|Nelson Mandela (L) in Robben Island prison.|
Slightly expanded from a note I wrote on Facebook. I actually saw Mandela briefly, though an odd moving cage of glass. He visited New York City after his liberation, and was given a ticker-tape parade which I attended with my friend Pat. I still have the felt flag printed with ANC colors that we waved from the sidelines, amazed at the turning wheels of history.
As of this writing South African hero Nelson Mandela is hospitalized, in critical condition. While he is quite possibly near death, he has survived previous bouts of a lung ailment aggravated by his years in a white-supremacist prison.
But in advance of all the pretty, laudatory words sure to come upon his death, it's really important to remember that the biggest backers of the racist system of apartheid in South Africa were the United States, the UK, and the State of Israel. All the world's politicians will be crying crocodile tears for Mandela when he passes, but they all considered him a terrorist virtually up until the moment he was released from his life-stealing 27 years in prison. Much of the radical promise of Mandela's African National Congress was (predictably) set aside upon their assumption of power, but that pales, in the scale of political horrors, in comparison with the whitewashing of decades of racist lies, backed by massive amounts of money and weapons, that propped up the racist white minority regime in South Africa and made life desperate and dangerous for its black majority.
Reagan, Thatcher, and all their ilk believed Mandela deserved to rot in jail. The Israelis understood what Apartheid South Africa meant for them and studied its methods carefully as they exchanged military and financial aid. These are not accidents nor inconsistencies.
Back in the day the divestment movement met the same arguments that today's BDS movement meets. Don't be fooled, the companies and conglomerates and multinational corporations of international capitalism believe oppression is profitable. That's how they want the world organized.
The governments of the world believe they have a right to label freedom fighters terrorists.
The apartheid state in Israel believes that some people are not as human as others. If South Africa teaches us anything about humanity it teaches us about the justness of the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Who are tomorrow's Mandelas? Don't let the Reagans and Thatchers of today off the hook. The struggle continues; it's right to rebel.
Thank you Nelson Mandela for your part in changing history.