YET MANDELA was not a superhuman being, He was a normal person, with normal instincts. He had been an honest-to-goodness terrorist, who had sent people to kill and be killed. He had suffered years of brutal treatment, both physical and mental, years of imprisonment in isolation, which could have driven him to insanity.
Still in prison, and against the will of his closest comrades, he started negotiation with the leaders of the apartheid regime.
Could there have been a Mandela without a Frederik Willem de Klerk? A good question. The film does not dwell on de Klerk's personality. But here was a man who understood the situation, who agreed to what amounted to almost complete surrender to the despised "kaffirs," and who did so without shedding a drop of blood. Like Mikhail Gorbachev, in different circumstances, he supervised a bloodless historic revolution. (Curiously enough, "kaffir"' the White racist term for blacks, is derived from the Arabic and Hebrew term for infidels.)
Mandela and de Klerk were perfectly matched, though one could hardly imagine two more different individuals.
WHAT CAUSED the abomination of apartheid to collapse?
Throughout the world, including Israel, the received wisdom is that it was the global boycott imposed on the apartheid state which broke its bones. In dozens of countries, decent people refused to touch South African goods or to take part in sports events with South African teams, thus turning South Africa into a pariah state.
All true and admirable. Everybody who took part in this world-wide upsurge of conscience deserves respect. But to believe that this was the decisive element of the struggle is itself a symptom of Western condescension, a kind of moral colonialism.
The film devotes to these world-wide protests and boycott just a few seconds. Not more.
It was the heroic struggle of the South African masses, mostly black, but also Indian (descendents of immigrants) and colored (mixed race), that achieved victory. The means were armed struggle (always called "terrorism" by the oppressor), non-violent mass action and mass strikes. Foreign support served mainly to raise morale.
Mandela was not only one of the main leaders of this struggle, but also an active participant, until he was sent to prison for life.
From the film one could gain the impression that there were two Mandelas -- the leader of the armed struggle, who shed blood, and the maker of peace, who became a world symbol of tolerance and forgiveness.
Yet these two Mandelas are one and the same -- the personality of a man who was ready to sacrifice his life for the freedom of his country, but who was also magnanimous and forgiving in victory.
He completely conformed to the ancient Jewish saying: "Who is a hero? He who turns his hater into his lover."
AN Israeli is compelled to ask himself the inevitable question: What does the film tell us about the similarities and dissimilarities between the South African and the Israel-Palestinian situations?
The first impression is that situations are almost totally different. The political and demographic backgrounds are poles apart. The similarities are mostly superficial.
But in particular, the most obvious differences are: There is no Palestinian Mandela in sight, and even less an Israeli de Klerk.