Benjamin Netanyahu faced a tricky dilemma. With the passing the idolized (by the Western media) Nelson Mandela, and a flurry of international dignitaries flocking to South Africa to attend his funeral, Bibi had to choose whether to attend or not.
The choice politically at least, was simple enough. If Netanyahu attended, he would displease his supporters on the right (and perhaps himself as well), who consider Mandela a terrorist and a communist. Not attending of course, would displease those on the left, plus cause some international reaction. Israel it must be noted, had very warm relations with the white-led South African government, as both countries could relate to each other as small nations who represented democracy and freedom surrounded by overwhelming large hostile populations and countries, often representing communism. Both likewise, rarely had the support of the West of which they were very important part of.
To further complicate matters, Israel’s detractors often try to use the successful language used to bring down the Afrikaner (White) government and seize control of South Africa (culminating in the early 1990’s). The language of course, is mainly based on using the word “apartheid”, which is apparently overwhelmingly indefensible in the international media. Though the comparison is extremely weak (at least in the sense that its proponents mean), since Nelson Mandela’s life, largely consisted of fighting this apartheid, Israel’s attendance (or non-attendance for that matter) is undoubtedly assured to trigger such comparisons and condemnations.
Netanyahu one assumes, wants to minimize this possibility. This piece is not meant to discuss the comparison between South African apartheid and the current situation in Israel, nor the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela (which has been done extensively though not very accurately elsewhere). I have written about these subjects elsewhere for those who are interested.
Having said, that, a brief statement about Mandela, “Mandiba” to his kinsmen and supporters is fitting. There is no doubt that the one-sided, inaccurate and idolizing portrayal of the man by the mainstream (and liberal) western media is… well exactly those very things.
Nelson Mandela in the western media is akin to Mother Teresa, and his name carries a Gandhi-like connotation of ultimate selflessness, wisdom, deep humanitarian morality, tolerance, non-violence, peace and justice. The man, to the average westerner, is no more than a peaceful opponent of the racist apartheid regime who suffered decades of imprisonment for those beliefs.
This is obviously not accurate, ironically not accurate at all if one simply believes Mandela’s own words.
Mandela was not a political prisoner (not jailed due to his beliefs), but rather imprisoned several times in his life due to his illegal actions. The final time at the Riviona trials included charges such as:
- recruiting persons for training in the preparation and use of explosives and in guerrilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution and committing acts of sabotage
- conspiring to commit the aforementioned acts and to aid foreign military units when they invaded the Republic,
- acting in these ways to further the objects of communism
- soliciting and receiving money for these purposes from sympathizers in Algeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Tunisia, and elsewhere.
Mandela was a founder and leader of both the ANC and its military (and terrorist) wing, the MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe “Spear of the Nation” (likely a name influenced by Arthur Goldreich, a long time communist friend who fought for Israel’s independence while in the Palmach). Both organizations were on the terror watch list in the US until 2008.
Even Amnesty International, refused to accept his case since it could conclude that he was a political prisoner, “Prisoner of Conscience” nor could it defend one who condones violence (at least not in this case apparently).
Nelson Mandela was a communist, sometimes admittedly, and sometimes not. After his death, both the ANC and the communist party officially recognized his official membership at the time of his final arrest in 1962.
Having said all that, Mandela is not quite the man many conservative pundits have assumed he is. Their’s is no better than the leftists’ jumping on the bandwagon. Mandela may be considered a terrorist, but in a somewhat limited fashion. While he was free and in control of the MK, he oversaw hundreds of sabotage attacks, which made him guilty of destruction of both state and private property, but there was apparently little loss of life, specifically civilian life.
On the other hand, some of this may be the result of good or “bad” luck, for example beerhalls were blown up where civilian casualties were likely but did materialize, and in another instance an attempt to derail a passenger train (that would surely have led to many civilian casualties) failed.
The ANC and MK’s true terrorist era came after Mandela was already imprisoned. The 80’s saw a string of high-profile bombings where civilian death and injuries were rampant. A land mine campaign on the Transvaal roads also brought almost purely civilian casualties (mostly blacks). Torture and executions of black opponents by the ANC and MK were “routine” and much higher than any casualties they ever inflicted on the white population.
The violence also did continue after he was freed and until he assumed the leadership of the country.
His imprisonment is also of note. His actions would have carried the death penalty in many countries. Instead he was arrested, and by his own admission, never tortured.
Mandela, had incredibly free access throughout much of his imprisonment, including phone lines and fax lines. Domestic and foreign dignitaries often met with him, and he continued to have a great deal of influence on the management of both the ANC and the MK. In his own autobiography, he attests to this control and his complex communication methods. Quite famously, he also refused to denounce violence while imprisoned, despite offers by Botha and De Klerk to free him if he did so.
On that final note, unfortunately he wasn’t (apparently) given the choice to denounce terrorism (violence against civilians rather than the military and/or police forces) but only the violence in general. It would have been interesting see what his reaction to that may have been. However, though pundits on the right have jumped on that refusal to denounce the violence as a clear sign of his terrorist tendencies, I rather see it as testament to the strength of character of the man, few people, terrorists or not, would refuse simply “denouncing violence” in exchange for freedom on a life sentence.
Yasser Arafat denounced terrorism for much less, (while of course continuing to partake in it). In the end, it is difficult to find too much fault in Mandela’s actions when put in context of the times and his fight. He is no Mother Teresa, that is for certain, and like many other fathers of nations from the American Founding Fathers, to Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin, he was a type of man willing to do the unsavory things often necessary for victory. I am not making any direct comparisons, not of greatness, virtue, nor of morality, but rather simply pointing to the fact that revolutions and wars are dirty businesses.
