Letter: Voice of Mandela

Nelson Mandela with Shimon Peres in 1999

Mercury, May 1, 2019

I THINK one more important voice can be added to Peter Wertheim’s excellent response to Greg Barns’s comparison of Israel to Apartheid South Africa (Talking Point, April 26). That voice comes from no less an authority on apartheid than Nelson Mandela himself.

During his 1999 visit to Israel, Mandela never made any such comparison, never questioned Israel’s right to exist and even expressed understanding of why Israel was still occupying the West Bank and Gaza, saying, “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing (from the territories) if Arab states do not recognise Israel within secure borders.”

The conflict persists because the Palestinian leadership denies that Jews have legitimate rights to national self-determination in any part of the land where they became a people and have continually maintained their existence as a people for more than 3500 years. Attempting to delegitimise Israel out of existence with spurious claims about apartheid will neither change this fact, nor help the Palestinian people.

Allon Lee
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council