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Mandla Mandela’s anti-Israel vitriol contrasts with his grandfather’s legacy

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During the multitude of anti-Israel protests that took place across the country last month, one figure stood up front and gave protestors the political credibility they craved: Minister of Parliament Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela
by TALI FEINBERG | Jun 28, 2018

In Cape Town, Chief Mandela said that Israel had “committed genocide and crimes against humanity”, and conveyed a personal greeting from the head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh. In Durban, he said: “We want to call on our South African government to send the Israeli ambassador back to Israel where he belongs. He has no home in South Africa. Madiba said that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people. For myself personally‚ it is a continuation of Madiba's commitment.”

But the late President Nelson Mandela was cordial and close to the Jewish community and acknowledged the Jewish State. He even visited Jerusalem, where he told the then Ambassador Alon Liel and Prime Minister Ehud Barak that he would like to assist in peace negotiations. He was never anti-Semitic.

This is in stark contrast to his grandson’s recent statement at a Boeka (breaking Ramadan Fast) protest in Cape Town on 8 June, where he repeated an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that “the DA wanted to fire Mayor Patricia De Lille because she refused to accept bribes from apartheid-Israel companies”.

On this statement, Milton Shain, the Emeritus Professor of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town and expert on anti-Semitism, said: “Certainly, the outrageous anti-Semitic tropes he uses go beyond the bounds of normal political antagonism and suggests an anger towards Jews as such. His language is inflammatory, and shows no sensitivity to a tough and hitherto intractable political problem. Rather, he offers a simplistic analysis and crosses the line between hostility to Israeli policies and blatant anti-Semitism. I would hope that the DA deals with the insinuations he has made about the party, and rebuts his allegations about Israeli companies. At this stage, notwithstanding his pedigree, I don’t see Mandla Mandela as an important political player in the ANC. He seems known, at least of late, for this single issue.”

Mandla Mandela’s anti-Israel stance is not new. It can perhaps be linked to his conversion to Islam and marriage to Rabia Clarke, a Muslim, in 2016. When he visited the Middle East last year, he refused to set foot in the Jewish State, only travelling in Palestinian territories. In Ramallah, he said “The settlements I saw here [in the West Bank] reminded me of what we had suffered in South Africa because we were also surrounded by many settlements and were not allowed to move from one place to another freely. Palestinians are being subjected to the worst version of apartheid.”

He later said: “What we have experienced in South Africa is a fraction of what the Palestinians are experiencing... We were oppressed in order to serve the white minority. The Palestinians are being eliminated off their land and brought out of their territories. This is a total human-rights violation. I think it is a total disgrace that the world is able to sit back while such atrocities are being carried out by apartheid Israel.”

This visit to the region is in stark contrast with that of his grandfather, who met Prime Minister Ehud Barak, President Ezer Weizman, Cabinet ministers and Supreme Court justices; laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial; and said, “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognise Israel within secure borders,” during his 1999 visit.

Just last week, the younger Mandela called on International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and the government to support the United Nations General Assembly vote condemning Israel, saying that the Jewish State had “committed acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and a pogrom of Palestinians. They don’t spare the elderly, women, or young children”, he added.

“This extreme rhetoric is dangerous because it is simplistic,” said Shain. “It is inflammatory in tone and devoid of sensitivity to the political context. Terms such as ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ are crude and unhelpful. He has no sense of the dialectical nature of this hitherto intractable problem. All in all, one gets the sense that he is a latecomer to a complex matter. Sadly, unlike his grandfather who always entertained dialogue, it seems Mandla Mandela wants nothing short of Israel's obliteration.”


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