A sacred land at peace with itself?
Ambassador Hanan Jarrar of Palestine, Deputy Minister Alvin Botes of South Africa, Deputy Minister Machesetsa Mofomobe of Lesotho and Ambassador Salim Ali Zakwani of Oman (Photo by Jacoline Schoonees, Dirco)


7 December 2020

Palestine was a secular land before November 29, 1947. It was on this day that the newly established United Nations (UN) divided the land to create Israel. In a twist of irony it also became the day the United Nations pledged solidarity with the Palestinian people. 73 years later the pledge is still commemorated as the conflict caused by the division still rages on.

Israel continues unabated to develop settlements on Palestinian land as they have not declared their international borders, while Palestinians hope for a secular state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

This seemingly unresolvable conflict has had reverberation all over the globe. In South Africa, for instance, a commemoration was hosted by the Embassy of the State of Palestine, the South African Government, the UN in South Africa and Africa for Palestine.

Prominent members of governments and public and civil society attended the Covid-19 pandemic regulated event to express their solidarity with the people of Palestine. This event has been hosted here in South Africa annually since the country was freed from the tyranny of apartheid in 1994, 26 years ago. In 2018 South Africa downgraded its Diplomatic representation in Israel in strong protest of discriminatory and the brutal oppression carried out by Israel against Palestinians.

Hanan Jarrar, Palestine’s Ambassador to South Africa invoked the isiZulu expression “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" a profound African statement of humanity which means “a person is a person through other people. I am because you are.” In her remarks she acknowledged the guest and speakers who included among others, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, Resident coordinator of the UN in South Africa, Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations of South Africa, Ambassador Mubarak Bin Salim Ali-Zakwani of the Sultanate of Oman and Dean of the Arab Ambassadors in South Africa and Machesetsa Mofomobe, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The short film “Arafat and Mandela” screened at the event once again highlighted the deep solidarity through the freedom icons President Yasser Arafat and President Nelson Mandela. The UN’s effectiveness in conflict resolution came under the spotlight once again. The UN was created after the League of Nations (LON) was disbanded after World War2. The LON which was established at the end of World War 1 to prevent such a war from recurring failed dismally in its mandate. World War 2 enveloped the globe with the greatest number of war casualties and the only ever use of nuclear weapons. A radical transformation of the UN, it seems, is at hand.

There has been peace between Egypt and Israel since 1978 after the agreement of the Camp David Accords. In 1994 The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan also agreed to end hostilities with Israel after the signing of the Wadi Araba Peace treaty. This year the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Bahrain together with the African nation of Sudan agreed to normalization of relations with Israel.

Many Palestinians and Israelis have questioned who is benefitting from this inhumane division and the upheaval it causes, especially those that co-exist in harmony in other parts of the world. What is so significant about this piece of land measuring 30,000 km2 inhabited by just over 5 million people? These numbers in relation to earth’s land surface of 500 million km2 and 7 billion people equate to 0,006% of the land and 0.07% of the world’s population.

Historical portrayals and records of this land and its people capture an account of a place which was once the beacon of hope for humanity, for love, peace and tolerance, a guiding light for harmony and cooperation and a centre of faith and belief.

Is it to remain as a lesson of the futility of arrogance and ego, or can it light the path to the Promised Land?

by K Bhana