Trending Topics:

Mandela and the responsibility of activism

Israel/Palestine
on 17 Comments

President Obama gave a great speech at the Mandela memorial in South Africa today about the responsibility of fighting inequality and injustice. I want to focus on excerpts that touch on action– “of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.” By action, Obama means activism; and Mandela’s death has reminded many people of the nobility of activism, of the realization that your principles are so important to you that you must do something, whether that doing means writing or organizing or standing up to soldiers.

Obama said that Mandela’s example made him an activist in his own way. Here’s the president’s activist creed:

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father.  And we know he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people,” he said….

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace.  There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality…

I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection.  With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask:  How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?  It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President…. in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done….

Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man.  (Applause.)  He speaks to what’s best inside us.

Last night on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams exulted over Bono as an “activist.”

Last night on NBC Nightly News, Jimmy Carter explained that he had an instant connection with Mandela when he met him because his daughter Amy Carter had three times been arrested demonstrating against apartheid.

Yesterday Americans for Middle East Understanding sent me a fundraising note in which it reminded people that Lowell Weicker was a selective activist: 

As a senator, Weicker was arrested for demonstrating against apartheid in front of the South African embassy in Washington. At the same time, he was taking money from the pro-Israel lobby to close his eyes to the travesty in the Holy Land; the lobby rated his loyalty at close to 100 percent. [as related by John Mahoney]

Isn’t it time to celebrate the brave activists in the Israel/Palestine conflict? As poet Susie Abulhawa writes about the anti-occupation activist Samer Issawi:

Daylight climbs the links of your rusty prison chain

 

philweiss
About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

17 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    December 10, 2013, 10:34 am

    Phil, Obama often speaks well, but in the end he acts — strangely, to my thought, for he will never again be a candidate and has no need to collect money from AIPAC or the BIG-BANKs or BIG-OIL, etc — as if he were enmeshed in the normal Establishment-run American political system. Perhaps he has the fate of JFK in mind when he contemplates counter-Establishment brave or morally-correct action.

    Of course, Obama may be doing his usual pro-Israel song&dance in order to preserve his Iran “deal” safe against proposed Congressional action that would scotch it. (Funny, isn’t it, when you consider that F/P is supposed to be a Presidential prerogative!)

    AMEU reminded you of a Mondoweiss piece which offers the useful quote about Lowell Weicker, who was morally corrupt — accepting money to be pro-Israel while condemning Apartheid ijn South Africa.

    I do not see Weicker as a special case, and Obama appears to be in the same camp.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      December 10, 2013, 10:54 am

      @ pabelmont
      I don’t see any reason for Obama not to press for Palestinian freedom in this, his last term in office–he said his original inspiration towards a political career was Mandela’s fight. Further, he has the example of former President Carter. Alas, Carter only wrote his book after he left office. Perhaps he thinks if he comes out in support of the Palestinians (and de facto US sovereignty) against AIPAC he thinks this will ruin his chances of getting other stuff though congress–if so, what could that be since he won Obamacare already? Is it he feels he still needs to bow to AIPAC to assure Obamacare remains intact? Maybe this reason combined with assuring a lucrative post-POTUS speaking and book career, not to mention Zionist funding for his presidential library to come? Can anybody think of any other motive(s) for not implementing what he suggested in his Cairo speech?

      • Keith
        Keith
        December 10, 2013, 11:31 am

        CITIZEN- “…he said his original inspiration towards a political career was Mandela’s fight.”

        I wouldn’t take too much of what Obama says at face value. It is interesting, however, that the enduring legacy of both may be imposing neoliberalism on their deluded followers.

    • Keith
      Keith
      December 10, 2013, 11:32 am

      PABELMONT- “…strangely, to my thought, for he will never again be a candidate and has no need to collect money from AIPAC or the BIG-BANKs or BIG-OIL, etc….”

      Perhaps he is planning for his retirement. I understand that since leaving office, Bill Clinton has done quite well for himself.

