Watch this fascinating Ted Koppel interview with Nelson Mandela from 1990. The video is part of a New York City town hall meeting broadcast on ABC’s Nightline during Mandela’s first trip to the United States after being released from prison.
In it Koppel presses Mandela on his support for the Palestinians and the political fallout this may cause in the U.S. This was certainly in response to the fact that the American Jewish establishment at the time rejected Mandela over his support for the PLO. At 5:35 in the video Mandela gets a question from audience member Ken Adelman, a noted neocon who would go on to be a leading proponent for the second Iraq War. Adelman calls Mandela a hypocrite for saying he believes in human rights while supporting Yasser Arafat. Mandela says he supports the Palestinians because they have been steadfast allies against apartheid in South Africa. Adelman is followed by Henry Siegman, then the Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress now a vocal critic of Israel, who says Mandela’s answer “suggests a certain degree of amorality.”
Later, Koppel makes an oblique reference to the Israel lobby and tells Mandela his comments on Palestinians were not politically expedient:
“If you were more political you might have been more concerned about alienating some people in this country who have it within their hands, within their power, either to continue sanctions against South Africa or to raise those sanctions”
Mandela doesn’t get the question. Koppel restates his question more clearly focusing on the relationship between the Black and Jewish communities in the United States (and hedges a bit warning that Mandela is offending Cubans as well). Mandela takes him on, calls Arafat a “comrade in arms,” and talks about the role of Jews in fighting apartheid. Suffice to say, the crowd is with Mandela. Watch here: