Nelson Mandela Foundation

Destruction in Gaza 2023/4

Destruction in Gaza.

(Image: Mohammed ibrahim/Unsplash)

You must live to tell my story”, were the words of writer, professor and activist Dr Refaat Alareer in a poem entitled “IF I MUST DIE”. Dr Refaat was murdered in Gaza by Israeli bombardment alongside several of his family members in December 2023. His words at the doorstep of our consciousness should challenge us in individual and collective ways to advance and deepen the cause of the Palestinian people.

Madiba reminds us in a letter he wrote from prison in 1969 from Robben Island that “A new world will be won not by those who stand at a distance with their arms folded, but by those who are in the arena, whose garments are torn by storms and whose bodies are maimed in the course of the contest.” Taking inspiration from his words in a figurative way in our current times should give us the courage to champion justice even if it is difficult, with the understanding that our sense of purpose and morality is incomplete if striving for the cause of our fellow human beings is not part and parcel of what we do. For some, this will not be an easy path to follow, as Madiba alludes to, which is demonstrated by the countless stories of people being censored for being outspoken on the issue of Palestine, as well as institutions losing funding because of it.

At this time when thousands of Palestinians are being murdered by the Israeli government in Gaza, against the backdrop of an ongoing occupation, this is the time we all need to be activists in big and small ways.

You cannot just be an accountant. You need to be an activist accountant. You cannot just be a lawyer. You need to be an activist lawyer. You cannot just be an entrepreneur. You need to be an activist entrepreneur. You cannot just be an engineer. You need to be an activist engineer.

While this sentiment is conveyed in the context of the unfolding genocide in Palestine, the call to be an activist in whatever space we find ourselves in extends beyond this. At home, there are countless struggles being faced in South Africa, where the daily reality of so many is one of hopelessness, hunger and deprivation. We must strive to be the kite in the sky, mistaken for an angel, in the lives of others – as Dr Refaat yearned to be.



If I must die,

you must live

to tell my story

to sell my things

to buy a piece of cloth

and some strings,

(make it white with a long tail)

so that a child, somewhere in Gaza

while looking heaven in the eye

awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—

and bid no one farewell

not even to his flesh

not even to himself—

sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above

and thinks for a moment an angel is there

bringing back love

If I must die

let it bring hope

let it be a tale