  2. paabrhm
    paabrhm
    December 10, 2013, 10:54 am

    What a total hypocrite Obama is. Actions not words are what counts. All talk and no action, at least when it comes to the human rights of the Palestinian people. The man has no spine.

  3. Justpassingby
    Justpassingby
    December 10, 2013, 11:06 am

    Phil: ‘obama gave a great speech at the Mandela’

    Not sure Mondoweiss is for me when I read such statements. Obama is a hypocrite and do support apartheid for palestinians.

  4. OlegR
    OlegR
    December 10, 2013, 11:44 am

    “anti-occupation activist”

    What a lovely euphemism for convicted terrorist.
    You stoop lower and lower Phil.

    / Samer, who was affiliated with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine,[1] allegedly manufactured and distributed pipe bombs and in several instances fired indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. He was convicted of membership in an illegal organization, possession of explosives, and attempted murder.[1]
    Nearly 10 years later, in October 2011, Samer was released along with 1027 Palestinian prisoners as a result of an Egypt-brokered deal between Hamas and the Israeli government for the return of Gilad Shalit.[4]/

    • pabelmont
      pabelmont
      December 10, 2013, 12:39 pm

      A lot of activists have been called “terrorists”. Shamir and Begin (think the Deir Yassin massacre and the Count Bernadotte assassination) were “terrorists” (that is, so called, hence quotes) and terrorists (that is, in fact, by many definitions) and became PMs of Israel. And a lot of Palestinians took up arms and used them not only against Israeli forces but also against Israeli civilians — but I do believe Israel and its friends and supporters uses the tag “terrorist” to label even militants who targeted military folks:

      On June 25, 2006, Shalit – a corporal at the time – was captured in a cross border raid near the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Gaza Strip by Hamas terrorists. The terrorists dug underneath the border from Gaza, emerged on the Israeli side and subsequently sprayed automatic fire and grenades toward Shalit’s tank which had been on patrol. Two IDF soldiers (Pavel Slutsker and Chanan Barak) were killed in the attack, three others were wounded and Shalit, wounded as well, was abducted and forced back into Gaza.

      Immediately following the attack, the IDF released the following statement:

      Today, Sunday, June 25, 2006, the 29th of Sivan, during an infiltration and attack by terrorists to the area around the Kerem Shalom crossing [from Israel to Gaza], an IDF officer and soldier were killed, another soldier was kidnapped and four more were injured.

      • OlegR
        OlegR
        December 11, 2013, 4:46 am

        /.but I do believe Israel and its friends and supporters uses the tag “terrorist”/
        That’s because no Palestinian resistance organization ever made a clear distinction between civilian and military targets and attacked both.

      • talknic
        talknic
        December 11, 2013, 5:20 am

        OlegR “no Palestinian resistance organization ever made a clear distinction between civilian and military targets and attacked both”

        So the zionutters keep bleating. However, the IDF Memorial site shows far more attacks on Israeli military

      • OlegR
        OlegR
        December 11, 2013, 5:56 am

        Links

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        December 11, 2013, 6:42 am

        “That’s because no Palestinian resistance organization ever made a clear distinction between civilian and military targets and attacked both.”

        LMAO. From even before your 1948, the Jewish community and later the zionist state has attached both civilian and military targets. Hell, the occupation is one daily assault on the entire civilian population of Palestine. The only difference is that flat-out lie about it.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      December 10, 2013, 3:31 pm

      “What a lovely euphemism for convicted terrorist.”

      Convicted by zios = reasonable doubt he did anything.

      • OlegR
        OlegR
        December 11, 2013, 4:50 am

        In the imaginary world of Woody no Palestinian ever did anything
        wrong or unjustified.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        December 11, 2013, 3:14 pm

        No, I just recognize that the odds of israel framing an innocent Palestinian is at least as good, or higher, than the odds that they did something wrong or unjustified.

    • talknic
      talknic
      December 11, 2013, 5:30 am

      @ OlegR “What a lovely euphemism for convicted terrorist.”

      Can’t find any conviction for terrorism in the WikI/Pedia article or its SINGLE source for the assertion

Leave a Reply