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Arafat is no Mandela


A report in the Haaretz newspaper of October 6, stated that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat intends to step down when the Palestinian state is established. He also compared himself to Nelson Mandela.

It is rather presumptuous of him to compare himself to ex-President Mandela of South Africa. First, Mr. Mandela was a unifying factor in South Africa. If not for Mr. Mandela, South Africa would never have had the transition to Black majority rule in such a relatively peaceful fashion. Second, the change from an apartheid-ridden society with the Whites having had a superior position in South Africa as well as the right to vote, to a democratic society with very little white opposition is a great achievement. Nelson Mandela is a great man whose achievements and love for South Africa and its entire people proves his magnanimity.

Nelson Mandela, on his release from prison after serving 27 years for his part in the freedom struggle of his people to gain equality, left him with no malice for his former oppressors. He had invited his former adversaries to lunch with him in his presidential chambers, including the late State Prosecutor, Percy Yutar, who was responsible for his imprisonment. What leader would ever do this? This proves his greatness. Unlike Arafat, he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela has proved himself a man of peace and reconciliation. Does this apply to Arafat?

It is an insult to Nelson Mandela to mention or even compare Arafat to him in the same breath. Nelson Mandela had never killed a single innocent person - yet white South Africa accused him of treason and sabotage for which he paid a heavy price. Does Arafat have the magnanimity of Mandela? Arafat has proved himself hateful of Israel! He has made statements praising martyrdom and encouraging terror. He is corrupt and does not really care about his people. Had he cared about his people, he would have made peace with Israel or at least accepted the Clinton and Barak proposals for a settlement as a start. He chose violence and was very instrumental in initiating the second intifada of 2000. He has brought so much suffering to his people and has taken away their hopes for a better future. Instead, he glorified martyrdom and encouraged suicide bombings. He is also responsible for polarising Israeli society against the Palestinians resulting in the election of a right wing government under Arik Sharon. The latter will be far less compromising than the left wing government under Ehud Barak when the time for negotiations with the Palestinians will start, if ever.

Thanks to Nelson Mandela, South Africa has a future for its people. Racism between the various population groups is decreasing and there is a desire for reconciliation. Can one say this of the Palestinian Leader, Yasser Arafat? Is he conciliatory? Are there mumblings that Arik Sharon is not conciliatory either? Yes, that may be so - but then he did not have the audacity to compare himself to Nelson Mandela! He does not fit into Mandela's category either!

If only leaders of Nelson Mandela's calibre would arise, Israelis and Palestinians would have a reason for optimism.

Shimon Zachary Klein

Note - See also: Arafat is no Nelson Mandela by Anita Abu-Daya

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000301.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Shimon Zachary Klein @ 11:43 AM CST [Link]


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Replies: 15 comments

exploring the comparison between the struggles of the Palestinians and black South Africans...


The comparison between Apartheid and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a topic that provokes intense feeling and debate within academic and political circles, and especially amungst South African Jews.

The word apartheid is Afrikaans for “apartness” or separation along lines of skin colour, the name of the brutal South African system of racial segregation between 1948 and 1990. The ruling Afrikaner Nationalist regime sought to entrench white minority rule by denying the majority African population its fundamental human rights, including political representation, self-determination and legal protection.

Fundamentalist religion played an important part in the development and spread of Apartheid ideology, specifically the Dutch Reformed Church. White, Christian, straight men abused the pulpit and God to propagate division and fear, manipulating the Scriptures to support the deluded notion of a ‘natural’ hierarchy where whites are divinely destined to enslave blacks, to ‘enlighten’ the ‘dark’ forces of Africa.

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the fundamentalist Orthodox/radical Zionist dream of a Greater Israel provides similar theocratic substance for the ongoing occupation. It contends that because Abraham was promised the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River thousands of years ago, the Palestinian people have no right to self-determination in the areas in which they are the demographic majority. The Israeli settlement movement, largely orchestrated by right-wing, Orthodox Jews, asserts that ancient history overrides the socio-geographic reality, perpetuating Israeli- military rule that in turn contributes to Islamic Terrorism, anti-Semitism and global instability.

