Nelson Mandela’s visit to Lusaka, Zambia in 1990 was a significant moment in his life. After being released from prison, he was greeted by leaders from various countries, including Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Arafat’s embrace of Mandela was a powerful symbol of support for the anti-apartheid leader.
Mandela was known for his deliberate choice of attire, and his decision to wear a Palestinian keffiyeh at a summit in Algiers was a clear statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Throughout his life, Mandela was conscious of his image and used his clothing to make political statements.
Mandela’s support for the Palestinian cause continued throughout his life. He believed that the struggle for freedom in South Africa was incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians. After the death of Arafat, Mandela paid tribute to him, acknowledging his role as an icon in the fight against oppression.
In 2013, three years after Mandela’s death, a statue of him was unveiled in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, a gesture of gratitude from the Palestinian people. Mandela’s legacy of support for the Palestinian cause was evident in the actions of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who condemned attacks on southern Israel while wearing a keffiyeh and holding a Palestinian flag.
Mandela’s bond with the Palestinian people developed over time. During his imprisonment, he became aware of the support the ANC received from other countries and learned about the struggle of the PLO. After his release, he expressed his foreign policy views and defended his support for leaders like Arafat, Gaddafi, and Castro, who had supported the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mandela’s support for the PLO did not mean that he doubted the right of Israel to exist as a state. He firmly believed in the right of Israel to exist within secure borders but also emphasized the importance of defining what those secure borders meant.
Mandela’s journey from a South African anti-apartheid leader to an international symbol of freedom and justice was marked by his unwavering support for the Palestinian cause. His deliberate actions and statements continue to inspire leaders around the world to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and fight for justice.
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