Homecoming for Stark Record of Apartheid

Subscribe to ShahidulNews



Share



By?CELIA W. DUGGER

Published: New York Times November 17, 2010
JOHANNESBURG ? When he was only in his 20s Ernest Cole, a black photographer who stood barely five feet tall, created one of the most harrowing pictorial records of what it was like to be black in apartheid South Africa. He went into exile in 1966, and the next year his work was published in the United States in a book, ?House of Bondage,? but his photographs were banned in his homeland where he and his work have remained little known.
Ernest Cole the photographer. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection
In exile Mr. Cole?s life crumbled. For much of the late 1970s and 1980s he was homeless in New York, bereft of even his cameras. ?His life had become a shadow,? a friend later said. Mr. Cole died at 49 in 1990, just a week after?Nelson Mandelawalked free. His sister flew back to South Africa with his ashes on her lap.
Boy in School. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Mr. Cole is at last having another kind of homecoming. The largest retrospective of his work ever mounted is now on display at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, built in the neo-Classical style almost a century ago in an era when South Africa?s great mining fortunes were being made on the backs of black labor. It is a collection of images that still possesses the power to shock and anger.
?How could white people do this to us?? asked Lebogang Malebana, 14, as he stood before a photograph of nude gold-mine recruits who had been herded into a grimy room for examination. ?How could they put naked black men on display like that??
Mr. Cole conceived the idea of his own portrait of black life after seeing?Henri Cartier-Bresson?s book ?People of Moscow.? He got this particular picture by sneaking his camera into the mine in his lunch bag, under sandwiches and an apple, Struan Robertson, who shared a studio and darkroom with Mr. Cole, recounted in an essay for the book that accompanies the exhibition, ?Ernest Cole: Photographer.?
On a recent Saturday afternoon at the museum here in a crime-ridden downtown that long ago emptied of white people, three visitors wandered through cavernous galleries lined with Mr. Cole?s work. Lebogang, an eighth grader, had drifted in from a nearby single-room apartment that he shares with his mother, who is a maid, and his younger brother. His father is in jail. ?It?s very sad,? he said as he lingered over the black-and-white images.
Jimmy Phindi Tjege, 27, who like many young black South Africans has never held a job in a society still scarred by apartheid, had come to the exhibition with his girlfriend, Nomthandazo Patience Chazo, 26, who works for the government and has a car. They had driven from their black township, Daveyton, about 30 miles away.
Scraping previous day's porridge bowl. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Ms. Chazo was struck by a photograph of four hungry children scraping porridge from a single pot set on a concrete floor. Mr. Tjege singled out another picture, one of a serious boy squatting on the floor of an unfurnished schoolroom, clutching a chalkboard, with two tears of sweat running down the side of his face.
?I feel angry,? Mr. Tjege said, as he gestured to the rest of the gallery with a sweep of his hand. ?This room is full of anger.?
Mr. Cole?s captions and photographs are imbued with wrenching emotions.
?Servants are not forbidden to love. Woman holding child said, ?I love this child, though she?ll grow up to treat me just like her mother does.??? The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Next to a photograph of a maid holding a white baby girl whose lips are pressed to the woman?s forehead, the caption says: ?Servants are not forbidden to love. Woman holding child said, ?I love this child, though she?ll grow up to treat me just like her mother does.???
The caption for a picture of a hospital ward where the floor was crowded with sick children reads, ?New cases have their names written on adhesive tape stuck to their foreheads.?
A series of images of tsotsis, young black gangsters, picking the pockets of white men is accompanied by a caption that reads: ?Whites are angered if touched by anyone black, but a black hand under the chin is enraging. This man, distracted by his fury, does not realize his pocket is being rifled.?
Finding the unmarked trains designated for blacks involved guesswork. Passengers had to jump across tracks, and some were killed by express trains. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

