Commentary: Mandela and Palestine

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Mandela and Palestine

By Ray Hanania

MandelaArafatNelson Mandela died Thursday, bringing tears to the eyes of all people seeking liberation from oppression, and maybe a sigh of relief from hardline Israelis.

That’s because Mandela forever represented an official link between Israel and their discriminatory policies that activists decry as apartheid and that so offends pro-Israel fanatics.

Mandela knows the true meaning of apartheid and he knows the true meaning of oppression. And over the years, he has been unhesitant in speaking out against Israel’s oppressive policies.

In March of 2001, a creative author took Mandela’s thoughts and applied it in a satirical letter to the hypocritical Israeli “liberal-phony” Thomas Friedman, taking to task his pulled punches and inaccurate definitions of Israel’s oppression.

The column, using many of Mandela’s words and beliefs, went: “You seem to be surprised to hear that there are still problems of 1948 to be solved, the most important component of which is the right to return of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established “normally” and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not struggling for a “state” but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.”

In real life, Mandela put the blame on the failed peace process between Palestinians and Israelis squarely on the shoulders of Israel, and Israelis and American Jews have long despised Mandela’s support of the Palestinian cause.

It is Israel, he often has said, not the Palestinians, who are the obstacle to peace.

Mandela’s support for Palestinian freedom has emboldened all those who fight for civil rights, undermining Israel efforts to mute the Palestinian cause by embracing civil rights movements elsewhere. It is an Israeli strategy, to support freedom for every other oppressed ethnic group except for the Palestinians.

The fact that Mandela continually exposed Israeli hypocrisy on this issue angered Israelis.

Mandela was a constant reminder to people of principle that despite Israel’s domination of the Western News Media and it’s excessive influence over American politics, Israel is an oppressive state that has rejected peace and continues to enforce policies of tyranny and oppression. It is Israel that expands its racist settlements in Ariel, Gilo and elsewhere in occupied Palestinian lands, in much the same way that the Apartheid South African government oppressed Blacks in South Africa.

Mandela’s death removes one more voice from the growing chorus of condemnation of Israel’s discriminatory policies and its Apartheid-like polices in the West Bank and in occupied Jerusalem.



Mandela was fearless in standing up to Israeli oppression by embracing the ate Palestinian President Yasir Arafat, a revolutionary hero who was much like Mandela himself, standing up against the overwhelming military advantage that Israel had through guerilla warfare and legitimate resistance.

English: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin,...

English: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. president Bill Clinton, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. Česky: Izraelský premiér Jicchak Rabin, americký prezident Bill Clinton a předseda Organizace pro osvobození Palestiny (OOP) Jásir Arafat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arafat extended his hand in peace to Israel in 1993, but the Israelis murdered the man who shook Arafat’s hand, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then through Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, tyrants of extremism and unparalleled violence, undermined the peace process and strengthened Israel’s Apartheid-like grip on the lands.

Mandela would often reiterate his belief that the oppression of the Palestinian people is an oppression that is the cornerstone of tyranny and oppression around the world, saying “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Mandela was the Window into Israel oppression and tyranny, a window that has now be shuttered by his death.

Yet despite his death, Mandela’s condemnation of Israeli military oppression will resonate for many generations as a reminder of who the real force is standing in the way of Middle East peace.

Even in his death, Mandela will be immortalized as the Rule of Law indictment of Israel’s anti-peace policies, its war crimes against civilians and its brutality against justice.

President Barack Obama issued the following statement on Mandela’s passing:

“At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

“And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real.  He achieved more than could be expected of any man.  Today, he has gone home.  And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.  He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.

“Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us.  His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better.  His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.  And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable.  As he once said, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life.  My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.  I studied his words and his writings.  The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.  And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.

“To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us.  His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most.  And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.

“To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real.  A free South Africa at peace with itself — that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.

“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

“For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.  May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace.”

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and writer. He can be reached at

(Editor’s Note: In the 4th paragraph, a quote was published that was incorrectly attributed directly to Nelson Mandela. It was not. But the author believes the content of the comments do reflect Mandela’s views towards Israel and  hypocritical pro-peace supporters like Thomas Friedman. The paragraph is corrected to reflect that the quote itself is satire but that the content of the quote applies. We regret the error, and failing to note that the original source is a satire site.)

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Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at And, he writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers.

He also writes for the online websites including, and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions.In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States. He has a daughter from a prior marriage, Haifa.

His Facebook Page is

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