10 December 2013
Thank You Nelson Mandela: Prophet of Justice, Opponent of Apartheid and all forms of Racism
The world has lost the courageous and remarkable Nelson Mandela, but his fierce and uncompromising resistance to all forms of racism and injustice will continue to challenge and inspire us all. Mandela was remarkably consistent in applying the same standard of justice across the board, whether in his lifelong struggle to end Apartheid or as he embraced other social justice issues, some of which were unpopular. He supported the women of Liberia whose peace crusade eventually led to the downfall of the warlord Charles Taylor, despite the silence of other African leaders. Mandela stood by the struggle of the south Sudanese resistance movement while many of his African colleagues counseled silence. Then at the age 86, Mandela took on the scourge of AIDS on the African continent and the havoc it was reaping in South Africa, admitting that his own son had died of the dreaded disease.
Not well known and clearly avoided by most western media was Mandela's consistent support for justice for the Palestinian people and an end to Israel's brutal occupation. On December 4, 1997, President Mandela delivered an address on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, stating: "We know all too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians. We are proud as a government, and as the overwhelming majority of South Africans to be part of an international consensus taking root, that the time has come to resolve the problems of Palestine.' He concluded: "All of us need to do more in supporting the struggle of the people of Palestine for self-determination." If only we had political leaders like Nelson Mandela in the United States who possessed his political courage and ethical consistency.
We have heard from Israelis and many Americans: "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?" No doubt we will now hear: "Where is the Palestinian Mandela?" I have no doubt that the Palestinian Mandela is today in an Israeli prison, alongside nearly 5000 political prisoners in the Israeli system. The Palestinian Mandela may be one of the children between twelve to eighteen years of age who are kidnapped every night, many tortured until they give the Israeli occupation forces information on their friends, who will be rounded up the next evening and experience the same traumatic routine. The Palestinian Mandela may be in the villages on the West Bank that are resisting Israeli land-grabs by illegal settlements that are destroying their olive orchards and dumping raw sewage on their crops. The Palestinian Mandela could be in the oft-forgotten Gaza Strip where Palestinian children live in fear of daily Israeli drone attacks that regularly murder civilians. Just as Mandela rose from abject poverty, faced death threats and imprisonment in exchange for his steadfast resistance to Apartheid, and was denounced as a terrorist by the white South African regime and by the United States, so too will the Palestinian Mandelas rise above these same barriers to bring vision, leadership, and inspire a new generation to a just peace for all Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Rev. Dr. Don Wagner
Program Director, Friends of Sabeel-North America