The son of a washerwoman and a tailor, Mr. Cole quit high school in 1957 at 16 as the Bantu education law meant to consign blacks to menial labor went into effect.
When he was 20, the apartheid authorities deemed his family?s brick home and the black township where it sat as a ?black spot? and bulldozed them into rubble.
Being seen in a white area was sufficient cause for a black person to be arrested. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Somehow, pretending to be an orphan, Mr. Cole had by then already managed to persuade apartheid bureaucrats to reclassify him as colored, or mixed race, despite his dark skin. His fluency in Afrikaans, the language of most coloreds, probably helped. His ability to pass as colored freed him from laws that required blacks always to carry a work permit when in ?white areas,? and this mobility proved crucial to his photography.
Joseph Lelyveld, a retired executive editor of The New York Times who was The Times?s correspondent in Johannesburg in the mid-1960s and worked with Mr. Cole, then a freelancer, described the young photographer as a wry, soft-spoken man.
?His judgments could be angry, but he had an ironic, almost furtive nature, conditioned by what he was trying to pull off,? Mr. Lelyveld, who remained a friend of Mr. Cole until his death, said in a telephone interview. ?It wasn?t easy to be a black man walking around Johannesburg with expensive cameras. The presumption would be you stole them.?
A police officer detains a boy, who must show his pass, in central Johannesburg. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

In the mid-1970s, when Mr. Cole was destitute and homeless in New York, Mr. Lelyveld said they went together to a cheap hotel where Mr. Cole had left his negatives and the photographs he had of his mother, only to discover they had gone to an auction of unclaimed items.
For years rumors circulated that a suitcase of Mr. Cole?s prints had survived somewhere in Sweden. David Goldblatt, a renowned South African photographer, had heard they were with the?Hasselblad Foundation there. When Mr. Goldblatt received the Hasselblad Award in 2006, and traveled to Gothenburg to accept it, he asked to see them. He said he was agape paging through?the images, saying, ?They can?t lie in a vault.?
Later, when he carefully studied scans of them at his home in Johannesburg, Mr. Goldblatt, now 80, said he began to realize that many of the photographs in ?House of Bondage? had been cropped severely to enhance their impact in a powerful anti-apartheid polemic. But the full frames showed Mr. Cole?s artistry.

?He wasn?t just brave,? said Mr. Goldblatt, who has been photographing this country for more than a half-century. ?He wasn?t just enterprising. He was a supremely fine photographer.?
For example, the picture of naked mine recruits photographed in a line from behind, their arms outstretched as if they were being held up, had a water basin on the wall at the end of the line. It was almost entirely cut out in the book.
Mining recruits at group inspection. Cole smuggled his camera in his lunch bag. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

?Cole was careful to include the basin, and the basin is like the full stop or exclamation mark in a sentence,? Mr. Goldblatt said. ?It just brings another dimension. It makes it banal. It?s not just dramatic, it?s banally dramatic. This is the kind of thing photographers live by, these details.?
Next year the exhibition, organized by the Hasselblad Foundation, will travel to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Mamelodi, the black township outside Pretoria where Mr. Cole?s family still lives. The foundation is now planning an American tour that probably will include San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta and New York.
A version of this article appeared in print on November 18, 2010, on page C1 of the New York edition.

ISRAEL?S ?OPERATION MAKE THE WORLD HATE US

Subscribe to ShahidulNews



Share/Bookmark



BRUCE. E. WILSON, ?ISRAEL?S ?OPERATION MAKE THE WORLD HATE US? ENTERS BOLD NEW PHASE AS JERUSALEM POST EDITOR RELEASES VIDEO MOCKING DEAD FLOTILLA ACTIVISTS?
6 June, 2010 ? MRZine
?Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government,? writes The New Republic?s Leon Wieseltier in a bitingly titled column, ?Operation Make the World Hate Us: The Assault on the ?Mavi Marmara? Was Wrong, and a Gift to Israel?s Enemies.?
It?s not just an Israeli government initiative. Operation Make The World Hate Us has another valuable asset ? the Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post Caroline Glick, who under the auspices of the US-based Center for Security Policy has just released one of the most gratuitously offensive (and on so many levels, it?s quite remarkable) video creations to afflict the year 2010, ?We Con the World,? which appears to mock the nine dead (or more ? six are still reported as missing) activists killed on the Turkish Mavi Marmara when Israeli Defense Force commandos stormed the boat. According to a British eyewitness interviewed by UK-based The Press Association, 48 people aboard the ship received gunshot wounds.
Two notable organizational patrons of Glick?s video are the Center for Security Policy and Christians United for Israel. Glick?s industrial-strength polemics include claims that there is a ?totalitarian jihadist ideology which is ascendant throughout the Islamic world.? According to the Jewish organization Jews on First, Glick has advocated the unilateral bombing of Iran.

