By Owei Lakemfa, former GS of the Nigerian Labour Congress and former GS of the Organization of African Trade Unions Unity (OATUU).
I AM in mourning, especially since the Monday, May 14, 2018 massacres when well-trained soldiers and snippers deliberately picked out youths and children and sent them to early graves.
Ezz el-din Musa Mohamed Alsamaak was 14, Wisaal Fadl Ezzat Alsheikh Khalil, 15, Ahmed Adel Musa Alshaer and Saeed Mohamed Abu Alkheir were 16 years old when the Israelis murdered them.
On that Monday alone, 59 youngsters, who like the Biblical David, were armed with nothing more lethal than a sling, were gunned down by the Goliaths of the Israeli Army. In almost all cases, the victims did not even have slings, they were armed only with their voices and their conviction that as Palestinians and human beings; just like you and I and the Israelis, they have a right to their homeland.
On that day alone, aside those murdered, 2,771 were injured, including 12 journalists and 17 paramedics; two groups with their profession boldly emblazoned on their jackets. I have read some comments on the social media, blaming the victims for provoking Israel by protesting and I say, if the Palestinians had crossed into Israel to protest, it could be termed provocative, but they were on their own soil just as the Biblical Israelis under King Saul were on their own soil when the Philistines of Gath led by Goliath came to fight them. Today, the golden rule in the lands Jesus and the Disciples once trod, is not ‘Love Thy Neigbour’ but ‘Kill Thy Neigbour’.
I mourn, not because I am Palestinian, no, I am far from that theatre of madness; I am African living in Nigeria. I mourn because a dozen African countries were dining and wining in the new American Embassy in Jerusalem while their Israeli hosts were murdering dozens of defenceless Palestinians. Never mind that Nigeria is still trying to fish out the ghost that represented it.
The logic of our presence in the nest of killers, baffle me; none of the African countries dining and clapping at the new American embassy voted in the United Nations for the United States in December 2017 when it decided to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the Holy City indigenous to Jews and Palestinians. Is it that we are not aware that until 1967, the world, including Israel knew and accepted the fact that East Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians?
I mourn because I pity us Africans who might be unaware that the original ‘Homeland’ designated for Israel by colonial Britain and which the World Jewish Congress accepted, was Uganda. In fact, Jewish delegations were already on ground when some of the European Jews who were to resettle in that beautiful part of our continent which Europeans called ‘The Pearl of Africa’ pointed out that Uganda was landlocked and that the new Jewish nation, would be surrounded by black faces.
If that plan had been fully executed, the state of Israel would have been in today’s Uganda and those being massacred would not have been Palestinians, but Africans.
Some may argue that the Nigerian state has no historical memory hence its attitude can be explained by its new romance with the Trump Presidency, but what do we say of an ancient civilisation like Ethiopia and its rich history of interaction with the Jews, Palestinians and Arabs? South Sudan can be excused as a confused young country where its leaders daily murder the people in the name of a criminally idiotic Civil War, but how do we explain the presence of Rwanda, a country that knows what massacres and genocide mean?
As for Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda would be quite disappointed while Tanzania would make Mwalimu Julius Nyerere turn in his grave that his heirs would be clinking glasses and smiling sheepishly while Israel massacred Palestinians.
The main redeeming feature for me as an African, is that South Africa, a country with memory and consciousness came out boldly on the side of justice. It stated unambiguously: “The victims were taking part in a peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem… Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack, the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice.”
South Africa, as a country that experienced the tragedy of Apartheid and the endless massacres of Africans by that regime, knows too well the iniquities of systems and movements like Nazism and Zionism which preach and practice racial superiority and cleansing. I mourn because as the Bible says in Hosea 4:6 “My people perish for lack of knowledge”.
Many Africans sheepishly and ignorantly support and rationalise the crimes against humanity perpetuated by Israel because they have the false belief that it is a religious conflict. It might have appeared so if the Palestinians were only Muslims and were tied to a particular religion. But they are not; the Palestinians are Christians and Muslims, and highly secular.
Israel is not even a Christian nation; its grassroots are Judaists, but most of its leadership right from its founding in 1948, are atheists! In his 1977 book, “The Jews” Chaim Bermant, one of the most famous and prolific Israeli writers made allusion to this fact. He wrote: “Not all Jews believe in God, but most like to think that God believes in them…the Jews are, as Zangwill once said, the choosing people rather than the chosen people”.
Bermant narrated an historical story during the founding of Israel in May, 1948: “The Declaration of Independence was before them (leaders of Israel) and the Rabbis demanded an affirmation of belief in God. Others protested that God had done too little to deserve such credit, and the term of Rock of Israel was suggested instead.
And Rock of Israel it remained, for as Ben-Gurion (former Polish, David Green who headed the first Israeli government) said, everyone, right, left and centre, believed in the Rock of Israel in his own way.” I mourn because the deaths were avoidable, especially when the lives of the Israelis including those of their soldiers, were not endangered.
After seventy years of sustained bloodshed, the Palestine deserves peace despite the provocation of war mongers like President Donald Trump. All that is needed for peace to reign is to negotiate the Two-State Solution; the existence of the Israeli and Palestinian states within secured borders, and the return of East Jerusalem which was seized by Israel in 1967 to its indigenous Palestinian people.
As a first step, Israel needs to withdraw from Palestinian territories like Gaza which it has put under lock preventing the people access to basic needs like food, medicine and fuel. I mourn, not because I am a Palestinian, I mourn because I am a human being.