We’re shepherded to choose war, a disaster of biblical proportions

Monday October 30 2023

A wounded man is wheeled into at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City during Israeli airstrikes on the Palestinian territory, on October 13, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Over the past couple of weeks everyone has been sharing their position and opinion about this conflict. It is loaded. I wondered why it felt so unapproachable when I remembered: The War in Ukraine was the same.

Barely had the invasion started than Africans were being pressed to choose sides. I declined. I have a rather simple understanding of war itself: There are perpetrators and there are victims. I know who the victims are, feeding the egos of their oppressors is not my job.

Now it is happening again: Israel or the people of Gaza? Each comes with a hefty bag of labels and issues — Zionism vs anti-Semitism, Islamophobia vs support for a terrorist group. Yet they all love a good falafel. Hm.

We tell children and ourselves that the world is not so simple and it is not. So what is with this either, or? It seems to me that choosing any of these pre-packaged narratives is somehow condoning violence. Worse yet is the fact that this war is the most current outburst of a region whose history reaches back into records of ancient Babylon.

Read: ULIMWENGU: There is little justice, no balance

I am an East African. I know a tribal war when I see one. If the media hesitates to call it that because the term is reserved for dark-skinned folk, then let me do it. It is a disaster of biblical proportions. Ancient stories about children slain have evolved to manifest as video footage of a bombed out hospital in 2023.


What is a pacifist to do?

Refusing to choose one side or another is a time-honoured tradition, but it is alienating. Nonetheless, it is not a cowardly thing to do. Sometimes it is cynical, sometimes it is self-protection. In this case it is about defending what tiny space remains of shared humanity — even among the warring peoples.

It is about shutting down whataboutism and the plethora of tools to pressure one into condoning any violence at all. I can’t help but feel we’re being shepherded into “choosing” the path of war, increasing global conflicts and the ever-feared WWIII.

Ukraine, now Israel. They all have nukes. It could creep up on us, one outraged “choice” after another.

Is it radical anymore, at this juncture, to choose to advocate peace? Not the restless peace of uneven consensus but the radical peace of refusing bloodshed at all?

Read: NGUGI: Hold your fire, too many lives have been lost

The stories of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East are heavily documented. As with the invention of agriculture, it reaches out to touch all of humanity. To borrow from an old tradition, and this is just a metaphor, we could settle for adding another book to this story.

Maybe it is time for a 21st Century third testament, a third way — a way of grim determination to break the cycle.

It’s time for some Solomon-level collective wisdom: Do we, in choosing one “mother” over the other, thus condemn the child? Think on it.

While you do, if you care to, perhaps donate to the organisations that provide aid and medical service to all. Practical help trumps performative outrage every time.