In a fight between siblings, no intruder should choose sides

By Tshepo Rakumakoe

I stand before you with a heavy heart. The heart exactly bleeds and pumps blood that has the same color no matter how it gets shed. No blood is redder than the other one. It has already been over 30 days since Hamas attacked the Israeli occupation of the Gaza region. When my mind serves me correctly and well, this has been happening for over seven decades now. I am talking about the Israeli occupation of the Gaza region.

There is this phrase in Setswana that says “Maragana a bana ba mpa ga tsenwe,” which simply means the battle between siblings cannot be intervened in by an outsider. Here is a little brief explanation of why this comes to mind.

Allow me to greet you by saying “Shalom” or “Assalaam ‘alaikum” to everyone. Those two words simply mean peace, especially shalom, while assalaam ‘alaikum means “May peace be upon you”. But the actions of both sides do not reciprocate their introduction to me. I mean, how do you introduce yourself to me through “peace,”, but every nanosecond you shed blood from an innocent soul? I guess my words may sound like I am caring less about the victims, but I do care a lot. But I will never vote for who is correct or not. I do think that these two sides need to be reminded that since they share the same land, they need to find common ground. I know someone will think that I am being selfish or even say that I am self-centered.

I was taught from a young age that when siblings are fighting, you do not try by any means to come and choose who is right or wrong. I think this needs to be a reminder to the world leaders who are choosing sides. Imagine that you find the twins fighting. Will you even try to intervene? Let me school a bit on these twins’ fights. You do not try to enter that fight because you will end up being the victim after they dealt with you drastically. They will beat you up in such a way that you are the one who started to trouble them. I do think that even in political or religious struggles like the one in the Middle East, we just need to not take sides. Instead, we need to help them find each other. I am saying this because I do not remember who helped in the Hutu and Tutsi wars. This war was more ethnic than a religious or political fight. My question is as follows:

How did the genocide or war stop? Was there anyone who chose the Hutus over the Tutsis, or the Tutsis over the Hutus? I know this might sound as if I am derailing from the Israel-Palestinian war, but I am not off-ramping at all. I am using this example because I see no difference between the one that was in Rwanda and this one in the Middle East. Hence, my heart is so heavy from all these genocides.

Here is the brief history that I have acquired through my little study of the Rwandan genocide. Under colonial control, ethnic Tutsis, who rear cattle, and Hutus, who are mostly farmers, had long-standing hostilities. Although Hutus were in the majority, Tutsis possessed higher money and social standing. Rwanda’s genocide against Tutsis exploded in April 1994, with neighbors turning on neighbors and family turning on family. Over 800,000 people were mercilessly slaughtered in just 100 days, according to some estimates, leaving the once-beautiful country in ashes. Many people questioned how the Rwandan people could possibly transcend such hatred and sorrow. Rwanda has made amazing progress in the years since, demonstrating perseverance and determination. Despite the long-lasting scars, Rwanda’s road of healing, reconciliation, and progress is an amazing monument to its people’s stanch spirit.

I also had a little briefing on the timeline, as to where the war originated from. It is as surprising as witnessing a chicken with teeth. 1932 (Belgian rule): Belgium issued identity cards identifying Hutus, Tutsis, and Twa people, marking a watershed moment in Rwanda’s ethnic relations. A Hutu rebellion in 1959 triggered a civil war, thus ending Tutsi dominance. Rwanda won independence from Belgium in 1962. By this point, 120,000 Rwandans, largely Tutsis, had fled the country, and Hutu leaders had taken control. Rwandan exile organizations took political and military measures to repatriate in the late 1980s. The United Nations and regional African nations failed to broker peace in 1993. Lastly, on April 6, 1994, a rocket assault murdered Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, both Hutus, as they were flying back from peace talks. Immediately following the massacre, there were 100 days of mass executions of Tutsis.

From all those, I did notice some patterns, which do affirm my thinking of letting the two groups in the Middle East find each other, because indeed, a war between two siblings needs no intervention from any stranger. I can be called names and everything, possibly even a murderer, because I choose not to take any side. I am saying this because the South African clergyman, the late Desmond Tutu, once said that not choosing sides is more like choosing the side of the perpetrator, and he even said that he goes with Palestine. How do we even recognize the victim and the perpetrator because bullets are coming from both sides?

The world’s silent dog The United Nations does not even get to call the two sides to order because they are not so great at bringing solutions. I can possibly say this is due to the fact that they understand that Setswana phrase perfectly. I know someone might call them a toothless dog, but look back at the Rwandan Genocide. Who was able to stop the genocide?