The Nationalist government tried to reconstruct South Africa along racial lines, carving out eleven ‘bantustans’ for the country’s many tribes. The best land was reserved for white citizens, and unproductive scraps were declared ‘independent homelands’. This program of social engineering was aimed at stripping blacks of their right to South African citizenship, thus creating a ‘pure’ white super-state. Raping the destinies of millions so that the Anglo Boer elite could sit back and watch sunset over beer and biltong, drunk in luxury and power.

Disturbingly, the population and territory transfer antics of successive post-1967 Israeli governments reek of the Nationalists. Jewish settlements were and continue to be built on confiscated territory, diverting water and other resources away from the impoverished Palestinian people. Elaborate compounds are built on hilltop land, connected by a Jews-only road system. Curfews and roadblocks are imposed regularly, reminiscent of the ‘state of emergencies’ declared in South Africa during which African townships were cordoned off and terrorised by the neo-nazi armed forces. The corpses of the Soweto riots stand testimony to the disregard for the sanctity of human life and liberty that characterised the Apartheid era. The ongoing Intifadah has similarly arisen out of the frustration of the Palestinian people, deprived for too long of adequate education, housing, health, general living standards and accountable governance.

Just as the oppressed will inevitably rise up, those who are persecuted in the past tend to then themselves abuse human rights. The commonalities between the painful histories of the Afrikaner and Jewish peoples are obvious, both having experienced the horrors of concentration camps and extermination, in the Boer War and Holocaust respectively. The pain has morphed into national siege-mentality that fosters fear and hatred, a feeling of righteous indignation and a manic sense of entitlement. How surprising that Apartheid South Africa and Israel enjoyed an extremely close military and political relationship, staining the fabric of both Israel and ‘yar’ Jewry worldwide.

Sadly, the Palestinian people have yet to nurture a leadership that compares to the heroes of South Africa’s long walk to freedom. Nelson Mandela only sanctioned armed resistance when it was clear that the Afrikaner regime would not negotiate. Unlike Arafat, Yassin and the general indiscriminate militancy of Palestinian armed resistance to Israeli rule in the territories, the likes of Madiba, Sisulu and Biko never condoned attacks on civilian targets, instead focusing on military and government installations and infrastructure. The ineptitude and radicalism of current Palestinian leadership continues to be a formidable obstacle to a lasting peace in the Holy Land and to the advancement of the Palestinian people.

Undeniably, the most essential and burning similarity between South Africa and Israel/Palestine is the fact that millions of youth were and continue to be deprived of the opportunities that their white/Jewish peers enjoy. Something is not right. Humans are meant to be born equal and free.

In South Africa, white anti-apartheid activism was brutally repressed. In Israel, however, there exists a vibrant, pluralistic democracy, including Israeli-Arab elected members of parliament. Mainstream political parties are beginning to realise that security and peace will never come through occupation and war, neither by relenting to religious fundamentalism and radical Jewish/Arab nationalism. Pro-Occupation party Likud, led by Ariel Sharon, is currently split over his Gaza withdrawal plan. It is possible that a Coalition will be formed with Labor, led by Noble Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres. Massive pro-Peace rallies are common in Tel Aviv, in which hundreds of thousands of moderate Israeli’s flock to Rabin Square to demand the evacuation of the settlements. Reformist forces within the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world are growing, and it seems that most people, on all sides, have simply had enough of the coffins and bombs. Except the extremists.

Whatever label one prefers, the current crises in the Palestinian territories is largely fueled by a minority power ruling over a majority population. Apartheid, meaning division and subjugation of one people over another, is a way of life in the West Bank and Gaza. Religion and politics cannot blur the truth of statistics, blood and reality.

Every nation deserves self-determination. Zionism delivered that to the Jewish people, but denied the rights of the majority indigenous Arab people of the Palestinian territories. One cannot expect them to sit back in passive silence as their lands are stolen and their children deprived of liberty and opportunity.

The moral and physical survival of Israel is entwined with the creation of an independent, de-militarised Palestinian state.
A two-state solution, roughly on pre-1967 lines, is the most viable and just solution to the human tragedy that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until the majority of both sides accept this, the blood will keep on flowing in the land of milk and honey.

