Netanyahu ducks Mandela memorial

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Earlier this year Netanyahu was criticized for spending $127,000 of Israeli taxpayers' money on a "resting chamber" for a five-hour flight to London. Above, Netanyahu and his wife Sara flying to London, in 2011. (Photo: GPO)

Earlier this year Netanyahu was criticized for spending $127,000 of Israeli taxpayers’ money on a “resting chamber” for a five-hour flight to London. Above, Netanyahu and his wife Sara flying to London, in 2011. (Photo: GPO)

One of Israel’s national moral compasses, Gideon Levy, says Israel is a ‘twin’ of Apartheid South Africa, while Netanyahu has reversed course and will skip Nelson Mandela’s memorial, ducking the opportunity to begin a journey toward becoming an Israeli De Klerk.

Twenty-three years after Yasir Arafat called Israel a ‘twin’ of apartheid South Africa, Gideon Levy says the same in Haaretz:

Neither Peres nor Netanyahu have any right to eulogize Mandela; both are responsible, more than any other statesmen in the free world, for undermining his legacy and establishing the (nonidentical) twin of the regime he battled.

Meanwhile, Roy Isacowitz in Haaretz challenges hypocritical Netanyahu to follow in the footsteps of Mandela’s partner, F.W. De Klerk:

If the South African analogy is applied to Israel, Netanyahu plays the De Klerk role. He can continue being the bloody ethnic warlord with a powerful army at his disposal or he can overcome the atavistic tribalism of his background and undergo what De Klerk described in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech as “a process of introspection, of soul searching; of repentance; of realization of the futility of ongoing conflict, of acknowledgement of failed policies and the injustice it brought with it.”

As De Klerk said in the same speech: “The question that we must ask is whether we are making progress toward the goal of universal peace, or are we caught up on a treadmill of history, turning forever on the axle of mindless aggression and self-destruction?”

“Repression, injustice and exploitation are inimical with peace. Peace is gravely threatened by inter-group fear and envy and by the unleashing of unrealistic expectations. Racial, class and religious intolerance and prejudice are its mortal enemies.”

The choice is Netanyahu’s.

Apparently, Netanyahu has made his choice: he’d rather squander public Israeli funds on multiple private homes, scented candles, flowers, and ice cream than attend the memorial service of arguably the most important world leader to die in the past four decades, canceling his trip at the last moment.

Last week, it was revealed that taxpayers dished out 3.3 million shekels ($940,000) in 2012 to maintain Netanyahu’s three residences – 1.2 million shekels (about $340,000) above budget.

Or maybe Netanyahu canceled the trip because the only leader of a contemporary, U.S.-supported Apartheid state appreciates the unprecedented level of hypocrisy involved in attending such an event while he continues to oversee the oppression of the very people whose lack of freedom caused Mandela to die with his own freedom ‘incomplete’?

If only Netanyahu would heed the words of Gideon Levy, who rightly says that the transition from apartheid to equality is realistic, and not only in South Africa:

An unjust state becomes a just state; discrimination and dispossession are replaced by equality and democracy. The scowling faces tell of South Africa’s backwardness and rising crime, which are serious problems. But they don’t reduce the enormity of the historic achievement and its lesson for Israel: When a country turns from unjust to just, everything else is dwarfed in comparison.

Mandela proved that the dream is realistic, that what seemed like a fantasy only 20 years ago is achievable, and without much bloodshed. He showed that enemies of the past can live together in one country and even have equality; that a new chapter can be opened against all odds.

Mandela said he was not liberated as long as the Palestinians were not free. Those in Israel who seek to eulogize him can’t continue to ignore this.


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