Hundreds of people gathered on Monday in Cape Town as activists and experts pleaded for a ceasefire in Palestine and urged South Africa to do more.
It has been over a month since violence escalated in the Middle East. Since then, many protests and marches around the world took place in solidarity with Palestine or to call for a ceasefire.
Salaamedia hosted an event where Dr Mads Gilbert, Dr Allan Boesak and Suzanne Hotz spoke about humanitarian crisis.
Gilbert is in South Africa on tour as part of his advocacy campaign in support of healthcare workers in Palestine who are suffering under Israel’s sustained war crimes committed against the people of Gaza and West Bank.
Inayet Wadee of Salaamedia, said the deaths of Palestinians is not just a number or statistic, saying “behind each statistic is a hope for this world”.
“The cause for Palestine is a cause for humanity and freedom. what is happening today is going to determine what the future holds and our new world order.”
Anti-apartheid activist Dr Allan Boesak lamented the government’s statement that expressed that the country cannot close the Israeli embassy due to it being impossible.
“They say they can’t do that because it will be giving into popular rhetoric. Why is a demand in the name of the blood of Palestinian people and children written off as popular rhetoric?,” Boesak asked.
“I would rather be accused of popular rhetoric, than be silent on this. I cannot understand how it is better to be silent and stand side by side with apartheid regime and side by side with those who commit genocide. They say it’s not in our national interest to close the embassy. Is the killing of children in our national interest?”
Boesak called on the the government to do what is right and what the people calls for, not “what a few rich people” want them to do, “if they still want to be the government of South Africa”.
Suzanne Hotz is a clinical psychologist who has been practising for over 20 years. She gave her expert insight on what the Gazan Palestinian mindset is.
“The mental health in Gaza has to be contextualised in the history of the last 75 years plus of colonisation and occupation. As a clinical psychologist with many years experience, I acknowledge feelings of helplessness,” Hotz said.
“I can easily talk about PTSD. It’s a cluster of symptoms experienced and noticed first time when soldiers came back from war and seen again in survivors of concentration camps and in the holocaust. We Jews said ‘never again’ to another genocide. There have been many and we are now talking about another genocide.”
Hotz said the biggest difference between the survivors of the world wars and survivors of concentration camps and the people of Gaza is that the former received intervention and care.
“This is contrast to the people of Gaza who are forced to relive the trauma by the constant incursions of the Zionist Fascist regime. Their traumas are ongoing, horrific and barbaric. The people of Gaza are reliving a never ending nightmare. The children of Gaza, instead of having a childhood, have never known life without fear and death,” she said.
“In my case, the distraught is compounded and aggravated further because as a Jew, Israeli war crimes are supposedly done in my name, and they are not. What we need now is an immediate ceasefire, a permanent ceasefire. A ceasefire that leads to a liberated Palestine.”
Gilbert then took to the stage and called the Israeli government, the Israeli army and Zionists “cowards”.
“We are the majority. We are on the side of Palestinians. And that is so important to remember because it’s easy to feel helpless if you feel alone. This is not the Muslim cause, a Christian cause and not a political cause, it’s a human cause. If we lose this cause we will send our children and people into a new dark age. Who is next, if Gaza falls?” Gilbert asked.
He called on South Africans once again to pressure and “scare” government into “doing the right thing”.
“Israeli has always attacked Palestinian civilians, children, healthcare, hospitals, schools and universities. I have been there so many times, I know their patterns. This is the politics of elimination. You occupy, then systemically kill.”
Earlier on Monday at a press conference, Gilbert explained how attacking the healthcare system matters because by destroying the healthcare system, they are in turn destroying hope.