Editor’s View: Do right by the people of Palestine

Palestinian men walk amidst the rubble of a UNRWA school in Gaza City, which was destroyed overnight in an Israeli airstrike on October 8, 2023. Picture: Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via AFP

Palestinian men walk amidst the rubble of a UNRWA school in Gaza City, which was destroyed overnight in an Israeli airstrike on October 8, 2023. Picture: Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via AFP

Published Oct 9, 2023


You have to view the conflict between Palestine and Israel in the context of South Africa’s own liberation Struggle.

That Struggle was a just cause. The vast majority of South Africans were being oppressed by a minority government, an apartheid government supported by the West and propped up by a narrative that South Africans engaging in the Struggle for freedom were simply terrorists.

We now live in a just society - not without its faults and failings - underpinned by one of the most robust and admirable Constitutions in the world. The rights enshrined therein ensuring all South Africans benefit from a democracy won by blood, sweat and tears, paid for with the lives of heroes.

The conflict between Palestine and Israel is a lot less parochial than our own Struggle, but there are enough similarities we can draw.

First off, let me explain my position on Jewish people and the Jewish people of Israel. A distinction must be drawn between the Jewish people, and Zionist extremists. The people of Israel too must be seen in this context as different from Israel’s right-wing government that engages in apartheid practices at the expense of Palestinian lives.

On the other side of the crisis are the Palestinian people, themselves fractured and distinct in their views of how a resolution to the conflict can be achieved.

You have Hamas, an organisation that has been in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), internationally recognised as the official representative of the Palestinian people and led by Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the West Bank through the Palestinian Authority. Both the PLO and the PA are controlled by Fatah, a nationalist political party founded by Yasser Arafat.

Make no mistake: the conflict between Palestine and Israel is as much a religious conflict as it is a political one.

And when there is religious fundamentalism, no solution can be found.

But a solution must be found for the benefit of the people of Palestine. That, like our liberation Struggle in South Africa against the apartheid regime, is a just cause.

While Palestine’s resistance to Israel’s occupation is itself fractured and Palestine itself is not united, there can be no united front or standpoint from which to bargain. The various forces at play in Palestine do not all agree on the two-state solution, for example.

The actions of Israel in its ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, the encroachment, and land and home invasion by Israeli settlers, and the ongoing apartheid practices imposed by the Israeli government in Palestinian territories suggests Israel too does not support the two-state solution.

All the while, thousands of innocent people in Palestine are being killed, are dying, are being dehumanised, abused, and having their rights trampled upon.

There also appears to be discord in the international community, with no real will to find a solution that benefits the people of Palestine. Why else would the West rush to Israel’s defence despite it being the apparent aggressor for the last half a century, while also supporting Ukraine, the apparent victim of an annexation by Russia.

By the Ukraine situation logic, the international community should be rushing to Palestine’s aid.

But there has been nothing but silence.

Until now.

Let’s get one thing clear: I do not condone the attack by Hamas this past weekend nor will I offer any justification for it. But I will say the Palestinian people have suffered more than enough humiliation and death to last several lifetimes and an uprising was not surprising.

Let’s also all agree that Hamas does not represent all the people of Palestine, and there are Palestinians who I’m sure are also hanging their heads in mourning the loss of life in Israel as a result of this recent attack.

But where is this huge public outcry when the Israeli government murders school children in the course of “defending itself”?

In order for there to be lasting peace between Palestine and Israel, there are a few things that need to happen.

  • The international community needs to put its geo-political motives aside and agree on the best outcome for the Palestinian people;
  • The Palestinian people and their leaders and organisations need to come together and agree on what is best for the Palestinian people;
  • And Israel needs to end its occupation of, and apartheid practices in Palestine, which would be the best thing for the Palestinian people.

Coming back to my earlier point; there can be no solution found in a conflict driven by religious fundamentalism. A situation where Hamas is aiming for the annihilation of Israel, and Zionists are aiming for the annihilation of Palestine is not tenable, and not in the interests of the Palestinian people.

Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind has been re-echoing in my mind since the latest escalation of violence, and some lyrics stand out in particular:

Yes, and how many years must a mountain exist

Before it is washed to the sea?

And how many years can some people exist

Before they're allowed to be free?

Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind

The answer is blowin' in the wind

Yes, and how many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky?

And how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, and how many deaths will it take 'til he knows

That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind

The answer is blowin' in the wind

* Lance Witten is the Editor-in-Chief of IOL