30 Sep 2001
It is unfortunate that delegates attending the September 2001 conference on racism in South Africa have allowed the Middle East crisis to overshadow discussions on very important issues and reduce the impact of the very conference. Yes, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was an issue on the agenda but I fail to see why it must take the front seat to the extent of threatening the gathering.
The sooner we understand that the Israelis and Palestinians are a bunch of uncompromising and belligerent cousins, the better we can judge and situate their problems in the context of other global issues. These people will talk peace in theory and practice war on the ground. They both have a passionate and fanatical attachment to Jerusalem to the extent that peace brokers will need exceptional courage to bring the issue of Jerusalem on the table for discussions. Bill Clincton (former U.S president) like others before him employed all his charisma and negotiating skills to help these people live in peace but the result was more war. The opposing parties in the Middle East conflict are only interested in scheming and twisting negotiations to suit their respective egoistic interests and not sincerely seeking for a realistic compromise. The distrust and hatred for each other is legion. When a parent comes out to support a ‘suicide bomber son’ for taking his life in the process of killing Jews, you then appreciate how deeply rooted the hatred can be.
The point I am raising is that the Middle East crisis is a protracted and complicated problem with no immediate acceptable solution. It is unfair to others to take such a problem to the fore and permit it to becloud or even derail discussion on other burning global issues. Africans are supposed to take advantage of this conference and push their long suppressed views on the question of reparations for slavery and colonialism on the table. Ironically, the Arabs with whom many Africans are fraternising over the Palestinian issue owe black Africa reparations for more than one thousand years of slavery. The history of the Middle East teaches us clearly that it is might and nothing else that counts in that region. If the Arabs were to have the upper hand tomorrow they will not treat Israelis any better than the Israelis are treating the Palestinians today. I see over-dramatisation of the Middle East crisis at the Durban conference as a ploy to drown the voice of Africans in a sea of chaotic noises. It is regrettable that many Africans allowed themselves to be taken for a ride. We should not allow the fire devouring our house to continue unperturbed while we are busy rescuing the house of the person who also contributed in setting our house ablaze.
The international media has contributed a great deal to brainwash world opinion that the Middle East crisis is the most important problem. When a Palestinian or an Israeli is killed, it is headline news, but when Savimbi slaughters hundreds of Angolans it appears as a footnote. They (Palestinians and Israelis) have succeeded again in taking the front seat at the Durban conference to the disadvantage of Africans. This is one of the failures of this well-intentioned conference and also the failure of the diplomacy of black African states.
Copyright ã September 2001 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]