The most misquoted of Madiba’s words

by Jewish Report | Jul 22, 2015

UKZN academic Lubna Nadvi is a community activist and a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF). She is by no means unintelligent, which begs the question of whether her selective quoting from Madiba in a Sunday Tribune op-ed entitled: `Our freedom is incomplete.'

The BDS-inculcated selective misquoting of Madiba as having said… “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians…” has fooled many a gullible listener over the years. And, of course, Madiba did say this.

Madiba misquote HOMEBut the US anti-Israel NGO Boycott, Divest and Sanction (Israel) has masterfully extracted and re-contextualised it to such an extent that an academic of Ms Nadvi’s stature was either wearing her PSF hat when she penned the op-ed – in which case truth would not have been her primary consideration – or she too is a fool (which I very much doubt).

In an address on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in Pretoria on 4 December 1997, then-President Nelson Mandela certainly did say: “Our freedom is incomplete…” – but when read in context, as with so many of Madiba’s well thought through speeches, this one was remarkable and memorable for many of its facets. Not the least of which was his overtly conciliatory stance towards Israel - particularly given the purpose of the event.

In fact, Madiba was at pains to tell the Palestinians and their supporters where they were failing in their negotiations with Israel, labouring the point that “Palestinian and Israeli campaigners for peace know that security for any nation is not abstract; neither is it exclusive. It depends on the security of others; it depends on mutual respect and trust.” His message to the Palestinians was clear: Show Israel they can trust you as partners in peace and you will achieve it.

Almost twenty years ago Madiba was not scared to castigate al-Bashir - and other global players for trampling on peoples’ human rights.

A finger he never pointed at Israel! His actual words were: “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians; without the resolution of conflicts in East Timor (now resolved), the Sudan (for which President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir’s arrest is sought by the International Criminal Court for the slaughter of over 300,000 mainly Christian citizens in Darfur) and other parts of the world.”


In the post-Oslo and post-Camp David euphoria that existed, Madiba included in his speech to Palestinian dignitaries that he wished to “take this opportunity to pay tribute to these Palestinian and Israeli leaders. In particular, we pay homage to the memory of Yitzchak Rabin who paid the supreme sacrifice in pursuit of peace.”


Back to Nadvi’s Sunday op-ed

In her op-ed `Our freedom is incomplete' in the 19 July Sunday Tribune, Ms Nadvi clearly misses the point that senior ANC-supporting students and business leaders are trying to make about BDS-SA. The blind and blatant bias she displays is clearly not the academic in her writing. She uses subjective terminology such as:

  • The students who travelled to Israel “understandably” raised the ire of anti-Israeli groups;
  • That “The strongest condemnation has come from the ruling ANC, which has officially decided not to send its members and officials to Israel” – Really, Ms Nadvi, officially? There certainly isn’t any such government policy. If there is, in fact, an unwritten agreement of some sort within the ANC, it would auger well for the good governance of the country that it is purely a political party position. President Zuma’s two personal Middle East envoys, Aziz Pahad & Zola Skhweyiya, only recently returned from Israel where he had dispatched them to meet with the director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also sent them to meet with Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs not long ago.
  • That the ANC “has also announced that it supports the BDS campaign that targets Israel” – The government certainly hasn’t ratified any such support that I am aware of, madam. I would welcome being corrected on this. President Abbas himself, on his last two visits to SA, made it crystal clear that the Palestinian leadership “absolutely does not support” BDS. Some BDS protesters were even arrested in Ramallah recently for anti-Palestinian activity.
  • “Given that members of the delegation belonged to the ANC-aligned South African Students Congress (Sasco), and an Israeli newspaper reported that South Africans in Israel had met ‘young ANC leaders’ the party is livid that students in its youth structures have apparently violated its official position in relation to Israel. Again and with the greatest respect for your academic acumen Ms Nadvi, if the party has such policies – which the government certainly doesn’t – show SA the evidence of these “official” policies.
  • “The head of the ANC's international relations committee, Obed Bapela, has been reported as saying: ‘The ANC did not send anybody to Israel.’ We will investigate this. We will summon the students." Thank goodness for our democracy. Original reports quoted Bapela as deputy minister in the Presidency, suggesting that he was speaking on behalf of the President. This has quickly changed to his political party title. Good governance.
  • “Clearly, Sasco and the ANC are embarrassed by the fact that ANC-aligned students visited WHAT MANY NOW REFER TO as the apartheid state of Israel.” Wearing your PSF hat, you could be excused for thinking that “MANY” refer to Israel in this way. Our government certainly doesn’t. The Western Cape branch of the ANC Youth League does, I agree. BDS-SA does too. How many in a population of 50-million would you consider “many”? 5,000,000? 1,000,000? 50,000?
  • “Israel has for many years been funding what have come to be known as ‘propaganda’ trips in an attempt to advance its own agenda.” This one, Ms Navdi, is an outright lie. The only funders of educational tours from SA to Israel/Palestine are SA Jews who are sick and tired of BDS’ rhetoric. Little wonder then, that these “Enlightened Sixteen” wanted to see the truth for themselves?   
I challenge you, Lubna Nadvi, academic and community activist, to go to Israel and Palestine with SAIF as the enlightened sixteen did, and let’s see what you think on your return.


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