Nelson Mandela: a towering symbol of freedom for Palestinians

Nelson Mandela: a towering symbol of freedom for Palestinians
Ramallah has unveiled a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, with the freedom fighter's struggle against oppression something close to the heart of many Palestinians.
3 min read
26 Apr, 2016
Nelson Mandela has been an icon for Palestinian activists [AFP]

The Palestinian struggle has often been linked to black South Africans' fight against the country's hated white supremacist government, which ruled the country until 1994.

One of the most common characteristics of the Israeli occupation has been its supremicist and violent tendencies.

Israel's security forces have suppressed any signs of unrest against a system which works in favour of one people at the expense of another, limiting their rights, wealth and freedoms, all while restricting their movement. This has led Israel to being described as an apartheid state. 

South African leader Nelson Mandela - who died in 2013 - and the African Congress Party were ultimately successful in their fight, but the Palestinian struggle continues.

On Tuesday, Ramallah unveiled a six-metre statue of Nelson Mandela, which was donated by Johannesburg city.

Mandella spent 27 years in jail for waging an armed rebellion against the apartheid regime. It was an apparatus that did not allow black South Africans to vote, and kept the population confined to destitute poverty with few rights.

We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians

Any unrest was dealt with brutally by police through a combination of abductions, intimidation, torture and murder.  

At the same time, South Africa and Israel enjoyed warm relations and were particularly close on military cooperation, with Tel Aviv assisting South Africa with its nuclear weapons programme.

Even after Mandela became president - and steered the country down a path of national reconciliation - he continued to speak out for Palestinian rights.

"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians," he famously said after becoming president.

For this stance, Mandela remains a hugely popular figure in Palestine and a towering figure that Palestinian politicians frequently try to emulate - but often fall short of replicating.

"What he was is what our presidents should be: honest, persistent and a true man," said Eman Hasweh, originally from Ramallah.

Roa Amer, a Palestinian who lives in Jordan, agreed: "He symbolises the struggle the Palestinians are going through, and his fight against the apartheid state has many similarities to the ongoing conflict."

His statue is a message that no longer how long the fight takes, right will ultimately prevail. This was even the case with simply getting the statue from South Africa to Palestine.

The figure was held by the Israeli authorities for more than a month, but in the end Mandela overcame oppression once again and made it to Palestine.