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When Those in Power Invite Us to Learn the Wrong Lessons from Nelson Mandela

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Reprinted from  dissenter.firedoglake.com

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/28987073@N08/11286748244/: Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
(image by dignidadrebelde)


Secretary of State John Kerry, during a press conference yesterday in Israel, said a lesson Nelson Mandela taught him was that it "always seems impossible until it is done." He told reporters that he considered it appropriate to "think about that in the context of the work that I've been doing here in the last couple of days and over these last months, and of the hopes and aspirations of the people of this region."

"That example of Nelson Mandela is an example that we all need to take to heart as we face the challenge of trying to reach a two-state solution," Kerry also stated.

The idea that it "always seems impossible until it is done" does not only involve two parties coming together to negotiate peace. It requires that both sides negotiating abandon fear and treat each other's people with dignity and respect.

Plus, what is going to be done?

Kerry wants Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come to some kind of agreement that includes a two-state solution, which would preserve many aspects of the system of apartheid that exists in Israel.

Mandela may have been a pragmatist and reconciler, but he bargained when the movement of black South Africans, with the support of leaders and groups around the world, had brought the white government of South Africa to a point where it needed to negotiate an agreement that could bring peace, justice and political emancipation to the country.

There were fears of black domination among leaders in the white government. However, President F.W. de Klerk and others ultimately negotiated and agreed to listen to Mandela dissuade them from letting fear of black South Africans consume them because they wanted to avoid greater civil war.

In contrast, Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders do not want to give up any power. They seem content with holding on to their fears of Arabs and allowing the violence to continue if it can insulate Israeli citizens from it entirely. (For example, an "Iron Dome" to fight off rocket attacks, which the US has sent hundreds of millions to help fund, has been constructed in Tel Aviv.)

Additionally, Mandela co-founded a military wing of the African National Congress called Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) and believed both violence and nonviolence were viable tactics.

"Where the conditions demanded that we should use non-violence, we would so; where the conditions demanded that we should depart from non-violence we would so," Mandela declared.

In 1962, he wrote, "Whether you have to use peaceful methods or violent methods"is determined purely by the conditions." Violence is used when "peaceful methods become inadequate."

There is ample evidence that Israel, through its suppression of protests, has made it inevitable that it will be faced with militant groups that engage in violence against them. Any time Palestinians protest, Israeli forces fire upon demonstrators with live or non-lethal rounds wounding and sometimes killing people. They round up Palestinians and imprison them for engaging in free speech. Efforts are painstakingly made to marginalize and make dissent impossible.

On MSNBC's "All In," Chris Hayes used his program to engage in a rare discussion of how Mandela's embrace of violence as a tactic for revolutionary change might apply to current struggles. Molly Crabapple, an artist and journalist who has covered Syria, noted how Bashar al-Assad made peaceful protest impossible and ensured his government would be met with a violent revolution.

Michael Moynihan, a Daily Beast editorial director, sought to draw a distinction between what South Africans did and everything happening currently:

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)
 

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