Outsiders from bodies such as the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations failed dismally; even the former colonial master Belgium could not convince the two ethnic groups to stop. Instead, they found within themselves to stop for the sake of the country, Rwanda. I know the atrocities happened in two different areas, but they are being done by human beings who just need to stop being selfish.

The Middle East war between Palestine and Israel might be traced back to Biblical times when the chosen nation of Israel was instructed to move to the land of Honey and Manna, which was called Canaan. I am now sharing what I remember being told from Sunday school classes back at church. This is just to emphasize that the war can be regarded as a holy war. However, here is why we need to understand why today we have a state of Israel when there was nothing before.

The British government published the Balfour Declaration in 1917, announcing Britain’s promise to provide a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, which was then ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The promise appeased the Zionist movement, which believes that Jews have a right to Jerusalem, or Zion. Following the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire relinquished the province of Palestine to the British, who ruled it under a League of Nations mandate. The mandate was accused of failing to consider the wishes and needs of Palestinians who lived in the area and desired independence. Tens of thousands of Jewish citizens migrated to Palestinian land in the 1920s and 1930s as a result of Britain’s pledge, as well as Nazi persecution and the Holocaust during World War II.

Hundreds of people have died as a result of ongoing conflicts in the region between Palestinian Arabs and Jewish migrants.

In February 1947, the British suggested that the United Nations take over relations in the region and decide the future of Palestine. Despite objections from Palestinian Arabs in the region, the United Nations later endorsed a resolution to divide Palestine into two independent states: a “Jewish state” and an “Arab state,” with Jerusalem under UN trusteeship. Jerusalem, a religiously significant city for many people, would remain under international administration, managed by the United Nations.

Palestinians refused to acknowledge the decision, and the war between the two groups raged on. On May 15, 1948, Israel declared independence, kicking off the Israeli-Arab War, with five Arab governments opposing the establishment of the state. According to the United Nations, Palestinians were driven off their properties or left in huge numbers, marking the first large-scale exodus in what would become a decades-long conflict for land ownership. Israel won the war with the help of foreign countries, and the territory was divided into three parts: Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Egypt and Jordan controlled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank until 1967, respectively.

The Six-Day Battle between Israel and its Arab neighbors began on June 5, 1967, following a protracted attrition battle between Israel and Egypt. Israel took the Palestinian Arab territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Sinai Peninsula, as well as the Syrian region of the Golan Heights, after six days of fighting. The Six-Day War caused the majority of Palestinians to flee and marked the beginning of Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian areas.

In 1987, Palestinian forces launched their first years-long revolt in their quest for self-determination. It came to an end in 1993, when Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-PLO leader Yasir Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, which established the PLO as a representative of the Palestinian people and recognized Israel’s “right to exist in peace.” But my question is, did this accord work?

Then, from the early 2000’s until 2005, the fight ensued again. I think the issue here is easy and can be dealt with accordingly. World powerhouses like the United States of America, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, together with regional powerhouses like South Africa, China, India, Iran, and others, just need to stop choosing sides. I know one reader might start saying I am being inconsiderate, as people are dying at the moment. But how many people died during the Rwandan genocide? My solutions might be deemed harsh, but we are left with no choice in the world. I saw the world closing doors for the Israel diplomats; even South Africa closed its embassy in Tel Aviv (the capital city of Israel). I take this to be inconsiderate indeed.

On the basis that when the Ugandan president and his government signed a bill that illegalized the LGBTQIA+ community in that country, nothing like closing the embassy happened, But who am I to judge our government? I am just an ordinary citizen who is worried the government is dilly-dallying like other politicians.

My solution to this issue is as follows, especially as countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran are just distancing themselves from it, so we need to hit both sides with sanctions. Because what they are doing is contravening human rights, the right to live. However, we have to start by disarming them, and in so doing, possibly the conversation around an open discussion can arise from both sides for the sake of that region. Any country or state that raises its hand to choose a side will face the same predicament of sanctions. With this being done, there is a huge chance that they might want the United Nations to help in the negotiations for peaceful talks. This is my opinion because, as a world or country, we have so many issues, like a 12-year-old girl going to school barefoot and the same girl utilizing a cloth during her periods. Who is coming to her rescue? Nobody is even standing up to help her because all we think about is how fantastic it is for Hamas to attack Israelis.

An unknown philosopher once said, “Common sense cannot be bought to be utilized.” I think the world needs to look back at the Rwandan Genocide before choosing sides in the Middle East. This is not some sports tournament, but human beings are losing their lives because of greedy and pathetic leaders.

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