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South African activists post pro-Palestine banners at Mandela memorial

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Activists from BDS South Africa posted the image at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. (Photo: BDS South Africa Facebook)

Activists from BDS South Africa posted the image at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. (Photo: BDS South Africa Facebook)

A group of South African activists hung pro-Palestine banners at the stadium where Nelson Mandela’s memorial was held.

The posters were put up by BDS South Africa, the leading organization in the country advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions targeting Israel.  Five of the posters were hung before the memorial service.

The banners, which showcased a photo of Mandela and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat together, displayed a famous Mandela quote.  “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” Mandela, the African National Congress leader, said in 1997.

Mandela’s memorial was attended by numerous leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Knesset members like Likud member and settlement resident Yuli Edelstein. Haaretz‘s Gideon Levy and Alex Levac reported that the slogan “Free Palestine” could be heard during the memorial–an indicator of how South Africans view the question of Palestine.

South Africa is perhaps the most pro-Palestinian country in the world.  As early as 1995, the South African government, led by Mandela, established diplomatic relations with the “State of Palestine.” Since 2010, BDS South Africa has campaigned for boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel.

In December 2012, the ANC officially endorsed the BDS movement.  In early November, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that the government had “curtail[ed] senior leadership contact with [Israel] until things begin to look better.” She also added: “The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle. The last time I saw a map of Palestine, I couldn’t go to sleep. It is just dots, smaller than those of the homelands, and that broke my heart.”

BDS South Africa was also at the center of controversy in September 2013, when protesters at Wits University chanted “Shoot the Jew”–a modification on the 1980s-era anti-apartheid song, “Shoot the Boer.” BDS South Africa, which helped organize the protest against an Israeli singer, later distanced themselves from the song.  “We unequivocally distance ourselves from the singing of this song and its sentiments. Also, to tarnish all Jews with the Zionist brush is racism, regardless of who does it. Racism is racism… and racism is abominable,” the group said in a statement.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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6 Responses

  1. bilal a
    bilal a
    December 10, 2013, 6:00 pm

    Activists are merely pointing out, that, by its own logic, Israel is genocidal :

    “6. Netanyahu says that Iran presently refuses to recognize Israel, and later suggests that this stance is genocidal. But Netanyahu refuses to recognize Palestine as a state. Is he being genocidal toward the Palestinians
    10. Netanyahu neglects to mention that his government has repeatedly threatened to bomb Iran, whereas Iran has made no such threats against Israel. Indeed, since the bombing of nuclear sites in Natanz would release radioactive toxins and kill at least a hundred thousand people in Isfahan, it is Netanyahu who has threatened genocide.”

    Top 10 errors in Netanyahu’s Speech Demanding Iran give up ‘Genocidal’ Policies
    By Juan Cole | Dec. 9, 2013

    When would a preemptive first strike on Israel and AIPAC be justified on humanitarian grounds?

  2. Citizen
    December 10, 2013, 7:03 pm

    Odd, I see nothing in the US mainstream news apropos Mandela’s death that chats about post-apartheid South Africa being the Number one opponent of apartheid Israel….

  3. LanceThruster
    December 10, 2013, 7:20 pm

    “Until we are all free, we are none of us free. ” ― Emma Lazarus

  4. Kathleen
    December 10, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Racism is racism and so many folks have yet to connect the apartheid dots. Thanks Alex. So many South Africans get it.

    • seafoid
      December 11, 2013, 10:27 am

      What about these for parallels with The Jewish Disneyland ?

      ” “It was awesome (to shake the hand of the free Mandela) because each time they (security officials) harassed us they wanted to know if we knew him,” Mr Maleka said.

      “He’s the one that brought change; he’s the one that made us express ourselves, the one who gave us freedom – the freedom of expression, the freedom to walk wherever, not to be afraid,” she says. “We don’t have to be scared of the next person.” She says it is difficult for a white person to understand.

      “But Mandela’s magic touched all races and many white South Africans, young and old, made their way to his Houghton home, where he died on Thursday, to lay flowers and pay their respects. Among them was Elise Varga, who like many whites of her generation, grew up believing Mandela was a terrorist.

      Her parents would tut at the mere mention of his name. But university and Mandela’s release radically altered the 40-year-old’s views. “I’m a little bit teary today,” she said, tear droplets emerging beneath dark glasses. “He’s a symbol of the good in South Africa, he was the father of hope.”

      Meanwhile Israel remains HOPELESS.

  5. Citizen
    December 11, 2013, 7:54 am

    If memory serves, a recent world poll puts Egypt (the people, not the regime) first as pro-Palestinian. But S Africa is probably next–I forget.

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