem back long enough, the origin will reveal itself.
This viral video, in its simplicity (and, I think, tongue in cheek nature) captures what I understand the problem to be so well. And like the message the video tries to espouse, it doesn’t matter who started it, or when it started, right now people are dying and it has to end somewhere.
But back to the “good neighbours” concept: How laughable. How insane that people are made to be grateful for being allowed to live. Let me try this analogy: My neighbour comes up to me and slaps me. I get a gun and shoot him, because I’ve been beat up before and felt victimised, and my friend is the local magistrate. My neighbour was not right for hitting me, but I was equally wrong for hitting back, and the level of proportion was unfair on my part. You can do the math for yourself by casting the roles of Hamas, Israel and the USA.
Now I am fully aware that I am contradicting myself for this example with my above comment on Hamas, but I think the point is made, and remains.
The past week and the killings of Palestinians and Israelis made me so sad because, once again, ordinary people are the pawns in a game so much bigger than we know. One such game is the arms race. America funds Israel, yet Israel is America’s biggest buyer of arms. It reminded me of a reading in an ecology lecture in which the USA and India sent the same amount of wheat to each other, simply to keep their trade relations afloat. They could have just grown the wheat and given it to their people, but then there wouldn’t be any money involved.
The machine of war needs to keep churning and feeding, or it risks dying. It is in the best interests of those who like their money big to keep the world in some state of war.
When I see people on social media angry at what is happening, the killings and the complacency, I can’t help but smirk knowing that this is a business, and the broadcasters simply have to go where the money is. Speaking of social media, hypocrisy and anger, a friend posted a Facebook status. It read:
“I’m all for ending wars, and I firmly believe that the latest attacks on Palestine are horrendous. I also think the war in Syria is atrocious (where over 400 children are dead). The Chinese occupation of Tibet is diabolical (over 15,000 deaths thus far). Can we all maybe unite for them as well seeing that uniting against wars is a HUMAN CONDITION. Please guys don’t let your activism be a fad. Don’t let it end with Palestine. FREE TIBET! FREE SYRIA! FREE PALESTINE!”
I shared the status update, and I fully agree. I didn’t, however, agree with the timing of it, but it also highlighted how complacent we are. Not only South Africans, but also the world. If it were happening to your country, you would want others to speak up and fight with you to end the killing and oppression. As someone who tries my best to remain conscious and educated about all issues, local and international, I fully agree and will wait what will happen once the smoke clears. Will we move on to the next hot-button issue?
I am aware that my blog post is a blip on the radar, but all I can do is hope to enlighten and that the suffering will end soon, for all.
Author Jerome Cornelius