Presidential embrace: Shimon Peres greets Nelson Mandela (Yoav Lemmer / AFP)
How could Nelson Mandela have applied his legendary moral clarity to the Middle East, when Israel's own leaders kept him in the dark? Instead of asserting the rights of an indigenous, colonised Middle Eastern people, Israel allowed itself to be guided by crass pragmatism. Must-read article by Ari Soffer in Israel National News:
It is indeed ironic that whereas Mandela fought for the rights of
the indigenous people of South Africa, when it came to the Middle East
he sided with one of the groups which has always stood at the forefront
of the push for Arab colonization, the Arabization of other indigenous
nations and the eradication or appropriation of the legacies of non-Arab
And if any more proof were needed of his moral failure
when it came to the Middle East, there was his friendship with former
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, which he once defended by proclaiming
that "those who feel irritated by our friendship with President Gaddafi
can go jump in the pool."
Again, the irony of that relationship
was not simply that Gaddafi was a monstrous violator of human rights,
but more specifically that he too was a key figure in the Arab
colonialist project, who systematically sought to wipe out the Amazigh
(Berber) people who are indigenous to northern Africa, and who
ethnically-cleansed the entire Jewish population of Libya.
yes, Mandela was far from the infallible, universal icon of human rights
he has been portrayed as. But instead of attacking him or seeking to
deny the facts, we should ask ourselves two questions.
why do we care? Mandela fought a just war against the forces of
apartheid, but that did not make him infallible, and nor did it somehow
confer upon him the kind of demi-god status which so many accolades
attributed to him. He was a man - a great man, no doubt - but a man
nonetheless. And men get things wrong. He fought for African rights in
Africa, but what did he really know about the Middle East? His silence
regarding the ongoing slavery of black Africans in Arab states, and the
deeply-embedded racism within Arab society at large indicated that he
knew precious little about the region.
But secondly - and more
essentially - we must ask what drew Mandela to the likes of Yasser
Arafat and Colonel Gaddafi in the first place.
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