Hildegarde The Arena
HARARE stands in a unique position regarding the Middle East, especially Israel and Palestine.
Highfield high density suburb in Harare, itself considered the cradle of Zimbabwean nationalism, has a number of residential areas with Palestinian/Israeli names. There is Old Canaan and New Canaan; there is Jerusalem and Paradise. There is a section named Egypt, and then a home industry section named Gazaland, which could have been derived from Gaza in Palestine.
The historical and religious links from these names have also affected the manner in which the generality of Zimbabweans relate to Israel and Palestine.
While it might be convenient for some to look at it purely from a Judaeo-Christian point of view, limiting it to two faiths does not help; and, limiting it to religion will not unpack the deep-seated historical issues that affect the two peoples.
That the Palestinian-Israeli question is a live issue became apparent on Monday when the Israeli army shot and killed 60 protesters along the Gaza-Israeli border and injured thousands of others in the process.
The juxtaposition of the heinous killing that is being roundly condemned the world over, with the relocation of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was damning, and the question the writer has for US President Donald Trump is: what manner of democracy is this when you celebrate in a land that is being watered with human blood? Who wants such type of democracy if it comes at such a price and such level of injustice? By naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel, did the US have to stoke the fires considering that both Palestine and Israel were commemorating 70 years of Alnakba or Catastrophe for Palestine; and for Israel, its official creation?
However, going forward, the million-dollar question is how the Palestinian issue will be resolved considering that even the United Nations Security Council is not making a lot of headway.
Israel maintains its stance, so too Palestine.
How is Africa reacting to the current crisis, considering that about 11 countries attended the commissioning of the US embassy in Jerusalem?
Was that a statement to show on whose side they were or it was just diplomatic etiquette? Only time will tell!
The Zimbabwe Government has, however, never wavered on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and on May 15, as the Embassy of Palestine was commemorating the Alnakba Day, a senior Government official Mr Tamuka Muranga, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered a message of solidarity: “We note with great sadness that over 58 protesting Palestinians were shot dead and hundreds of others injured by Israeli soldiers on the eve of Alnakba. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and the government and people of the state of Palestine, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. We share your grief at this senseless loss of life.”
He added, “As your struggle for a free Palestinian state continues, let me reiterate Zimbabwe’s full support for UN Security Council resolutions, which call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the establishment of a free Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
“We call on the international community to do more to revive the stalled peace talks to make a reality the vision of the two states of Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace.
“Zimbabwe stands ready to work with the state of Palestine to enhance and strengthen bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of our peoples,” he said.
The African Union also expressed its outrage regarding Monday’s deadly events.
Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, issued a statement condemning the heavy-handedness by Israeli security forces towards defenceless people, including women and children.
Mr Faki said he noted “with deep concern the prevailing situation in the Palestinian territories, following the relocation of the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem”, adding that he strongly condemned “the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army”.
The AU Commission chairman indicated the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would “further heighten tensions in the region and complicate the search for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as illustrated by today’s (Monday) incidents.”
He reiterated the solidarity of the African Union with the Palestinian people “in their legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital”, and also called “for renewed and genuine international efforts to find a just and lasting solution to the conflict, based on the existence of two states, Israel and Palestine, within the framework of the relevant United Nations pronouncements.”
South Africa, which is already looking at options of downgrading its embassy in Israel, issued a strongly worded statement on Monday through its foreign affairs ministry chiding Israel: “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.”
They condemned “the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border”.
The list is endless. But, how will the outrage translate into peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, with each nation enjoying full sovereignty and statehood?
How many UN resolutions should be passed before we see an end to the inhuman killings? Why does the Palestinian issue also continue to expose the double standards of successive US administrations?
Notwithstanding our Government’s unwavering support for Palestine, it is perturbing that people in Zimbabwe have kept their silence on the issue, prompting one writer to poignantly ask, “Where have Zimbabwe’s revolutionaries gone? Why do we expect support from other progressive nations, when we cannot do the same for others?”
It is true because the firebrands of the 80s and early 90s who always expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and other oppressed people the world over faded with the passing on of Chairman Yasser Arafat. Fading away with history, while the present is creating its own historical narrative!
Meanwhile, the headlines about the killing fields of Gaza will not change.
Despite calls for a cessation of hostilities between the two sides, things do not change that much.
The skewed political landscape on the global arena, the Middle East in particular, makes the issue even more difficult to handle diplomatically.
At the time of going to print, certain countries were following the US example of relocating their missions from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, some of them doing so because of economic interests, but only yesterday, these countries were occupied by colonialists.
If Israel and the US continue to dig in, what is the way forward? If Israel maintains that it is defending its people, who will defend the Palestinians?
Should they be left to “go backwards, to a slow death,” as Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told the media in 2014 when there was another senseless killing of Palestinian people?