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Smoke rises following Israeli strikes in Gaza, October 9 2023. Picture: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS
Smoke rises following Israeli strikes in Gaza, October 9 2023. Picture: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

A long-lost friend has lived on a moshav in the Negev Desert since the 1990s. As someone of little or no faith in the religious sense of the word, he might best be described as an onlooker, though that would not spare him or his family from Hamas bullets or rockets.

His last e-mail 15 years ago was as resigned and as exhausted as it gets.

“The Palestinians fire rockets into Israel, kill some people,” he wrote. “The Israelis bomb Gaza and kill some people. New hate, new martyrs to avenge. It will never end.”

Cutting off Gaza’s water supply and starving its citizens is a crude, blunt act of vengeance that will change nothing; so is killing Israeli hostages.

Meanwhile, Tehran denies it had anything to do with Saturday’s assault on Israel, but that didn’t stop some Iranians from cheering on Hamas with a great deal of enthusiasm. 

Billboards in Tehran celebrated the attack while, The Atlantic reports, Iranian MPs shouted “Death to Israel”.

In the swamp of social media, some people truly believe that this has all been foretold and that Armageddon is upon us all

Tehran may protest to the heavens that it had nothing to do with Saturday’s attacks in the world’s most disputed stretch of real estate, but what we have is a case of implausible deniability. Which is to say the thousands of rockets that Hamas fired into Israel had to come from somewhere, because they certainly did not roll off a backyard production line in Gaza City.

The real question is whether Iran really cares about what Hamas wants. Hamas is mostly useful as a blunt-force instrument to help Tehran cement its position as the real power in the Middle East while it strives to recreate a Shia crescent that curves from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.

That ambition was being challenged by the Abraham Accords, signed three years ago, which signalled rapprochement between Israel and Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan.  

That Saudi Arabia was also on track to “normalising” relations with Israel (as much as thousands of years of enmity and loathing could ever be normalised) must have come as a bit of a shock over in Tehran.

What to do, then? Cheer while a terror group chucks a can of petrol onto the fire that is Gaza? Because the Israeli response is sure to be heavy, bloody and long, giving Saudi Arabia no choice but to backpedal on normalisation. 

And so other dominoes may fall as other countries such as the UAE and Bahrain reconsider what it means to be “friendly” with Israel.

Elsewhere, such as in the swamp of social media, some people truly believe that this has all been foretold and that Armageddon is upon us all.

Too late, though, for the civilian dead of Gaza and Israel. They don’t care about Armageddon any more, if they ever did. Their end days have come and gone.

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