Kenneth Moeng Mokgatlhe
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, said: “In foreign affairs, we must make up our minds that whether we wish it or not, we are great people and must play a great part in the world. It is not open to us to choose whether we will play that great part or not.”
These words are true to our current political leadership in South Africa who are not sure how to intervene in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Both the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Palestine conflicts have negatively exposed South Africa’s foreign policy. Pretoria’s longstanding claim to be non-aligned on its foreign policy is being questioned on the two conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East respectively.
The government has implicitly and explicitly sided with Russia over Ukraine. For many years, because of the ANC’s friendship with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the government has been leaning towards Palestine while neglecting Israel and South Africa’s Jewry.
Both the Muslim and Jewish communities have enormously contributed towards the development and growth of this country, they still have a space and opportunity to make this country a better place to live in.
There is no doubt that South Africa’s Jewry cannot be divorced from Israel and the Muslim community cannot be separated from their Muslim countries. South Africa, therefore, has a bigger role in being a uniting force for its diverse citizens.
South Africa, as a country that experienced colonialism and apartheid, should be at the forefront of offering mediation between warring nations instead of fuelling divisions and playing politics over encouraging conflicts by picking sides.
It is sickening to see or hear the government officials and some political parties not condemning the Hamas October 7 massacre where scores of Israelis were maimed, killed, raped, tortured and abducted.
Some political parties who claim to be advocating for peace and stability between Israel and Palestine kept quiet when young people, the elderly, children, and the disabled were brutally killed by the terrorist Hamas earlier last month because they thought it was a revolutionary act.
Hamas, a religious and political movement governing Gaza since 2007, carried out barbarian and cowardly attacks on unarmed civilians during the Jewish holidays. The videos were captured while killing Israelis as a means of psychological warfare to instil fear among the Israelis and people around the world. People were humiliated before they were killed, they died without dignity.
The world kept quiet, there was never an urgent meeting to discuss these brutal attacks by Hamas until Israel embarked on vengeance and retaliation. I watched the celebration of Hamas inside the streets of the most densely Gaza city as the hostages were beaten in front of cameras. The hostages are still with Hamas, the world seems to have forgotten this.
Having been in power from 2007 until now without going into elections tells us about the state of democracy in that part of the world. It is a common cause that democracy requires men and women to elect their preferred leadership on a regular basis to manage the country’s affairs.
Those who are elected into powerful offices should be held accountable through established institutions meant to strengthen democracy.
It is important to note that the war is between Israel and Hamas. Hamas, as it is known, uses poor Palestinians as human shields. As the number of casualties is skyrocketing from both sides, the Ministry of Health in Gaza run by Hamas seems to be inflating the numbers and overemphasise the number of women and children however they are not saying the number of men who are active participants of Hamas who brutally attacked Israel. It is not easy to trust the numbers given by Hamas.
The US State Department declared the Iranian-backed terrorist organisation, Hamas, as a foreign terrorist organisation in October 1997. European Union (EU) also declared Hamas a terrorist organisation as a result of its armed resistance and wish to annihilate Israel.
One of its charter, Hamas calls for the annihilation of Israel. “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it,” the charter read. The group is calling for the absolute destruction of the Jewish State, making it difficult to execute the two-state solution as suggested and supported by peace-loving people across the world.
The world should remember that the previous persecution of the Jewish people during the Second World War in Eastern Europe created distrust, fear, and pain amongst them as they witnessed more than 6 million of their people killed in what is today known as the Holocaust. Jews are still experiencing high levels of anti-semitism across the world in the modern day.
The October 7 surprise attacks reminded the Jewish communities around the world of how they have been attacked throughout the years. It reminded them of how unsafe they are wherever they are in the world. We should not be like other European countries such as France and Germany where Jews are experiencing heightened levels of anti-semitism without any punishment. We need to protect our local Jewry because they do not only form the country’s rich heritage but they also have a bigger place in the future of this country.
Mokgatlhe is an independent writer and political analyst