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The day that Mandela Square graces Jerusalem

Like Mandela, we in Israel have fought for our liberation from colonialism. But the world Mandela inspires is far from accepting Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

By Ilan Baruch

Bethlehem-area activists honor the memory of Nelson Mandela at a ceremony in Manger Square, West Bank, December 7, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Bethlehem-area activists honor the memory of Nelson Mandela at a ceremony in Manger Square, West Bank, December 7, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

On December 5th, South Africa and the world commemorated the passing away of Neslon Mandela, one of the most illustrious men in the history of modern times. In the duration of my tenure as Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, Mandela was no longer playing a role in the political dynamics of the country, and ambassadorial courtesy visits to his office were nearly impossible. Thanks, however, to the extraordinary help of a prominent Jewish advocate in Johannesburg and his close confidant, such a meeting was afforded to my wife and I in May 2006. Needless to say we were overwhelmed when stepping into the offices of the most universally admired individual in our times. Upon entry, Zelda, his mythological Chief of Staff, responded to my whispered, diplomatic question: “Twenty-eight minutes, tight!”

The tall man received us in his usual batik and warm smile. Soon, the conversation flowed. Mandela opted for a conversation on Judaism, the Jewish nation and above all his sense of gratitude to the Jewish community in South Africa. He told us of his first employers, a Jewish Law firm in Johannesburg, where upon day one he was told “indoors we are all equal.” Then he told us of his bosses who suggested that he buys his daily lunch, for which they generously paid, in a certain eatery. When he asked about the bosses’ insistence, they answered: “the Jewish lady running it lost her husband recently and is in dire need of the income.” Reminiscing, Mandela said: “this kind of solidarity the Jews are entitled to be proud of and we need to learn from.” We felt very proud indeed.

Read: The most hypocritical Mandela eulogies by Israeli politicians

Mandela liked us, and kindly refused Zelda’s explicit hints to round our meeting up. He told us of his political conversations in the infamous Robben Island prison, particularly with the younger leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in custody with him. “They wanted to raise arms and fight for our freedom,” he said. “They thought I am an old man unable to take action at the expense of missed opportunities. But I argued with them.”

“When it comes to military power, Pretoria has the upper hand. When it comes to moral ground of universal justice, we the ANC have the upper hand. Ultimately, justice will prevail.” He looked at us smilingly and said: “Indeed, justice prevailed.”

We in Israel have fought for our liberation from colonialism as well. We are a shining triumph over evil powers of the old world. However, tragically the world Mandela inspires never accepted Israel in the pantheon of victory over colonialism. On the contrary, it is itself considered a colonial power, denying liberation to Palestine by means of entrenched occupation and military might.

Conspicuously, Israel failed to send a high powered delegation to Pretoria for the funeral. The pretext was the high cost of security arrangements required for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s overseas travels. However, Mandela was the standard bearer of liberty and dignity for all. We are a nation still bedeviled by the denial of liberty and dignity to our Palestinian neighbors, a nation about which Mandela was quoted saying “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

It is certain that in the coming years, streets, avenues and squares in the capital cities the world over will be named after Mandela. All but one: Jerusalem. Let us pray for a just peace that will allow a Mandela Square in our capital city as well.

Ilan Baruch, former Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, is currently actively involved in the Peace NGOs Forum.

Related:
On Mandela’s legacy: Three political innovations
Why isn’t Netanyahu going to Johannesburg for Mandela’s memorial?

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    1. Baladi Akka 1948

      “Like Mandela, we in Israel have fought for our liberation from colonialism.”
      I’m always amazed when I read that kind of stuff by Zionists or other brainwashed Israelis. How on earth do you have the chutzpah to compare the Zionist enterprise in Palestine (that we the indigenous people consider a colonial enterprise in case you didn’t know) with the struggle in South Africa. Mandala was a native fighting for his people, Ben Gurion, Rabin (though born in Palestine), Begin etc were all settlers fighting for other settlers at the expense of the native population.
      First time I read that kind of stuff, I asked the author who that war was fought against. I genuinly thought he was talking about the Palestinians but he answered ‘Britain’.
      Zionism was implemented in Palestine with the help of colonial powers, first of all Britain, and you guys were not fighting a war of liberation against colonialism, you were colonialists imposing your rule on the natives. The fights going on between the Zionist militias and the Brits prior to May 15th 1948 had nothing to do with fighting colonialism, it was colonialists fighting among themselves, just as the fights betwwen the French army and the dissident OAS settler organization in colonial Algeria.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sluggo

        Go build a village. Lol

        Reply to Comment
      • Sluggo

        How rude! The Palestinians are stealing the narrative of true victims of colonialism. No, they are decedents of colonialists themselves and they are not indigenous. To state otherwise is morally and factually incorrect.

        Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Interesting interview with MK and kead of Hadash Mohammed Barakeh. He does indeed talk about building a village while not destroying anyone else’s village:

        http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.631273

        …Barakeh, who spoke with Haaretz shortly before an election was called in Israel, was born in Shfaram in 1955, but as far back as he can remember, he was taken for frequent visits to the farmlands of Saffuriya, which his uncles continued to work for the new landlords. The stories he heard as a child about the place he still calls “my home” are etched deeply in his memory. Barakeh’s father – his neighbor in Shfaram – still has the key to the family’s house. “There are hair-raising stories about what happened in the Nakba [“the catastrophe,” the Palestinian term for the establishment of Israel], stories my mother told me,” Barakeh says. “About massacres, killings, rapes. Some are true, others aren’t.”

        One such story is about a group of people who hid in a cave in Saffuriya during the 1948 war. “There was a baby girl there, a few months old, who kept crying,” Barakeh relates. “Her mother – my grandmother – tried to breastfeed her but had no milk, and there was no water in the cave. One of the older women told her, ‘If the baby keeps crying, we will be discovered. Suffocate her.’ My grandmother replied, ‘How can I do such a thing?’ And the woman said, ‘Do you want us all to die?’ Finally, my mother, who was 10 at the time, crawled to the house from the cave to get water.”

        So your ideal is to recreate Saffuriya?

        Barakeh: “Yes, to build it on the original lands and restore its eradicated name to life.”

        In place of Tzippori and Hasolelim?

        “I am definitely not urging that one wrong be righted by another wrong.”

        Will you forgo the right of return?

        “No, that is a right that has to remain intact. I understand that the Nakba cannot be undone by fomenting a Nakba. But in my mind’s eye, I definitely see my relations, who are scattered in refugee camps in Lebanon and other places, coming to the spring in Saffuriya.”

        The Nakba, he says, “is not a subject for negotiation. The Nakba is a collective story and a personal experience.”

        I remind Barakeh that the later Meir Vilner, a longtime leader of his party, was a signatory to Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Would you have signed it, I ask him?

        “No,” he replies.

        Why not?

        “Because the first sentence talks about the Bible-based historical rights of the Jewish people. I would also not have named the country ‘Israel.’ That’s a biblical name, not a civic one.”
        Would you change the national anthem?

        “[The Hebrew poet] Shaul Tchernichovsky’s ‘I Believe’ [known by its opening words in Hebrew, ‘Sahaki, sahaki’] is fitting as an anthem. It’s a beautiful poem and song, very human and universal.” …

        Reply to Comment
      • “you were colonialists imposing your rule on the natives.” Same story with the US.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Yeah. Same story in US, dumbass. Also, same story in UK when Saxons had invaded it, and same story in Palestine when Arabs had invaded it, and same story in France when invading Francs kicked out Galls. Basically, it is the old same story anywhere on the planed, but for some, particularly dumb dumbasses only one story, where Jews were able to gain some ground, is of any interest.

          Reply to Comment
    2. TOMER

      Like Illegal Apartheid Colonists in S.A., so the illegal Arab Colonists in Eretz Israel must be disinvented & destroyed !!

      Vote Moshe Feiglin for PM

      Reply to Comment
      • You’re looking at a world of hurt Tomer. You shouldn’t have violent fantasies. A strong man is not a violent one. Might doesn’t make right.

        Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        Another Right Wing Fascist chirps but fails to grasp the FACT that Israel has lost the PR War…

        Does us moderate JEWs a favor and stop EMBARRASSING US…

        Reply to Comment
    3. Pedro X

      Now look after whom Palestinians have named their public squares, schools and sport teams.

      A Palestinian child can walk to school along a street named after the terrorist Abu Jihad, who planned a bus hijacking that killed 38 israelis, spend the day learning in a school named after Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin, in the afternoon play football in a tournament named after suicide terrorist Abdel Baset Odeh who killed 31, and end his day at a youth center named after terrorist Abu Iyad, responsible for the killing of the 11 Olympic athletes in Munich.

      In 2010 the Palestinians dedicated a square, planted with greenery and flowers, outside the Palestinian Authority’s National Political Guidance headquarters to terrorist Dalal Mughrabi who sailed from Lebanon into Israel and murdered 38 people on a bus in the 1978 Coastal Massacre. 13 of those killed were Israeli children. On the day of dedication Palestinian general said “There are not enough squares for all the martyrs we have.” The dedication took place a day after the killing of five members of the Fogel family by Palestinian terrorists.