Posted by Judd Weinberg @ 10/08/2004 05:42 AM CST

I'm almost seventy yrs. old. and except for the occasional war, the political/military/social life,of Palestinians/Israeli',has not changed. Allthough, when I was about 12yrs. old, may of 1948, I thought there would be a chance for the Jewish people,to live "normal" lives, after the Holocaust. But! it was not to be. And will never be, Untill the two Peoples face off in a Murderous War!!....the end results being, so horrific,Bloody and Decisive, by Israel, that niether the Palestinian / Israeli people will have the Will,strength or Desire, for future hostilities.Please G-d, willing! SHALOM to allpeoples!! Zayde.

Posted by aniDavid Brieen @ 10/10/2004 02:13 AM CST

In fact Arafat only compared himself to Mandela in that he said he would stand down after having become president of a Palestinian state. Check the Ha'aretz article.

Regarding Mandela's views on Israel/Palestine, which are surely relevant:-

March 30, 2001

To: Thomas L. Friedman (columnist New York Times)
From: Nelson Mandela (former President South Africa)

Dear Thomas,

I know that you and I long for peace in the Middle East, but before you continue to talk about necessary conditions from an Israeli perspective, you need to know what's on my mind. Where to begin? How about 1964. Let me quote my own words during my trial. They are true today as they were then:

"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Today the world, black and white, recognise that apartheid has no future. In South Africa it has been ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. That mass campaign of defiance and other actions could only culminate in the establishment of democracy.

Perhaps it is strange for you to observe the situation in Palestine or more specifically, the structure of political and cultural relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, as an apartheid system. This is because you incorrectly think that the problem of Palestine began in 1967. This was demonstrated in your recent column "Bush's First Memo" in the New York Times on March 27, 2001.

You seem to be surprised to hear that there are still problems of 1948 to be solved, the most important component of which is the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established "normally" and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not struggling for a "state" but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.

In the last few years, and especially during the reign of the Labour Party, Israel showed that it was not even willing to return what it occupied in 1967; that settlements remain, Jerusalem would be under exclusive Israeli sovereignty, and Palestinians would not have an independent state, but would be under Israeli economic domination with Israeli control of borders, land, air, water and sea.

Israel was not thinking of a "state" but of "separation". The value of separation is measured in terms of the ability of Israel to keep the Jewish state Jewish, and not to have a Palestinian minority that could have the opportunity to become a majority at some time in the future. If this takes place, it would force Israel to either become a secular democratic or bi-national state, or to turn into a state of apartheid not only de facto, but also de jure.

Thomas, if you follow the polls in Israel for the last 30 or 40 years, you clearly find a vulgar racism that includes a third of the population who openly declare themselves to be racist. This racism is of the nature of "I hate Arabs" and "I wish Arabs would be dead". If you also follow the judicial system in Israel you will see there is discrimination against
Palestinians, and if you further consider the 1967 occupied territories you will find there are already two judicial systems in operation that represent two different approaches to human life: one for Palestinian life and the other for Jewish life. Additionally there are two different approaches to property and to land. Palestinian property is not recognised as private property because it can be confiscated.

As to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is an additional factor. The so-called "Palestinian autonomous areas" are bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli apartheid system.

The Palestinian state cannot be the by-product of the Jewish state, just in order to keep the Jewish purity of Israel. Israel's racial discrimination is daily life of most Palestinians. Since Israel is a Jewish state, Israeli Jews are able to accrue special rights which non-Jews cannot do. Palestinian Arabs have no place in a "Jewish" state.

Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.

The responses made by South Africa to human rights abuses emanating from the removal policies and apartheid policies respectively, shed light on what Israeli society must necessarily go through before one can speak of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to its apartheid policies.

Thomas, I'm not abandoning Mideast diplomacy. But I'm not going to indulge you the way your supporters do. If you want peace and democracy, I will support you. If you want formal apartheid, we will not support you. If you want to support racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing, we will oppose you. When you figure out what you're about, give me a call.

