Barely two weeks after he was released from prison in 1990, Nelson Mandela flew to Zambia to meet with African leaders who had supported his fight against South Africa’s apartheid system of forced racial segregation.
One figure stood out among the men in dark suits eagerly waiting to greet Mandela on the airport tarmac: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, wearing his black and white checkered keffiyeh headdress, had traveled to see the newly freed Mandela.
He grabbed Mandela in a bear hug and kissed him on each cheek. Mandela smiled broadly. It was confirmation of the solidarity between two men who considered their peoples’ struggles for freedom to be the same.
South Africans continue to support the Palestinian cause, and the country has taken the rare step of bringing a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice because of its war in Gaza.
South Africa is not a diplomatic heavyweight and is geographically far from the conflict. But its ruling African National Congress, which Mandela led from an anti-apartheid liberation movement to a political party in government, has retained its strong pro-Palestinian stance even after Mandela died in 2013.
“We have stood with the Palestinians and we will continue to stand with our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, said at a pro-Palestinian rally in Cape Town in October, days after the Hamas attack in southern Israel spurred the war on Gaza. Mandla Mandela, an ANC lawmaker, wore a black and white Palestinian keffiyeh around his neck as he spoke to a large crowd. [Continue reading…]