Over our lifetime, we all come to believe that evolution creates the need for adaptation. Our planet has been through a series of major docu- mented evolutions over billions of years. Since this time-space journey sounds infinite, I will try and peg something relevant as a milestone, which was the extinction of dinosaurs about 66 million years ago; relevant to the extent that my children and now grandchildren seem to still remember the names of several of these species and many businesses have made significant profits thematically illustrating a primitive past that could one day return.
Other than that, for most people, the history of the world throughout the Stone Age (2.6 million years ago), the Bronze Age (3100 BC) or the Iron Age (1200 BC) through to the start of the ‘Plastic Age’, has little or no meaning. We are so caught up in the ‘now’ that neither the past nor the future, to most, seems to matter. Sub- tle nudges from nature, including but not limited to heat and cold waves, earthquakes, typhoons and even Covid-19, have largely been ignored and subordinated in the pursuit of dominance, greed and materialism.
As if the crisis in Ukraine and loss of human life were not enough, the ugly head of terrorism once again raised its head with the attack by Hamas on the state of Israel. I will not dwell on the complicated history (going back thousands of years) of the dispute as it opens raw wounds of a debate that remains intensely shrouded in the demise of faith through a trust deficit and growing hatred. For many decades, it appeared that the region was stabilizing as was evident with the announcement of diplomatic and trade initiatives between Israel and the Arab States particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It’s no secret that lasting peace is not everyone’s salvation, and it was not entirely surprising when the pot was vigorously stirred.
As I wrote in my Publisher’s Note in the October/ November 2023 issue of FORBES AFRICA, many developed countries (specifically the Permanent Members or the Big Five of the United Nations Se- curity Council) benefit from wars through the sale of weapons and will continue to want regional conflicts. Global weapon sales crossed a whopping $2.4 trillion in 2022 and will continue to grow faster than most business sectors. While the sales of armaments will al- ways continue to fuel conflicts, there are several other state and stateless actors that benefit from chaos and uncertainty and are the perpetrators of hate and vio- lence. For them (rogue states and stateless actors), the threat of war and aggression is far more systemic and corrosive than war itself as it provides annuity income, of billions of dollars, in aid. As expected, once there is any indication of lasting peace, the threat of income loss immediately induces bloody skirmishes and acts of violence, to return to an uncertain status quo.
October 7 is one such day that, like many others in different parts of the world, will be remembered as one when a few soulless people sacrificed the region’s peace with senseless slaughter in favor of decades of animosity and continued volatility.
The response, by the Israel Defense Forces, to the October 7 attack was, expectedly, swift and lethal.
However, for the Israeli government, it was also a matter of shame that the most respected national intelligence agency, Mossad was caught napping and the loss of face for the Benjamin Netanyahu government resulted in a dual agenda of retaliation as well as diverting attention away from a political fallout for the government in Israel. Sadly, thousands of innocent civilians including women, children, and infants were killed and/or injured on both sides. With no immediate end in sight, more death and destruction is inevitable as missiles and munitions continue to shower deadly ruin on both sides. Billions of dollars are being spent on this destruction and billions will be required to rebuild things that should not have been damaged in the first place.
The United States mobilized its naval fleets in a show of support to Israel and to induce deterrence from other sympathizers for the Palestinian cause. Not to be left behind and to show its own muscle, the Chinese did the same but with no immediate stated agenda. The Western powers have all aligned behind the state of Israel, many have spoken against the acts of terror by Hamas, other nations have called Hamas a freedom movement, many have recommended reverting to the two-state solution, an increas- ing number of countries are planning to disassociate from Israel by shutting their embassies and severing diplomatic ties, but without exception, everyone has called for an end to the bloodshed, to prevent further loss of innocent lives, and expedite aid to the helpless in Gaza.
It is a land of a few million people, where it will take generations to recover from the dastardly acts and ensuing retaliatory violence that most did not wish for and are innocent bystanders of. Sadly, neither the people of Israel nor the people of Gaza will ever, or for a long time, be the same again.
As the attention was diverted from the Ukraine conflict, even the Russian government ironically decided to give lessons to Israel on restraint. Although vehemently denied, Iran’s hand has allegedly been seen as the indirect architect of this massacre. But they are most certainly not alone in this. A sanctioned coun- try with limited access to global supply chains cannot be acting in isolation. While Russia, China and Iran have been overtly called, by frenzied media networks, the new axis of evil, there are many more shades of deceit blended into this painful mosaic, painted with the blood of innocent victims. There are those that fund these campaigns, many that provide safe corridors, others that harbor the nerve centers and finally, the worst, those that arm the non-state actors with training and weapons. The top five global intelligence agencies know exactly what is happening around the world. However, this repository of collective intelligence is revealed selectively and in drips to afford self-serving outcomes. It’s a grand chess board where sacrifices are made for a very specific outcome in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world where sadly, human life, particularly in the emerging and developing world, has little value.
The world is polarized to such an extent that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) could not get the wording right for a statement on the conflict as various drafts were vetoed and/or rejected by one or the other member of the Big Five. The trust deficit is so wide that Israel picked a part of a statement made by the Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres and demanded his resignation. His fervent calls for restraint have been misunderstood as indifference to terrorism. No one in their right mind can condone an attack on innocent civilians but it’s equally deplorable to see a lack of any restraint from Israel after the immediate response.
Destroying tunnels in Gaza is not going to end the recurrence of terrorism, as technology and human intent will find alternatives. The obvious solution to end this carnage is, as in any conflict, for the conflicting parties to rationally agree on a formula for peaceful co-existence.
It is imminently needed to contain other stake- holders of this conflict by following and stopping the flow of money and weapon sales to stateless actors. Equally important, the Israeli government, as the dominant player, must take responsibility for, firstly, its failure to act on intelligence of impending danger and secondly, held accountable for escalating this campaign, for fear of a political fallout, into a bloody war that could have been avoided. Who will bring accountability to the attack by Hamas or reactions from Israel? Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. The UN has once again proven to be a toothless and dysfunc- tional organization and we, regrettably, live in a world where there is no recourse for the developing world.
The second Secretary-General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold’s quote is framed at the UN building in New York: “The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.”
How true is this in a world where the mighty prevail and, once again, the suffering of people will be left to be forgotten and the scars to heal with the passing of time?
People and countries continue to fight each other over matters that are inconsequential, particularly when extrapolating these over a period of a million years. Philosophically speaking, this is nothing but self-inflicted suffering almost as if humanity, in the form of a metaphorical moth, is speeding towards a raging fire, ending in self-immolation. Sadly, even if some trigger-happy cowboy brings the current life on the planet to an end in the form of a nuclear fallout, Planet Earth will self-heal as it has done for billions of years and re-emerge with a form of life that will once again be given a chance, to move away from barbarism, and make the world a better place. The reality is that 99% of every form of life that existed from the time of the dinosaurs is now extinct. We live in the age of Anthropocene – “significant human impact on earth’s geology and ecosystems, including but not limited to, human-caused climate change”. Regrettably, humans are mindlessly burning the candle at both ends and destroying both their own kind as well as ruthlessly destroying all other life.
As we get into the last phase of this year, I sincerely hope and pray that good sense prevails and leaders who can influence the course of current conflicts introspect and use their high offices to bring people to- gether to settle differences through negotiations and diplomacy. I pray that people move away from finding differences through race, religion and color and focus on morality and spirituality; this is our only salvation. With this prayer, I wish all our readers a very happy, peaceful, and prosperous 2024.