Why Hamas is ‘not the Mau Mau’ of Palestine

Terrorists not comparable to freedom fighters, says Israeli-Kenyan Gilad Millo

In Summary

• Gilad Millo fell in love with Kenya after touring in 1996, became a citizen in 2021

• Now a garlic farmer, he says Israelis are not colonialists in own historical homeland

Israeli-Kenyan Gilad Millo during the interview
Israeli-Kenyan Gilad Millo during the interview

Gilad Millo spent 27 years of his life bonding with Kenya, and was lucky in 2021 when he got citizenship after a six-year pursuit.

The Israel-born musician and entrepreneur got introduced to Kenyans a few years ago through his music sung in Kiswahili, but that is not when he fell in love with the country.

The Star sat down with the soft-spoken passionate garlic farmer to explore his love for the country.

The 52-year-old father of two also shared his views on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East, and why everyone should do farming.

 Q: What made you love the country so much?

I fell in love with Kenya and the people of Kenya long before anyone here knew who I was. I first came to East Africa as a backpacker in 1996, after completing my mandatory three-year service in the Israel Defence Force, and somehow after that, life kept bringing me back.

First in 2002, as the Israeli government spokesperson. I was attached to the rescue teams which arrived in Mombasa following the terrorist attacks at the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala and the attempt to shoot down an Israeli airplane by Al Qaeda. While the visit lasted less than 12 hours, I remember thinking how out of place terrorism is in such a beautiful place as Kenya.   

Three months later, I was appointed Deputy Ambassador of Israel to Kenya, and I returned with my family for a little over two years, before continuing to my next posting at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

After three years working in the Hollywood limelight, I was once again invited to return to Kenya, this time leaving government to work for Amiran, one of Kenya’s leading agriculture companies, which represented most of Israel’s agri-tech giants under one roof.  I was tasked with creating and leading the company’s new initiative to target the small-scale farmers of Kenya and open a new area of business, which had at the time been ignored by the private sector and left to the donors and NGOs to handle. 

After eight years of successfully implementing a youth-led agribusiness revolution, together with the team at Amiran Kenya, and later exporting the ‘farming is cool’ initiative born in Kenya to Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, I left the company to pursue what was fast becoming a busy career in music. 

I only went back to agriculture around 2020, when I was invited to join a garlic farming project, which once again took me in an amazing direction, which has now positioned Ole Raha, our company, which has become a powerful force in popularising garlic farming in Kenya.

In 2021, six years after applying, I was granted Kenyan citizenship, bringing me full circle in a journey that began in 1996, and throughout the 27 years, the one constant that remained in the journey was a powerful and very natural connection I found with Kenyans, and with Kenyan culture, and with the Swahili language.  

Throughout the 27 years, the one constant that remained in the journey was a powerful and very natural connection I found with Kenyans, the culture and the Swahili language
Gilad Millo

Q: You are a successful farmer. What drove you to it and what did it take to launch into the enterprise? Why garlic?

It is now close to four years since we started this garlic farming journey.  Besides the garlic we grow on the farm, we are working with a growing number of farmers across the country, who are also growing for us.

We ensure they are planting properly germinated garlic seeds, and we work with them on correct planting methods, watering, feeding and crop management, and we set reasonable expectations and work together to ensure these are met.

Garlic farming is becoming more and more popular among Kenyan farmers. God willing, some day soon, we will start seeing more quality local garlic on supermarket shelves and throughout the market and have less need for imports, which frankly don’t taste or smell as good and don’t give that flavour you want in your cooking like our local garlic does, which has been grown here in Kenya.

I am one who believes that Kenya should not be standing in line to sell to Europe and the rest of the world, rather the world should get in line to buy from Kenya.

Many people ask me if there is a market for garlic. I believe that wherever imported garlic is being sold, which is practically everywhere, there is a room for our local garlic to be there or even better, to take its place. So, there is a demand. 

Over the years, I have worked with tomatoes, capsicums and many other crops here in Kenya. When my partner suggested we grow garlic, and I spent time studying the crop, I found it unique in the Kenyan landscape.  A crop that very few are growing, yet has a massive consumption rate throughout the country supplied by lower quality imports than what we grow locally. 

Having experience several seasons now together with my partner, I have discovered a very strong crop, resistant to weather and disease, and when farmed correctly following good agricultural practices, also profitable. Most of all, I have fallen in love with the powerful smell and taste of quality fresh garlic.

I am one who believes that Kenya should not be standing in line to sell to Europe and the rest of the world, rather the world should get in line to buy from Kenya

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring farmers in Kenya, especially youths, well-educated, jobless but poor, who have huge ambitions? 

Do your homework. Understand what to expect in terms of costs, risks and challenges, and treat your farm as you would any other business, calculating expenses and planning your next steps. Most importantly, don’t expect easy money. There are challenges and many variables to consider achieving a successful season. 

You need suitable, well-prepared soil, enough water, properly germinated seeds, a good crop management plan, and you need to apply good agricultural practices. But don’t be afraid to go for it. Start small, make some mistakes, learn and grow. Like in other fields in farming, success is in the details, so it is important to be involved in those details and manage your project well.

Q: As an Israeli-Kenyan, you are vocal about supporting Israel in its war with Hamas. Why should Kenyans join you in supporting your country in the face of the images coming out of Gaza?

