BONGANI HANS and LOYISO SIDIMBA
THE conflict in the Middle East, which has recently escalated into a full-blown war between Israel and Palestine, has exposed the United Nations (UN) as a toothless and biased organisation, which serves the West’s interest, according to political analyst Mpumelelo Zikalala.
The two nations have for centuries been at each other's throats over occupation of Palestinian land and Israeli authorities building settlements for its citizens on the occupied territories.
The indiscriminate bombing started after militants linked to Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, entered the Israeli towns killing Jewish citizens and tourists, including those who attended a music festival while kidnapping others to be kept in Gaza as hostages.
Zikalala found it mind-boggling that the UN had not done much to react to the war, which saw the Israeli army attacking Gaza killing thousands of people, including defenceless women and children, and destroying homes, among other infrastructure.
“The most pressing question that you must ask yourself is why the UN is not at the forefront making sure that people are protected.
“It (UN) is so silent to such an extent that it is not calling for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid,” said Zikalala.
However, it was reported on Wednesday that UN secretary-general António Guterres had called for an immediate ceasefire in order to facilitate Hamas’s release of the hostages and for Israel to allow unrestricted access to aid.
The Israeli authorities have gone as far as cutting water and electricity supply to Gaza while closing routes for humanitarian aid and the army ordering Gaza citizens to leave their homes.
The war broke international rules this week when bombardment destroyed Gaza’s Al-Ahli Arab Hospital leaving hundreds of people dead.
Despite having already taken a stance of supporting Palestine's struggle for freedom from the oppressive Israeli government, the South African government, according to Zikalala, still had a role in negotiating peace settlement between warring parties.
He said it was important for any African country to seek peace because that war has potential to affect their economy in terms of crude oil availability.
Another analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo appreciated the ANC’s support for Palestine although this might have consequences.
“This is a historical and principle position the ANC took and it has been consistent on it.
“Whether it yields results or not is a principle position which I personally support because the issue of Palestine needs to be understood and appreciated especially by black South Africans,” he said.
Teffo said the Palestinians were going through what black South Africans went through during apartheid.
“The history of Palestine is not dissimilar from ours, it is the history of the people deprived of their land. Once upon a time we were in a similar situation and part of the world, including Palestine and Yasser Arafat (late Palestine president), rallied to help us,” Teffo said.
He said for centuries, the struggle of Palestine has always divided the world as the poor countries supported Palestinians while their elite and former colonisers counterparts would rally behind Israel.
US President Joe Biden visited Israel this week to pledge support for the Israeli government’s defence for its citizens.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also visited the region to “demonstrate British backing for the Israeli government, call for de-escalation of the conflict and press for humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza”.
“The Jews wield more power and are in charge of the American economy and American politics and one, especially a president, who dares not to support Israel knows what would happen to him literally, politically and physically.
“An American president who tries not to support Israel knows what would happen to him,” said Teffo.
He said many African leaders were prepared to toe the line and support the West.
“Because their governments cannot succeed without financial support from the West and whoever pays the piper calls the tune.
“That is why Naledi Pandor (international relations and cooperation minister) when she tried to rally support (for Palestine) in a principled position in the African Union only three countries were prepared to support her, the rest refused because they are dependent on the West in the sense that some of them stay too long in the power and they are sustained by the West.
“Some of them created so many enemies that if they don’t support the West, the West can influence their own people to unseat them. They know that when they are kicked out of power they can always go to their colonial masters to die there. So can you bite the hand that feeds you? I guess not,” Teffo said.
The ANC this week said a peaceful resolution to the conflict would be to create two states as a permanent solution and premised on the 1967 borders.
The governing party has characterised as inhumane the call by Israel for over one million Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate and leave their homes as deeply concerning and likened it to genocide as it is very impractical as the people to be moved out are patients admitted to hospitals, children and the elderly.
Instead, the ANC demanded that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate human rights violations and respond to the cases of Israeli crimes against humanity and will ask the government it leads to place the matter on the UN Human Rights Council’s agenda.
It also urged the ICC to accelerate the issuing its advisory opinion on Israeli state’s conduct against Palestinians.
The ANC also wants Guterres and UN agencies to visit Palestine and report to the UN General Assembly and its Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
SA Federation of Trade Unions affiliate, the General Industries Workers Union of SA (Giwusa), has called a National Day of Action on Tuesday, October 24, across the country to demand an end to the ongoing carnage.
”The National Day of Action aims to bring together the various voices around the country who are condemning the violence of the state of Israel. On this day, we will be united through mass demonstrations in all key cities, in a momentous display of unprecedented mass solidarity with the people of Palestine,” Giwusa said.
The union will use the National Day of Action to call upon the ANC government to expel the Israeli ambassador, to disinvest from and expropriate Zionist companies and to provide material support to Palestinians who are fighting to wrestle control over their land from colonial forces.