      Tawfiq Tiwari, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said “We are all Dalal Mughrabi”.

      The Palestinians had also dedicated to Dalal Mughrabi two girls high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship and two summer camps, a kindergarten, football tournaments, a community center, a sports team, a street, an election course, an adult education course, a university club, a dance troupe, a military unit, a dormitory in a youth center, TV series, a TV quiz team and a graduation ceremony. Many other schools and localities have been named after her and other Palestinian terrorists.

      In 2003 PA renamed the main square in the city of Jenin in honor of the Iraqi bomber who murdered four American soldiers in a suicide car bomb attack on March 27, 2003. The PA named a public square in Jericho after Yiyhe Ayyash. The U.S. State Department has named him as a prime suspect in the August 21, 1995 Jerusalem bus bombing in which Connecticut schoolteacher Joan Davenny was murdered.

      Saddam Hussein had a Palestinian school and a road named after him.”

      The official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah reported on January 21, 2003 that the PA-sponsored soccer tournament in the PA-ruled city of Tulkarm was named “the Tulkarm Shahida [Martyrs] Memorial Soccer championship tournament of the Shahid Abd Al-Baset Odeh.” Odeh was the suicide bomber who attacked a Netanya hotel on Passover massacring 31 people, including a 90 year-old U.S. citizen, Mrs. Hannah Rogen.

      A Ramallah street was named for notorious Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash.

      The town square in the West Bank town of Madama where a terrorist lived features a monument honoring Omar Muhammad Ziyada (Abu Samed)”the heroic Martyrdom-Seeker” and his “heroic Herzliya operation.” The monument has pictures of the suicide terrorist and of Yasser Arafat.

      Palestinian Media Watch lists over 100 places named after terrorists in Palestinian towns, villages or cities.

      As the Palestinian general said there are not enough squares for him to name after terrorists though the Palestinians are trying hard.

      Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        And of course there are no Begin-squares and streets in Israel. Because that would mean naming them after a terrorist. Right?

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        PedroX – Bad things happen in all countries. Being a Jewish nationalist does not inoculate you from evil, any more than it does American nationalists or Arab nationalists.

        Ariel Sharon, responsible for hit and run attacks on Arab villages and civilian transport in 1947-8, responsible for a deadly attack on civilians at Qibya in Jordan in 1953, and found by the Israeli government Kahan Commission to have born “personal responsibility” “for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge” during the Sabra and Shatilla massacre of 1982 (among other atrocities where unarmed civilians were murdered) is commemorated in Ariel Sharon Park to the east of Tel Aviv.

        Menachem Begin was the leader of a terrorist group, Irgun, condemned by Jewish and British authorities as an illegal organization attacking civilian targets (e.g. bombs placed in Arab markets, the King David Hotel bombing, the massacre of civilians at Deir Yassin, the assassination of UN peace envoy Count Bernadotte) is commemorated in the Menachem Begin Expressway, also known as Highway 50.

        But as Netanyahu (lying again) said: “They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don’t. We condemn them and we put them on trial and we’ll put them in prison.” (See http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/notes/israel_is_not_like_them1)

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          You are wrong again. Sharon was not tagged with indirect responsibility:

          “The Kahan Commission devised two
          levels of responsibility-direct
          and indirect-and its conception of the differences between the two muted Israel’s responsibility. According to the Commission, only those who “actually perpetrated” the
          massacre itself were directly
          responsible.

          Therefore, it was a relatively
          simple matter for the Commission
          to determine that Israel and
          those acting on its behalf were
          not directly responsible for the
          massacres.”

          Sharon’s operations were military based with military objectives. He hit and destroyed Arab bases.

          Begin became a statesman who concluded peace with Egypt. He offered the Palestinians a seat at the peace table which they refused. He redeemed himself in a way which Arafat and the Palestinians never have.

          Reply to Comment
    4. So Palestinians are only terrorists and zionists are only heroes?

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        The Palestinians have fashioned a death cult for themselves in which murderers are held in the highest esteem. Their leaders preach Jew killing as more precious than life itself. For instance, their spiritual adviser and leader Shiek Yassin said in 2003 (Times of London):

        “The day we become martyrs is a wedding day for us…when we get killed it is the happiest day of our lives.”

        Palestinian leaders have been exhorting their men, women and children to kill Jews. Palestinian leader Ismail Abu Shanab stated (New York Times, Oct. 28, 2000.)

        “We are coming. We have accepted the challenge. We are coming to Tel Aviv. We are coming to every place in Palestine to purify it from the Jews.”

