Mandela’s statue arrived in Palestine, but his legacy hasn’t yet

Five days ago, the Palestinian people received a gift from the people of South Africa.  Last Tuesday,  a massive 6-meter tall bronze statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled in Ramallah. (That’s about 20 feet to us Americans.)  The occasion was met with much fanfare, and the ceremony was led by the current president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

Many seek to compare the current situation in Palestine to the history of South Africa.  And there are, for sure, many similarities. Israel acts in much the same fashion as the Afrikaner regime of South Africa did.  It segregates populations based on race/religion.  It offers elevated governmental services and benefits to Jews.  It allows Jews from anywhere in the world to gain immediate citizenship while denying the right of native Palestinian refugees to return.  It builds separate roads for settlers.  Its whole national identity is predicated upon belonging to a certain racial group.  Israel is effectively an apartheid state.  The analog to pre-1994 South Africa is clear.

We Palestinians, on the other hand, haven’t yet gotten the South African message.  Since Oslo, we have been fighting over imaginary borders, land swaps, and false power.  In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority (a creation of the corrupt Oslo Accords) has been acting as the security and logistics subcontractor of the Israeli occupation for over twenty years.  (We shouldn’t forget that before the PLO of Yasser Arafat, Saeb Erekat, and Mahmoud Abbas accepted the horrific Oslo agreement of 1993, organic Palestinian leaders like Hanan Ashrawi, Faisal Husseini, and Haidar Abdel Shafi rejected the same terms – some say even better – in 1991 in Madrid.)

From a Palestinian point of view, the Oslo agreement was a total surrender.  It marked our acceptance of an Israeli state based on racial supremacy and the existence of settlements. It also signaled a willingness to accept potential self-determination (which, of course, has not arrived yet) on less than a quarter of our homeland.  In short, by signing Oslo, we Palestinians accepted Zionism.  We, or at least the PLO leadership, became Zionists.  Unsurprisingly, that was a bad idea.  Also, as it turns out, our complete surrender wasn’t enough for Israel, as settlements, aggression, and apartheid have only continued.  This should surprise no one, as colonizers generally seek no less than the complete removal and/or extinction of their subjects.  It is not part of the colonial recipe to accept “coexistence.”

Nelson Mandela would have never participated in the capitulation displayed by Palestinian leaders dating from 1993 until today.  He would have asked for better.  He would have urged that we actually speak the language of black South Africans, demanding equal rights in all of our homeland, pushing for one secular democratic state, rejecting all forms of racial supremacy.  This is the language the world understands.  It is the language of universal civil and political rights.  It is the language of freedom.  The language of victory.  Sadly, our current crop of Palestinian leadership hasn’t learned the first word of it.

As a Palestinian, I am excited to see Mandela arrive in my homeland.  I hope his legacy follows.  Yes, Israel has been acting like apartheid South Africa for some time.  But we Palestinians have not yet started to act like the black South Africans who found justice.

Mr. Mandela, our leadership doesn’t deserve to look at you.  I apologize that it was Mahmoud Abbas who welcomed you into our beautiful land.  We surely had better choices.


About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. This brought tears to my eyes. The biggest difference between South Africa and Israel is that the West itself was pressuring the apartheid state of white European Christian overlord colonists. The West as a whole accepts and adores Israel, land of the very special chosen people of God.

  2. This is great, to see all of those who were colonizes pool their strength. I hope to see a memorial in Lebanon for North American Natives who were decimated by western conquerors. The latter threw cholera-infested blankets on teepees of natives to decimate their population. Today’s cholera’s blankets are foreign armed, foreign-financed terrorists like ISIS trying to make the middle east implode!

  3. you don’t have the right to speak in the name of all Palestinians … your view represent you first, for me Oslo -with lots of hols still the best choice we did, because of Oslo we have 1,5 Million Palestinian more in palestine. am one of them … with lots of holes in Oslo, we have factories – NOT JUST SILVANA and CLUB COLA – before oslo we had 120000 Palestinian worker in Israeli Settlements and factory, or they had to travel to Gulf for work … Now we have companies that exudes 100 employee … SO, your BW view of Palestine is incorrect and unjust – just because you live in USA or disagree with Palestinian leadership don’t give you the write to speak about 6.5 m Palestinian who live in Palestine or the 15 m Palestinian of the world.
    Remember Palestine is worse that South Africa, it’s more than apartheid, it’s soc-suicide …

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