Pro-Palestinians and Mandela’s legacy

As Nelson Mandela is mourned all over the world, a dangerous tendency is already shaping in pro-Palestinian circles. Western groups opposing the Jewish State see in the South African leader’s passing an opportunity to use his shadow as a mean to enhance the alleged moral authority of Palestinian militant and terrorist groups. The words tweeted by a student of a US college exemplify this dangerous trend. Following the Mandela’s death the student wrote: “I wonder which Palestinian activist currently dubbed a terrorist will be as warmly regarded as Nelson Mandela when Israel’s apartheid falls”. While these words do not represent any official opinion they do highlight the fact that pro-Palestinian activists are prone to highjack a political legacy that is not theirs to delegitimize Israel right to exist and to create a false narrative based on an imaginary morality of their combat.

To counter this, it is important at first to briefly understand what in fact may be coined as Mandela’s legacy. As R.W Johnson rightfully noted in his article on the National Interest, Nelson Mandela was an imperfect leader with political and ideological flaws. However, he was able to gather momentum around his persona and bring unprecedented change and stability to his country. For this, its legacy goes beyond the violence he committed and the errors he made and it is in fact portrayed by the positive message of peace he attempted to bring to his divided nation.

Pro-Palestinians understand this and see in his success a possibility to relate their war against Israel to his anti-racist drive. Linking the war Palestinians lead against Israel to the image of Nelson Mandela exemplifies a widespread fallacy in pro-Palestinian organizations, which is the invention of a parallel reality presented then as an undisputed fact to third parties and international media outlets.

In their propaganda campaign, pro-Palestinians group desperately need to link their message to a non-Palestinian leader such as Mandela for a simple reason. No Palestinian figure is able to provide their efforts against the Jewish State with a semblance of a moral high ground.

This strategy, which eventually makes of Mandela a Palestinian hero is erroneous on three levels as it creates a false link between South Africa and Gaza, Judea and Samaria, in addition to that it equates the techniques used by Palestinian terrorists to those used by Mandela while inventing a an aura of morality surrounding Palestinian leaders.

The first fallacy in the pro-Palestinians attempt to highjack the Mandela legacy results from the link the South African leader has always had with his land. Since the beginning of his personal and political struggle for equality, Nelson Mandela never rejected the existence of the South African state per se. On the other hand, Palestinians and their supporters have, since the UN Partition plan, lead a negative effort, basing their autonomy on factors limiting Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign country. While Mandela called for internal reforms, Palestinians actively work to delegitimize Israel on the economic and socio-political levels.

What’s more, a core difference between Mandela and the Palestinians is the fact that the South African leader has always benefitted from an undisputed legitimacy stemming from the fact that he was a South African working for his fellow countrymen. Iconic Palestinian leaders, such as Yasser Arafat or Ismail Haniyeh do not benefit from the same national aura. In fact, Arafat was a man born in Egypt and clearly serving his own political agenda uninterested of the hardship he’d impose to the Palestinians. The Hamas leader is known to call for the independence of a land he considers purely Palestinian however his actions and his supporters clearly show that he is implementing a non-Palestinian agenda fostering a wider power game between Sunni and Shi’a states. As a whole the war lead by Palestinians since 1947 is not an indigenous struggle since it relies on international organizations as vectors of its message, on international donors for founding and on regional partners for weapons supplies and political support.

The second point that needs to be addressed is that pro-Palestinian networks try to equate the violent actions perpetrated by terrorist groups to the pacifist image of Nelson Mandela. Even if, to be exact, Mandela did not fully renounce to violence, but his political choices in the 1990s prevented larger bloodsheds that may have resulted from the changing social structure in South Africa. On the other hand, Palestinian leaders, may they be nationalist or Islamist, have repeatedly called for violence. Their actions and their positioning find in low scale terrorist warfare against Israel the key to their political strategy and the essence of their raison d’être. Leaders such as Arafat, Barghouti and Abbas can in no rational way be considered pacifist leaders as they have repeatedly rejoiced at the death of Israeli civilians.

The last element exposing the fallacy of any comparison between Nelson Mandela and Palestinian leaders is the fact that since Haj Husseini, no Palestinian leader has had a positive impact on his people. Haj Husseini has ignited a decade long wave of violence based on anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi tendencies. Yasser Arafat built the foundation for regional instability and long lasting Palestinian terrorism. Current Hamas leaders have enabled the Palestinian war to become part of the international Jihad while members of the Fatah party have acted like criminal oligarchs syphoning international aid into their private accounts while repeatedly encouraging violence to justify their respective roles. While Nelson Mandela was an imperfect leader, his charisma and actions have positively inspired people in his country and around the world, on the other hand the choices taken by criminals and terrorists should in no way be considered as morally positive.

For the above mentions reasons, it is imperative to counter the current pro-Palestinians attempt to benefit from the death of Nelson Mandela as they construct a faulty narrative in the moral shadow of the late South African leader.

About the Author
Riccardo Dugulin is an independant international affairs analyst. He holds a Master in International Security from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and has worked in leading think tanks in Washington DC, Beirut and Dubai and has held the position of security coordinator for a security assistance firm.
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