Hamas is an extremist fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organisation, which receives much of its funding, guidance and support from Iran.  Hamas is no different from Isis, Al Qaeda, Hizballah, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram or any other extremist terror organisation, from which so many in the world have suffered horrific attacks.

But, when Hamas attacked Israeli farming communities on October 7 last year, committing the worst massacre in human history, instead of condemning these barbaric acts, as has been the case with most of the world in every terrorist attack in the last 30 years, leaders of countries and global organisations, together with many others in the world and even here in Kenya, began to say that Israel had this savagery coming to it, and that this act of inhumanity was justified. 

There is an unprecedented amount of misinformation and straight-out lies. People have got it all wrong about who is the aggressor, and what life is really like in Israel, which is a very liberal country with a diverse population. And what lies told a million times have led too many to believe.

My home is in Kenya and it matters to me what people here think. I want Kenyans to know the truth about what is going on in Israel and to have a clear understanding of who Hamas is without making disrespectful comparisons to Kenya’s freedom fighters, who fought to drive out colonialists. Israelis are not colonialists in their own historical homeland, and Hamas are not freedom fighters, they are fanatics driven by a genocidal aspiration to wipe Israel and the Jewish people off the face of the earth, not because they want the land, because their fanatic beliefs tell them so.

Like most Israelis, I have an unshakable personal interest. Beyond the bond to my Israeli brothers and sisters, almost everyone I love — family and friends, children, mother, brothers, nephews and nieces, uncles and aunts, cousins and more — all live within 50km from where the Hamas killing spree was finally stopped on October 7. And I have no doubt that the bloodthirsty terrorists would not have spared any of them. 

For close to three months since the massacre, with more and more evidence and testimonies coming to light from victims and released hostages and from the body cameras found on the bodies of the dead Hamas terrorists, the horror of everything that happened that day and since is overwhelming at times, heartbreaking, infuriating, frustrating and most of all, sad. 

Q: Is it right to say that this attack made you break your relatively long musical silence to release ‘Never Again’?

Yes, Never Again was written from a place of deep pain and sadness following the October 7 massacre of more than 1,400 innocent Israelis by Hamas terrorists. In the days that followed the attack, as the magnitude and horror of the atrocities committed by these monsters began to come to light, like most Israelis and Jews around the world, I wanted to do something to help. Jews are a minority in this world, there are only 15 million of us, and we are like a family or a tribe. When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. 

Hamas slaughtered babies, children, women, men, elderly and burned entire families huddled together.  They raped and murdered hundreds of innocent Israelis at the Nova Music Festival. They kidnapped over 200, babies, children, women, men and elderly to Gaza, and are still holding so many as hostages. None of us has ever seen anything like it. The message of the song ‘Never Again’ echoes a historical cry of the Jewish people following the genocide of six million Jews in the Holocaust by the Nazis, and the birth of the modern State of Israel.

Don’t get me wrong; I am all for a Palestinian state. I think it is time. Sadly, I don’t think the people of the region are ready

Q: How about those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, thinking Israel has been unfairly and excessively brutal in the war and mistreated Palestinians over the years?

As a human being, it breaks my heart to see the images coming out of Gaza. Israel has gone out of its way more than any army in the history of warfare to try to get civilians out of harm's way in order to be able to fight the enemy, which is Hamas. Hamas has forcibly prevented Palestinians from moving to safe zones and has no problems with the fact that innocent Palestinians are dying. Hamas needs the pictures of dead Palestinians and suffering to fuel the world’s hatred against Israel and pressure Israel to cease fire. At the same time, Hamas has made it very clear that ‘October 7th was a rehearsal, and it will happen again and again’. 

Using billions of dollars of Palestinian aid money, Hamas has built an underground city of terror tunnels stretching hundreds of kilometres wide and close to 100 meters deep.  From these well-stocked terror tunnels, Hamas terrorists, holding more than 130 Israeli hostages, continue to fire rockets and wage a war at the expense of too many innocent Palestinians. 

Israel has no option but to destroy Hamas for there to be even the slightest hope for any sort of peaceful solution. Until Hamas is destroyed, Israel dares not stop its fight, or God forbid October 7 will indeed be just a first.

Don’t get me wrong; I am all for a Palestinian state. I think it is time. Sadly, I don’t think the people of the region are ready. The dreamers among us believe that it could be another Dubai or Singapore, with the right investment and planning. But it cannot be a place from which rockets are regularly fired at the neighbours, where terrorists attack, rape, murder and kidnap, innocent people of all ages. 

Q: With a background in diplomacy, how do you advise Israel to leverage on the relatively positive disposition that the Kenyan government and people have towards it to turn the tide on the negative sentiment against it in the continent?

I think Israel recognises the geopolitical importance of Kenya as a leader in Africa with the ability to impact a global agenda. I leave it to the Israeli government to decide what to do about that. I have chosen to direct my energies in a very clear direction.

I am a very spiritual person and I believe in the power of prayer, as do most Kenyans. I believe that prayers from Kenya for Israel, for peace, for the shielding of all innocent people from harm, can help. Collective energy and consciousness are powerful forces and I believe my greatest contribution to the people in Israel and in general is to ask and to encourage Kenyans to pray for Israel.

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