Ultimately, the biggest condemnation one can make of Nelson Mandela is as usual, the one least made; Mandela was a life long communist. Though it is no longer in fashion to “bash” communists since the cold war is over (a big factor in why Mandela was freed and the downfall of the white SA government), and no one seems to remember what they represent and stand for, it is completely mutually exclusive to be fighting for the freedom of ones people, and simultaneously to be a communist.
There is hardly a better example than the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, who fought so ferociously, tenaciously and bravely (misguided into thinking they were fighting a nationalist war against foreign occupation) that they brought a world super power to its knees, only to win… complete enslavement to an oppressive communist regime. The horrors of the Vietnam war were nothing compared to the decades of communist rule that the Vietnamese people suffered after achieving “victory”.
Who could claim that Castro fought against Batista for his people’s “freedom”? Same for Mao, Tito or any other communist thug.
Likewise, if Mandela had had his way completely, which he did not, he would have led his people not to freedom, but to enslavement by a state which simply was ruled by an autocratic group of corrupt black men, instead of a group of elected white men.
Mandela must be praised by the eloquence and relative candor of his speech during his Riviona trial, where he admitted to supporting and leading violent actions (though not “terrorism”) and many other crimes against what he considered an enemy regime. His one lie there, that he could not proudly admit to at the time, was that he denied that he was communist. This would be indefensible to many of his black supporters and to much of the Western world who supported him at the time.
He made the intelligent and sound argument, that his ties and cooperation with the communists (to which there was ample evidence) were due to a common enemy, and that just like one would not call the USA nor Winston Churchill a communist, for fighting together with Stalinist Russia against Germany during WWII, he should not be deemed one either.
Fair enough, but in the same speech he admitted to being influenced by the works of communist writers and leaders such as Marx and Lenin among others, and much evidence of his communism has been presented. Finally after his death, both the ANC and the Communist Party, officially admitted that Mandela had been a communist party member at the time of his last arrest in 1962.
From Mandela’s own words, it is clear that he at first rejected communism for African nationalism when younger, but later on was a full-fledged convert to that evil creed. The effects of his radical leftism was eventually seen during his rule of post-apartheid South Africa in the 90’s, where corruption, crime and moral decay ran rampant. The once vibrant and impressive nation (whatever ones views of apartheid aside) was quickly reduced to third world status. The entire death toll of the 5 decades of apartheid rule, pale in comparison to the violent death rate of the Mandela years (and thereafter), topping 20,000 people annually. It is this same communism, that made Mandela sit among friends with some of the vilest dictators and terrorists in the world. He minced no words in his condemnation of Israel and support for the leftist and Muslim terrorists organizations (such as the PLO, PFLP, etc). This despite the disproportionate amount of support he (unfortunately) received from Jewish South Africans throughout his entire life.
Above lies a brief description of Mandela’s history; in short he was very different from the Morgan Freeman-like Mandela the West envisions, but there was clearly much to admire about the man (perhaps much more than there is to admire in the media’s transparent portrayal of him), despite other faults. This paper claims no authority to judge him, but simply put for the relevant matter at hand, he was certainly no friend of Israel. In fact, h was a harsh opponent of Israel and a strong supporter of Israel’s enemies, wherever they were.
Netanyahu faced this complex picture when deciding whether to attend Mandela’s funeral. Unfortunately, instead of choosing to either attend or not attend, based on some principle (or at least silence), he let it be known that Israel would love to attend but unfortunately, travel costs prevented it.
Subsequently, the cost excuse was either replaced or supplemented by another excuse that there was not enough time to make security arrangements.
This was an unfortunate choice indeed. Firstly of course, instead of enraging the left or the right, this sad string of excuses angered both. For those who wished that he would have attended, the excuses had the same effect of not attending for any other reason. They were insulted, speculated on the true motives, and it will undoubtedly lead to plenty of mentions in the press about apartheid and Israel.
For those on the right, there was no consolation prize. Bibi’s government did not proudly state why it would refuse to attend the funeral, nor was it at least silent in its absence. Instead, the declaration is made that Israel would indeed love to go, and therefore has no objection on principle, but simply “sucks too much”. Though the leader of the free world who shuts down all of Los Angeles to the dismay of its millions of traffic-trapped citizens each visit, was able to “make security arrangements” on a short notice, along with dignitaries from virtually every 1st and 3rd world country, Israeli’s mighty Shabak, Mossad and security apparatus is incapable of such a feat. Israel, a high-tech powerhouse, is also unable to afford flying its Prime Minister to South Africa.
This excuse further had the unwanted effect of a detriment to Minister Naftali Bennet who happened to be flying back from a trip to Indonesia at the time of the announcement of Bibi’s cancelled attendance at the funeral. If even the Prime Minister is holding back from such an important occasion as this due to frugality, what is Bennet doing flying all over the world?? -went the line of attack.
Well, his job for one.
President Shimon Peres, along the same line of excuses, also declined to attend.
Israel consistently opts for the honor-less cover both in small and large matters. Israel wants only peace, (and frugality apparently), its honor as a nation is non-existent. It is impossible to think the President of the US could explain not attending anywhere due to costs of flying the President. This would be embarrassing and obviously untrue. Though Israel’s budget is far smaller than the US’s, Netanyahu’s flight to Cape Town is about as equally irrelevant in the scheme of the general budget.
Obama has made his priorities clear, though he could hardly be bothered to even notice the passing of the mighty Iron Lady (Margaret Thatcher) recently, he was quick to praise Mandela and declare he would attend his funeral. Obama’s socialist and anti-Western attitudes are clear for all to see. The Netanyahu government, apparently agrees wholeheartedly but simply cannot afford to show it.
It is unfortunate that on such a simple matter, Israel chose an embarrassing lie instead of either clear choice. Bibi, with all due respect sir, I expect better from you….