Mandela in Theory and Practice

by Travis Erbacher

I don’t need to recap who Nelson Mandela was, what he did, what he accomplished, or say RIP.

What I would like to do is address Mandela’s significance to the modern world, and the modern apartheid.

Of course I am referring to the “apartness” and forced segregation of the Palestinian people.

Nelson Mandela was a member of an organization that used sabotage tactics including violence and the destruction of property against the South African state. Mandela himself was labelled a terrorist and is still called as such by racists and extreme-right wing-nuts.

The terrorism/sabotage tactics did not work. If anything, it set the anti-apartheid movement back by years.

It was civil disobedience and the weight of the worldwide human moral conscience that ultimately dissolved the chain-link fence that was apartheid.

Sabotage will not end the new apartheid. The physical walls in Palestine are a heartbreaking image, but the emotional walls are so much taller. The Palestinian people will only achieve their freedom and human rights by drawing attention to human rights abuses, and by engaging with the world community through peaceful negotiations. The Palestinian people will achieve their goals when the people among them become the new Nelson Mandela’s. Bombs do not destroy walls, they build them higher.

Let us be reminded in the image and words of Nelson Mandela that peace and our common humanity can overcome anything, and that it is never the violent members of a social justice struggle that achieve their goals.

It is easy for me, a privileged white male in Canada to say these things. I know that.

But I too dream of the day when I can tell my children about the walls that divided Palestinian children, children who wanted to play and run and jump and laugh just like them, from Israeli children who did the same. I dream of the confused look on their faces as I try to explain why people would wish to build walls to separate people from each other, and how every time this has happened, the walls have come down and the children have danced together.

Thank you Mr. Mandela for showing us that no matter how dark the night may be, the sun will rise again.

Edit: I left out a huge piece of the puzzle, so consider this the coda to my initial thoughts on Mandela and Palestine

It was not only civil disobedience and the weight of the world’s moral conscience that brought down apartheid, it was also disinvestment and sanctions. Apply this as you will to the current apartheid: in a state that receives a tremendous level of aid, and to which a new disinvestment campaign is beginning.