So, another year is here. Many of us watched the fireworks in our backyards or from across the world and heard the loud bangs as the fireworks exploded and dispersed into beautiful patterns in the sky.
I am sure that, as we hugged and wished each other a Happy New Year, many of us thanked God that the only explosions we heard were fireworks and not something far worse.
The fearful pain and suffering of war, of bombs and bayonets, of thousands of people whose lives and/or happiness have been cut short, many even before those lives have even started.
The starkness of the contrast between our fireworks and their devastation is particularly shocking this year with the blanket destruction of people’s lives, the genocide in Gaza and the fearful violence and murder in northern Nigeria that preceded our little happiness and continue unabated into 2024.
In one sense, I realise this is nothing new, but it sours our joy and hope for a better future. Even in our own country, Tanzania, there are so many who have been displaced, whose lives have been blighted, or even ended by gratuitous violence against them in the past year, without forgetting the Katesh community whose future was suddenly buried beneath a sea of mud.
It is good to wish everyone a ‘happy’ New Year, or my preferred Swahili wish for heri in the New Year, but this year, more than many others, to what extent does our happiness depend on turning a blind eye to other people’s misery?
Support for Israel
In this regard, I want to address one topic which has created immense heat but, I fear, little light on Tanzanian social media. Of course, I don’t agree with them. Still, I can understand, given the weight of years of propaganda from political leaders, the media and in religious circles in favour of Israel over Palestine.
Why do people support Israel without considering the rights of the Palestinian people over whom they rule oppressively? I can understand as I remember Malcolm X’s saying: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
What happened to our support for an oppressed people? I also recognise sympathy for the immense oppression and injustice suffered by the Jews for centuries, which led to them demanding a homeland for themselves.
I share the revulsion of all of us for violence against ‘innocent’ civilians, as expressed in some of the actions during the October 7th attacks. However, we still have a long way to go to separate the truth from the propaganda of those days, including the actions of the Israel Defence Force (IDF) on that day.
Now, even the Western media are deconstructing many of the stories of that day. It is also a fearful shock to us, Tanzanians, to lose two of our compatriots on that day—shock and anger, which should include anger at why they were there in the first place.
What I cannot understand is how people can treat October 7th entirely in isolation as if it is some malevolent eruption without cause.
I cannot understand the vile hatred, the genocidal language, the deliberate misinterpretation that insists that any condemnation of the oppression and indiscriminate killing of Palestinians that took place before October 7th and the ongoing attempts to wipe out an entire population after October 7th is support for terrorism.
I cannot understand the total refusal to engage with any arguments from thousands of Jews who have stood up to take action against the settler colonialism in Palestine, now being transformed into a genocide, arguments from Christians in Palestine who are condemning what is happening to their brothers and sisters, arguments from the millions who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire and an end to colonialism.
I cannot understand this hate, especially from Tanzanians, who have always been a beacon of resistance to oppression and racism of any kind. What has happened to us?
The only beacon of light is that, in their attempt to ‘whitewash’ –and I use that word deliberately– the actions of the Zionist rulers of Israel, they have hastened to remind us of all the other oppressions taking place in the world.
They are, of course, right, but I wonder where they were before the current genocide and why they remember these other atrocities only to tell us to condemn without even bothering to take any action themselves.
In this respect, I would like to deal with the question of selectivity when it comes to oppression and murderous attacks. For my generation, there is a historical connection with the Palestinians, one recognised by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, our founding father, even after the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) had supported Uganda’s Idi Amin very wrongly.
Just as we fought against and prioritised the struggle against apartheid for decades even while other oppressions continued in Vietnam and Cambodia, and later in Cambodia again, in the States, in Chile, yes, and in Russia and China as well – and no doubt I have forgotten others–, so now we prioritise without shame standing in solidarity with a people who have been oppressed to a level which even South Africans recognise as worse than the apartheid they suffered for more than 75 years.
Of course, it was no accident that the Zionists did indeed support apartheid South Africa.
This does not mean that we do not register and are not horrified by other appalling situations in Sudan, in northern Nigeria, in Tigray – not mentioned by the bully boys because I guess it is Christian against Christian–the Congo and elsewhere. Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan ad infinitum.
We do, and if the hatemongers cared to go beyond a tweet here and there, they would recognise that. When we supported the liberation struggles in southern Africa, no one said, ‘Hey, what about Vietnam? Or Chile?’ etc. Yes, they were deserving of attention as well and were given attention, but that did not detract from the need to concentrate on supporting the liberation struggles in southern Africa.
I also cannot understand the stubborn refusal to place October 7th in its historical context. In any crisis situation worldwide, a sense of historicity is essential. You cannot understand – and understanding is different from justifying– the behaviour of many Zionists without knowledge of centuries of persecution of the Jewish people in Europe and the USA.
Similarly, you cannot understand – and understanding is very different from justifying– the actions of October 7th without referring to the years of oppression, discrimination, apartheid, denial of services and human rights, injury, death and destruction among the Palestinians. The number of Israelis killed on October 7th is a fraction of the thousands who have died over the years ever since the Nakba.
You cannot generalise from one action to demonising a whole movement or, even more, a whole people. In the liberation struggles in southern Africa, there were certain actions that were clearly reprehensible, but that did not diminish our support for the freedom movements. They were not saints – who are? – but their actions pale by comparison with the actions taken against them by the colonialists and the apartheid regime.
On this count, there is a clear distinction of humanity between those who oppose the ongoing genocide in Palestine and those who support it.
On the one hand, apart from a very few extremists in a multitude – hundreds of thousands – of protesters against what is happening in Gaza and, increasingly, in the West Bank also, the supporters of a free Palestine have made a clear distinction between Jews as a whole and the Zionists whose ideology is one of repression and apartheid.
They do not stereotype. No one has called for the massacre of all the Jews. By contrast, the other side seems to take pride in demonising all Palestinians, indeed all Arabs, with the most racist of language and calling for their total annihilation without caring.
You are doing your cause a disservice when you reveal your true intentions through the language you use, whether you are a Zionist minister in government or someone who supports that regime – either through being paid to do so or otherwise.
The language used on social media, for example, is appalling and highly reminiscent of the language used in Rwanda and Germany before their respective genocides. They glorify, revel in war and destruction, and even attack ‘peace lovers’ as if peace was a dirty word!
Interestingly, the bully boys who use this language are not open to any discussion at all, not open to any alternative presentations, and not prepared to engage in any argument, but just continue to reiterate their discriminatory and even genocidal language again and again.
They just go on repeating the same words again and again in the hope that, with Goebbels and the Nazis, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it is true.
Thus, my only hope for a happy New Year is the massive shift in public opinion that has taken place as a result of the actions of a Zionist government across the world and even in Israel itself.
This is particularly among the younger generation who do not bear the burden of guilt of their forefathers who stood by when genocide was conducted against the Jews and are prepared to do so again as the Zionists conduct genocide against the Palestinians.
Richard Mabala is an educator, poet, and author. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X (Twitter) as @MabalaMakengeza. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.