Palestine and Israel - The Need for 'Moral Pillars'

2014-08-17 17:53

The fallout of Palestinian and Israeli relations has once again dominated global news, leaving the world divided. The sheer callous nature of Israeli strikes on a relatively defenseless and undetermined people evokes sympathy from many, especially in this country, given the similar experiences of our past. The ANC has been quite vocal about its unambiguous support for the Palestinian people, wit some even going as far as calling the Israel a terrorist state. Even our very own political circus act the EFF have gone on the bandwagon. I'm left wondering how much of this sympathetic gesturing is genuine and how much of it isn't deftly planned publicity (perhaps they are both). With the president's refusal to expel the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, things seem quite bleak in the eyes of many pro- Palestinian supporters

His recent attendance to the AGOA Forum (the African Growth and Opportunity Act - signed off by Congress in 2000) may have influenced his decision. President Obama's renewed pledge to African leaders that US investment (in the form of businesses) has left many of them more astute to the sensitivities of US preferences, Israel being no exception. If one where to look at the weighted decisions of siding more affirmatively with the Palestinian cause, or acceding to the demands of its powerful allies like the US and the UK (the latter sitting at the head of our biggest trading partner - the EU), dilemma's abound. One need look no further back than Russia after its annexation of Crimea earlier this year to be reminded of the prevalence and power of sanctions.

So yes, there are consequences for South Africa's siding with the Palestinians more resolutely, and there's no doubt that Pretoria is well aware of this. The importance of economic resurgence, through attracting investment, creating jobs and increasing our economic clout does rely on partnerships which are fragile. These partnerships would of course be tested if government decided to take a more decisive stance on the Palestine issue. Skills development in the requisite areas is another important aspect to increase our relevance in the global market. The recent lengths taken by the Kwa-Zulu Natal department of education have raised more concerns over the private freedoms of female students sent to India for radiography courses.

It saddens me to think of all the children that are being affected by the air strikes, their mangled bodies, blown off limbs and bloodied tears accompanied by inconsolable parents. I'm an uncle to a 15 month old boy, and the though of him involved in harm of any degree upsets me. The daily posts I receive from certain friends in my Facebook wall  are harrowing to look at. Its often been said that the situation in Gaza is no longer a  issue of religion or ethnicity, the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his visiting lecture to our campus stated this unwaveringly. He even went as far as saying that the Zionist government have explicitly used religion as a strategic tool for their ends. these ends are the total removal and if need be, as in the current situation, the use of force against the Palestinian people, for creating a fully homogeneous Jewish state. This desired homogeneity has seen the sterilization of thousands of East African immigrants last year, many of whom had fled their own oppressive conditions in the hope of a better life.

in realizing this, South Africa should be fully behind the Palestinian people, with more concerted efforts to pariah the Zionist state of Israel and ensure that multi-cultural spaces are given a chance to flourish the world over. What use is it calling ourselves the rainbow nation if we cannot [reasonably] exercise our influence where injustice prevails on a group of people undergoing the same oppressive conditions as we have? South Africa's position on the global stage is typified by its openness to all parties and interests. this may be owing to our constitutional framework of tolerance and acceptance. We should not however, stretch this tolerance to the extent of allowing bullies to dictate terms and have their way with the other school children. Justice is not only a set of laws but is also a set of ideals, and at the heart of these ideals lies the concept of  fairness.

history has always been shaped by the bold. This ranges from individuals to entities. The implications for Pretoria severing diplomatic relations are broad. Should the decision be made to cease diplomacy with Israel, all should know that such a decision is not made hastily, or easily. The national capital is home to the highest number of diplomatic offices in the world after Washington DC. This may present either an insurmountable challenge or a distinct opportunity, should Israeli diplomatic houses be shut down. It could either be set as a precedent (in Africa) for other nations to follow, or it could backfire and leave us ostracized from the global stage. Six South American countries have done so already, and to have an African country declare its position in such a manner would solidify global opinion that what is taking place is not to be tolerated. South Africa, and more importantly in my mind, Pretoria, has a strategic role to play in denouncing the criminal acts of the Israeli state.

The role of Hamas has also been pointed out by many in the current state of affairs, leaving some to blame the group almost entirely. I recognize the responsibility that Hamas should bear, given its unrelenting rocketry on Tel-Aviv and parts of Jerusalem, but at the same time I can understand why they'd be so. While everyone was focused on Al-Assad and his mission to retain his grip on Syria, dispossessions of land and homes were carrying on unabated. The militarized regime not only patrols and polices the movement of people but also deposes people from their homes. The indignation the Zionist government is experiencing at the hands of a powerless and dispossessed people (in the form of Hamas) is understandable. Far from condoning their actions, I think they're just as answerable to those who have suffered. Perhaps their knowledge of the scale of retaliatory attacks were weighed from the beginning. Perhaps they've resolved for their own people to become martyrs for global sentiment. Either way, their role in this round of conflict is just as measurable as the Israeli government.

In his public lecture that night, Ilan Pappe's public spoke alot about South Africa's role in boycotting or sanctioning. I failed to hear him mention another country which could also play an important role, and one which could lend more gravity in showing its moral contours. Germany's war reparations had only come to a close last year (supposedly anyway), where an extensive pledge was made by its government to the tune of almost €800 million, in supporting Warsaw Ghetto survivors. Such funding is more than justified, its only right, but the role of the Germans can't only be relegated to a people plagued by their past while attempting to wash away their ancestral sins. If Angele Merkel is bold enough to expel US spies form Berlin then surely she can summon the moral courage to discontinue relations with Israel regarding this issue. Personally I think the US has already provided ample reason for Germany to pursue such action. A firm but fair stance by Germany would surely be a turning point for all other leaders and countries alike.

The social and moral standards we ascribe to as human beings should not be compromised. It is our responsibility to register the wrongs committed by any person or entity on the radars of all around us, with the aim of fairness and correction as the end goal. Values and ideals are worth more than gold in the construction of an empire or a nation. In allowing the continued oppression of a [defenseless] people, the international community is turning a blind eye to their systematic removal from history. Countries with a strategic role to play, should do so. Retaliation by the powers that be is to be expected, but the effects by whom would matter little if the global community followed suit. We should remember that the world is a small place and at the end of the day, people of all races, creeds and colours, have a duty to ensure the fair treatment of our kin. This is especially as increasing shortages of  natural resources from  anthropogenic activity progress. The future is uncertain for all us, and war only exacerbates the problems we face as a collective.

Whether we as a [global] people will allow ourselves to be consigned as passive witnesses to this brutal ethnic cleansing (some would call it genocide) will ultimately depend on how entrenched our values are in our everyday lives. The Mandela quotes aside, this is purely a humanitarian issue. South Africa along with many other nations could well put an end to the crime scene that has become the Gaza strip. Voices like Josh Broomberg are important in letting us know that the youth have sighted moral failures in the reasoning and actions of our seniors the world over. in fact the rest of the world has come to the very same conclusion. Israel has a right to exist as much as any other nation, but when atrocities against children are recurrent, then its recognition by other nations should not only come to be questioned, but also challenged.

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