        Palestinian leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi said (Chicago Tribune July 23, 2002.):

        “We will kill Jews everywhere. There will be no security for any Jews, those who came from America, Russia or anywhere.”

        All of these Palestinian leaders were responsible for mass murder of Israeli civilians and all have achieved the happiest day of their lives having been killed by Israeli air strikes.

        Palestinians continue to glorify the acts of these leaders and he Palestinians who carried them out by naming schools, streets and other civic structures after them. The Palestinian public strongly supports the sentiments of Jew killing put forward by their leaders. A PSR poll from last week showed 80% of the Palestinian population supports terrorist attacks against Israelis as have been happening in Jerusalem. They approved the murders of a 3 month old baby, commuters waiting for a train and 4 rabbis at prayer in a synagogue.

        The people carrying out such attacks are rewarded with life time salaries for themselves or their families. They have schools, squares, sport teams, tournaments,and other civic structures named after them for having killed Jews.

        Dalal Mughrabi, the most praised and celebrated of all Palestinian women who have murdered Israelis, had one accomplishment in life, she killed a whole bunch of Jews. She did nothing else in life. She is venerated by Palestinians as Catholics venerate their Virgin Mary Mother of God, except that Catholics venerate the Virgin Mary for giving life not taking lives of innocent Israeli children and civilians.

        Reply to Comment
        • Fanatic murderers are found among all religions and all of humanity and of course you know this, but your masters at hasbara central insist you must, with all your talking points, insist that Palestinians have a “death cult”. Ick.

          Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            The current Palestinian leadership, both Fatah and Hamas continue with indoctrinating children into their death cult. Hamas leaders were present at graduation ceremonies for 13,000 children in Gaza from terrorist school in January 2014. The graduation of paramilitary camps was geared at training high-school children “to follow in the footsteps of the suicide martyrs”. Part of the graduating class were a group of young girls trained to serve as human bombs. Mohammed Abu Nar, addressed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem at the graduation ceremony.

            “We are the pioneers of liberation, we are coming to purify you from the Zionists,”

            Hammad, the interior minister, said

            “This generation is a sapling from God on earth. It will harvest the enemies of God and be the pride of all nations,”

            Prime Minister Haniyeh said:

            “This is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel and the suicide operations.”

            He added that there were female handlers

            “to oversee the training of the young women to follow in the footsteps of the female suicide operatives.”

            In June Gazan parents sent 100,000 of their children to Hamas terrorists camps.

            The PA operates camp Jihad camps in the summer for their youth also. They teach their children that to die a martyr’s death is the highest calling in Palestinian society. Dieing in the course of an operation is often portrayed as a marriage ceremony pursuant to which martyrs will be admitted into paradise and have sex with 72 virgins. Such is the Palestinian cult of death.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Mikesailor

      Does every Zionist lie? Is it something in the ideology that every Zionist must lose their grip on reality and tell the most transparent of lies and swear it’s the truth? Israeli fought their way from “colonialism”? Who is this idiot? Israelis were never colonised. Instead, Zionist Jews stole the land and immigrated to Palestine with the full financial and political support of the British who were colonizers nonpareil. The Brits with their duplicitous and disingenous Balfour Declaration which basically gave “property” rights to those who previously had never set foot in Palestine but somehow, with British connivance, were allowed to dispossess the indigenous. Colonisation? Perhaps he meant that Zionism was a product of irritable bowel syndrome ie. dyspeptic colon. That is the only “colon-ization” I can see. Much like this article, a load of crap.

      Reply to Comment
      • Being raised in the US, this tale is very familiar. It’s the same nonsensical story told (still) of the “pilgrims” who fled “oppression” in England and “discovered” a “new world” and claimed that God intended for them to take that land, full of its natural beauty and abundance (which they quickly decimated) and live there as “free” people, free of the oppression, free to worship as they wished, free to – hold up, who are those strange looking creatures there?! They can’t speak English? What’s up with their skin and hair? Why, they’re savages! They must be subdued (i.e. killed, of course not until after they keep us from starving). And keeping in mind it was “oppression” and lack of freedom they fled, they went about the difficult work of trying to force the indigenous peoples to do this difficult work for them. No such luck there. They then went about the business of claiming a stake in the transatlantic slave trade. With the African, they commenced to oppress with a vigor and determination never before seen, with horrifying cruelty and brutality and chattel slavery was born, and the “oppressed” white folks became the oppressors of black folks. Yes, this article stinks such like an old american history (fairy tale) book. Pass.

        Reply to Comment
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