In the shocked silence immediately following the 9/11 attacks, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu prayed that the United States’ response would not be on the same level of awfulness as that of the attackers.
The Archbishop said it was his hope that the United States would pause for a moment of navel-gazing, and ask: What have we done, or not done, to provoke people to hate us with this level of intensity?
A few days later, the US invaded Afghanistan. Nearly 50 000 civilians lost their lives. No sooner had the US finally pulled out, 20 years later, the Taliban party that it so fiercely opposed was restored to power.
Forty-eight hours after Hamas’ horrendous attacks on Israeli civilians on Saturday, the media was already broadcasting visuals of the Israeli Air Force pounding Gaza.
Israel’s defence minister had ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza, which entailed holding all Palestinians living in Gaza equally and collectively responsible for Hamas’ actions.
Ordinary Palestinians not connected to terrorism in any shape or form are being punished by military bombardment and the withdrawal of basic services. Families are being forced to abandon their homes leaving their worldly possessions behind.
There are no winners in this scenario; only losers. Not just the loss of lives and possessions, but the hardening of people’s hearts – perhaps for another generation.
Disasters spawn opportunities. The State of Israel has the opportunity either to respond to the Hamas atrocity by perpetrating more extreme violence, as it is doing, or by breaking the cycle of violence and committing itself to a new path of justice founded on the principle of human inter-dependence and mutual respect.
It has the opportunity to ask itself why much of the world describes it as an apartheid state, and what it is doing that provokes violence – and contributes to consigning its own citizens to living their lives in a perpetual state of fear.
10 October 2023
* This statement was released by Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Chairperson of the Archbishop Tutu Intellectual Property Trust.