Posted by Chris @ 10/11/2004 03:12 PM CST

While much of what Judd Weinberg wrote is true, there is no doubt a "herrenvolkisch" or "Chosen People" mentality amongst the right wing orthodox Zionist religious dream of Greater Israel gives justification for continued occupation of all the territory captured after the Six Day War. At first sight, it does seem that the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict has similarities to the "apartheid" regime in the South Africa prior to the era of democracy in 1994 with Nelson Mandela as president.

However, while Israel's human rights record towards the Palestinians has flaws and there is even discrimination to a certain extent towards Israeli Arab citizens. The situation is not really the same. Everybody falls into the trap of condemning the occupation of the territories captured after the Six Day War without being cognizant of the reason for the occupation, which is well known – Israel's fight for survival because of a war thrust on her in June 1967 by Pres. Nasser of Egypt.

The Arab states, including the Palestinians, never were prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist from the day of her establishment. Israel had fought so many wars to ensure her survival starting from the War of Independence in 1948, Sinai Campaign in 1956, the 1967 June Six Day War and the War of Attrition from 1970 until the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. Prior to 1967, Israel never held any "occupied territory" yet the Arab States wanted to destroy Israel.

If ever there was talk of attempted genocide, (this term is incorrectly applicable to Israel), it would be more correct to refer to the Arab states who would be carrying out genocide against the Jewish people had Israel not had a strong defence force. This was never the case in South Africa. The freedom fighters of Umkhonto we Sizwe under Mandela and even Joe Slovo in the apartheid years never attacked innocent people in order to carry out wide scale murders. Their object was the destruction of instruments of the apartheid establishment alone. Prior to 1967, the Arabs including the Palestinian refugees were oppressed, but not by Israel rather by their own regimes. This was not the case in White South Africa. The whites oppressed the blacks who had no rights at all in their own country.

The occupation is an evil. At the end of the day, a Palestinian state will be established which is morally correct. However, there is no willing partner within the Palestinian Camp wishing to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel in order to begin an orderly transfer of power to the Palestinian leadership. It is immoral and wrong to establish Jewish settlements in territories captured in the Six Day War. This is a mistake that Israel has made for which she is paying a very heavy price. However, that is not the fall story. What would have happened had Israel lost the Six Day War and not occupied territory? See the Khartoum Resolution of September 1st,1967.


Israel did show willingness to return the territories captured but the Arab states refused to negotiate with her. When this did not occur, Israel held onto the territory and populated them with right wing Zionist zealots instead of using the territories as a bargaining chip when the Arab states were ready to negotiate peace with Israel.

The two situations, apartheid-ridden South Africa and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, examined in depth shows very little similarity if any.

Posted by Shimon Z. Klein @ 10/13/2004 01:00 PM CST

arafat did not make his people suffer it is israel backed by america and britan that made his people suffer and still do.Remeber Rabin who was assasinated for wanting peace by his own people so will he (arafat)be assasinated.Palestinians do not want peace or to share their endowed land with an occupying nation.Its either all or nothing.Besides the us didnt share with the indians!!

Posted by annon @ 10/19/2004 01:56 AM CST

wait so israel being soo generous would be willing to give the Palestinians a bit of their own land back to them!!lmao The poor jews, theyre just innocent refugees yea so then they came and having great experince in the holocaust excecuted a never ending holocaust on the palestinians. they have liquidated whole villages Der Yasin palestinian village JEWISH terrorists exterminated 250 palestinains cilviliians, nazi style.

Posted by annon @ 10/19/2004 02:03 AM CST

me again sorry. i just noticed all the other people who got their comments posted are Jewish.

Posted by annon @ 10/19/2004 02:04 AM CST

we both know that there will be no peace what so ever, before we talk about peace and clinton and barak proposals, let's give back what we took from those palistinians and give them their belongings , after that , we can talk about peace and all these protocols. we both know jews and muslims , that there will be no peace , unless the occupation ends, of course, in order for the occupation to end, there should be more ( self defense) which you call it violence, each one of us has his terminology and definitions.
"what was taking with blood, comes back with blood"

Posted by moujahed @ 10/22/2004 08:46 PM CST

I dispise the ones who support PLO. All the organizations was and is a terror group which by default became the only front which the world could identify the people. And what occupied are they talking about. History says otherwise. But to make long matters short, the road map needs to taken by both sides seriously. But I geuss then PLO will have to govern which means accountabilty, which means no more under the counter deals etal. First the people of Palestine need to get a democratic government and stop supporting the terror groups like PLO and their stooge fronts, Hamas etc then call them selves a nation. Till then they are a bunch of profit mongers.

