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The death of Nelson Mandela, the world’s most revered fighter for freedom, justice and dignity, has been met with genuine, spontaneous sadness all over the world.
Whether it is because of Mandela’s selfless sacrifice for his people, his 27 years of perseverance in the face of adversity or his willingness to forgive his wicked incarcerators, millions of people in all corners of the world are genuinely grief stricken at the passing of this giant of giants. They mourn not only the huge gap he leaves behind, but also the fact that the standards of decency he had set are unlikely to be met by any living politician. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, …he will go down in history as South Africa’s George Washington, a person who within a single five-year presidency became the principal icon of both liberation and reconciliation, loved by those of all political persuasions as the founder of modern, democratic South Africa… [T]he crucible of excruciating suffering which he had endured purged the dross, the anger, the temptation to any desire for revenge, honing his spirit and transforming him into an icon of magnanimity. He used his enormous moral stature to good effect in persuading his party and many in the black community, especially young people, that accommodation and compromise were the way to achieve our goal of democracy and justice for all.
But there are also the hypocrites and vultures seeking to feed off the outpouring of emotion unleashed by Mandela’s death. At the top of the list of these scoundrels are, as one would expect, Israeli, US and British politicians. As Ami Kaufman says in +972 Magazine, “Israeli politicians have begun updating their Facebook pages with eulogies for the late Nelson Mandela”, and, he asks : “What do statesmen of the Jewish state –one of the last Western countries to support the South African apartheid state and which today practises apartheid-like policies between the [Jordan] river and the [Mediterranean] sea– have to say about the man who brought racism to its knees ?
Indeed, as Juan Cole points out, The attempt to make Nelson Mandela respectable is an ongoing effort of Western government spokesmen and the Western media. He wasn’t respectable in the business circles of 20th-century New York or Atlanta, or inside the Beltway of Washington, DC. He wasn’t respectable for many of the allies of the United States in the Cold War, including Britain and Israel. Cole reminds us of the facts which the forked-tongued hypocrites in the US and among its Israeli and European allies would rather we forget : The US considered the African National Congress to be a form of communism, and sided with the racist prime ministers Hendrik Verwoerd and P.W. Botha against Mandela. Decades later, in the 1980s, the United States was still supporting the white apartheid government of South Africa, where a tiny minority of Afrikaners dominated the economy and refused to allow black Africans to shop in their shops or fraternize with them, though they were happy to employ them in the mines. Ronald Reagan declared Nelson Mandela, then still in jail, a terrorist, and the US did not get around to removing him from the list until 2008 ! Reagan, while delivering pro forma denunciations of apartheid or enforced black separation and subjugation, nevertheless opposed sanctions with teeth on Pretoria. Reagan let the racist authoritarian P.W. Botha come to Washington and met with him. Likewise British PM Margaret Thatcher befriended Botha and castigated Mandela’s ANC [African National Congress] as terrorists. As if the Afrikaners weren’t terrorizing the black majority !… The Israeli government had extremely warm relations with apartheid South Africa, to the point where Tel Aviv offered the Afrikaners a nuclear weapon (presumably for brandishing at the leftist states of black Africa). That the Israelis accuse Iran of being a nuclear proliferator is actually hilarious if you know the history. Iran doesn’t appear ever to have attempted to construct a nuclear weapon, whereas Israel has hundreds and seems entirely willing to share. In the US, the vehemently anti-Palestinian Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco spied on American anti-apartheid activists on behalf of the apartheid state. If the ADL ever calls you a racist, you can revel in the irony. Ronald Reagan imagined that there were “moderates” in the Botha government. There weren’t. He wanted “constructive engagement” with them. It failed.
Mandela subscribed to a value system a world apart from that of the Western and Israeli vultures now seeking to make political capital by heaping praise on him, postmortem. He, as Cole says, “was a socialist who believed in the ideal of economic equality or at least of a decent life for everyone in society. He was also a believer in parliamentary government. So, he was a democratic socialist”. They, on the other hard, are out and out capitalists, the spokesmen and slaves of global corporations and, in the case of the Israelis quoted by Kaufman, racists, bigots, land thieves and squatters. Mandela, to quote Cole, is a pioneer to be emulated. We honour him by standing up for justice even in the face of enormous opposition from the rich and powerful, by taking risks for high ideals. We won’t meet his standards. But if all of us tried, we’d make the world better. As he did.