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Race matters – even when it involves Hamas



I was shocked by the silence that greeted the callous execution of two young Tanzanians by Hamas. Both were kidnapped when Hamas started a war on 7 October 2023 by attacking innocent and unarmed civilians in Israel.

These two young Tanzanians, Joshua Mollel and Clemence Felix Mtenga, were in Israel as part of an agricultural project to equip themselves with knowledge lacking in their communities that would allow them to contribute to the economy of their country. Death was the last thing on their mind, but they were cruelly murdered by Hamas.

While I’m cognisant of South Africa’s explanation why it supports a terrorist organisation like Hamas whose fundamental aim is to erase the state of Israel, I find it difficult to understand why there was no condemnation or messages of support by the South African government and political parties about the brutal deaths of two Africans at its hands. I also find it morally repugnant. Why was it so difficult to send a message of condolence to Tanzania or directly to the families of the two young, bright leaders who died in a foreign country?

Some naysayers are convincing themselves that the two young men shouldn’t have been in Israel in the first place. This is a ridiculous and selfish view. The men weren’t in Israel for a holiday, they were there to educate themselves in the field of agriculture so that they could serve their country’s development agenda. In their own way, they were soldiers, fighting for development and innovation, but who tragically fell at the cruel hands of those whose aim is never to build and develop but to kill and destroy.

The international law of war is clear: civilians should be protected by all warring parties. It’s important to remember that Mollel and Mtenga were Tanzanian students studying in Israel, not Israeli citizens. Mollel was sprayed with bullets from Hamas’ machine guns at a very close range. This after he appealed to its fighters not to take his life. Hamas was merciless, and did what it always does – kill.

For decades, Africans have pursued studies in foreign countries, including those very countries which as colonial powers during the “scramble for Africa” ruthlessly exploited the continent and contributed to its underdevelopment. So why criticise Israel, a country that offers only to help find and provide technological and innovative solutions for Africa’s multifarious challenges? It’s simply hypocritical.

It’s puzzling and sad that the African Union (AU) should chose to remain reticent when Africans become casualties. The AU should speak with a strong and clear voice, and reprimand those who still believe that African lives are cheap. It should be the last line of defence for all of us in Africa. So why is it quiet when Africans are slaughtered in Gaza?

By contrast, the efforts of the Tanzanian and Israeli governments should be applauded. They have stood with the bereaved families during these trying times. Burying a child is painful, and it lives with the parent forever.

Like many other young people from across Africa, I’m in Israel to study so that I can contribute to my country, South Africa, when I return. Whatever skills and expertise we acquire in Israel, we’ll take back to improve our society and communities in Africa. We share common goals to alleviate poverty, improve water management, reduce crime, fight diseases, and tackle underdevelopment.

As we continue to witness African countries’ challenges in creating jobs and business opportunities, the agricultural sector in Israel will continue to attract foreign workers from Kenya and Malawi. Growing economies in the world like Nigeria understand and acknowledge the importance of remittances as the greatest source of foreign exchange. This will be a big boost to the Kenyan and Malawian economies.

Should we prohibit Africans from working in Israel? The answer is definitely not. Much of Africa’s local economies are unable to provide the employment opportunities for people to look after their families and boost their economies. Rather than try and prevent their movement, we should encourage young people to visit foreign countries and expand their knowledge to develop their country’s economies.

Those who compare the struggles on the African continent with that of Hamas are misdirected factually and morally. Why would South African President Cyril Ramaphosa support organisations that don’t hesitate to kill another black person, and for no reason? For me, race matters. I cannot support anyone who wishes or has no problem with brutally killing any African who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The world fails to see Africa on its radar. It’s time we reclaimed our power by restoring our dignity and integrity. We should condemn anyone who seeks to undermine black lives. Wherever we are in the world, we should always try to influence the world’s treatment of black people.

#BlackLivesMatter. Even in Gaza.

Kenneth Moeng Mokgatlhe is a columnist and political writer based at Ben Gurion University where he is doing his Master of Arts in African Studies.

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  1. David Kaliski

    Jan 11, 2024 at 11:34 am

    In the same breath, it is absurd that SA opposes Israel’s observer status at the AU.
    Israel has a prominent presence in Africa with relations with a significant percentage of African countries.
    Israeli expertise in various fields – particularly in agricultural, medical and, technology – is of value to
    the countries.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Israel has a far greater positive contribution to Africa than SA does.

  2. Alfreda Frantzen

    Jan 11, 2024 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you. I’m sorry but didn’t even know about these two young Tanzanians who were murdered by Hamas. Sincere condolences to their families 🙏

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