Posted by sg @ 10/26/2004 11:11 AM CST

Interestingly, only yesterday I chatted with on-line friends of the difference between Statesmen and Politicians. We asked each other for the names of present and past leaders who, despite wars, had made the most bold moves to improve the lives of the people they led or controled. Mandala and Louis IX of France came to my mind for their magnanimity toward Humanity, and the putting the wishes for the betterment of the common man ahead of their own personal ambitions. It would be interesting to hear from others about their choices. Thankyou.

Posted by Diogenic @ 11/02/2004 09:26 PM CST

That is not true because why would Yasser Arafat come to an agreement if this whole land is Palestinian Territory? Israel was declared a state in 1948 were they reffered to as terrirosts? So if someone came into your house and said you can have half a bedroom upstairs and a quarter of the basement for all your people please sign here and the agreement is accomplished you would agree? If you don't agree that makes a terrirost, standing up for your right, fighting for a cause, not giving up hope in getting your homeland back? Nothing can replace your homeland not money, not jewls and that is why the palestinian people are so dedicated and keen on getting what belongs to them back. Personally I support what Arafat did in the past and to criticize him and to make him look that low is a mockery. I say this with experience your homeland is your homeland don't give up a centimeter of it. Rest in peace Arafat.

Posted by Emad M. @ 11/12/2004 03:46 AM CST

wow slow down there.. So it is a shame for Nelson Mandela to be compared to Arafat?? well let me tell you something, Palestinians over 54 years have suffered from injustice and cruelity by the Israeli government and their nasty soldiers.. If the media here doesn't show whats really going on there then it is not our fault, if you want to post something, then make sure you hear from both sides.. and dont be an ignorant.. Some statistics for u: it is estimated that more than 1700 palestinians were killed since the Intifada 2001..more than 250 houses destroyed. When you want to come and talk about terrorim look at the facts,, and dont be an ignorant.. or maybe that IS your job.. You wanna say something.. prove it! give statistics.. cowards!!

Posted by a PALESTINIAN @ 11/12/2004 05:20 AM CST

Shimon, of course there are differences between Israel and South Africa. However the similarities are sufficiently clear for Mandela to note them in some detail. He does not appear to have the same outrage about the comparison that you have on his behalf.

And let's not forget that the ANC did not have any truck at all with the suggestions of a white homeland which were put forward at one point. Their solution, which Mandela was far more intransigent on than Arafat has been on anything, was One-Man-One-Vote, the equivalent of the secular democratic state proposal for Palestine.

It's true you can't compare Mandela to Arafat (although the ANC and other anti-apartheid forces did kill civilians in the struggle, and Arafat did make plenty of reconciliatory gestures), but in fact a Palestinian Mandela would present far greater difficulties for Israel.

Read Mandela's words which I quoted below again, and think on them.

Posted by Chris @ 11/18/2004 06:51 PM CST

I have come to understand more of
the palestine / Isrial conflict.

This website is very helpful in this. There is information on the mideast from before the birth of Christ.

The US fought to establish it's borders too. We fought native
Americans, we fought the Canadians,
we fought the Mexicans.

Today some of my closest friends
at work are from mexico.
I was welcomed heartily in Canada when I visited there many years ago.
The native Americans who live in my state earn a great deal of money
with a ******** ******.
******** is illegal here. Our
state laws do not apply to the
Indian reservation however because
they were here first.

As we all know, life is not fair.
but it is still a gift given us by
our creator.

Those Terrorist, whether they wear
an explosive vest, or a military tank seem to have no more effect
than the lion who takes an antelope, while the rest of the herd grazes on.

I ask that we all pray for those
peoples involved in this conflict,
and for the wisdom of thier leaders.

Posted by The Ugly American @ 11/19/2004 04:48 AM CST

As for Mandela, I think we can all agree on one thing. He was completly and totally succesful in his ifetime.

Posted by the Ugy American @ 11/20/2004 04:43 AM CST

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