The Center for Security Policy is so proud of Glick?s video it?s up on the organization?s web site front page. Christians United for Israel website also has a front page link to Glick?s inadvertent anti-hasbara masterpiece. The video features, among other lyric elements, the line ?Itbach el Yahud!? (slaughter the Jews!) and claims that children in the Gaza Strip lack ?cheese and missiles? (according to a 2009 UN survey 65% of babies 9-12 months old in Gaza suffer from anemia).
It?s not especially surprising that Caroline Glick was inclined to produce ?We Con the World? given that in 1997 and 1998 she served as assistant foreign policy adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu. What?s astounding is Glick?s obvious pride in associating herself with the video, which features shaky production values, procession of anti-Islamic stereotypes, bad singing, and mockery of the dead. Not only has Glick posted it on her personal website but she acted in the video, which at the end identifies her as Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post.
As Caroline Glick Wrote on her blog post concerning her video,
This week at Latma ? the Hebrew-language media satire website I edit, we decided to do something new. We produced a clip in English. There we feature the Turkish-Hamas ?love boat? captain, crew and passengers in a musical explanation of how they con the world.
We think this is an important Israeli contribution to the discussion of recent events and we hope you distribute it far and wide.
All the best,
Caroline
As described in her Wikipedia bio, Glick?s ?writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the National Review, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Washington Times, Maariv and major Jewish newspapers worldwide? and she?s been on ?MSNBC, Fox News Channel, Sky News, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and all of Israel?s major television networks. She also makes frequent radio appearances both in the US and Israel.?
And in her spare time, Glicks?s a video auteur.
Lyrics to ?We Con The World?
There comes a time
when we need to make a show
for the world, the web and CNN
There?s no people dying
so the best that we can do
is create the greatest bluff of all
We must go on, pretending day by day
that in Gaza there?s crisis, hunger and plague
coz the billion bucks in aid won?t buy their basic needs
like some cheese and missiles for the kids.
We?ll make the world abandon reason
we?ll make them all believe
that the Hamas is Momma Theresa
We are peaceful travelers
with guns and our own knives
the truth will never find its way to your TV
Ooooh we?ll stab them at heart
they are soldiers no one cares
we are small and we took some pictures with doves
As Allah has shown us
for facts there?s no demand
so we will always gain the upper hand
We?ll make the world abandon reason
we?ll make them all believe
that the Hamas is Momma Theresa
We are peaceful travelers
we?re waving our own knives
the truth will never find its way to your TV
If Islam and terror brighten up your mood
but you worry that it may not look so good
Well don?t you realize you just gotta call yourself
an activist for peace and human aid
We?ll make the world abandon reason
we?ll make them all believe
that the Hamas is Momma Theresa
We are peaceful travelers
we?re waving our own knives
the truth will never find its way to your TV
We con the world
yallah, let me hear you!
we con the people
We?ll make them all believe the IDF is Jack the Ripper
We are peaceful travelers
we?re waving our own knives
the truth will never find its way to your TV
Itbach el Yahud ! (slaughter the Jews)
We con the world
we con the people
We?ll make them all believe the IDF is Jack the Ripper
All together now!
We are peaceful travelers
we?re waving our own knives
the truth will never find its way to your TV
We con the world
yallah, let me hear you!
we con the people
We?ll make them all believe the IDF is Jack the Ripper
We are peaceful travelers
we?re waving our own knives
the truth will never find its way to your TV
This article was first published in the AlterNet blog on 4 June 2010; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. According to Ayman Mohyeldin, this video was ? ?inadvertently? ? ?distributed [to journalists] on Friday by the Israeli government press office (which belongs to the Israeli prime minister?s office and is responsible for accrediting foreign journalists)? (emphasis added, ?Israeli Government?s Media Madness,? The Middle East Blog, Al Jazeera, 4 June 2010).

Reuters under fire for removing weapons, blood from images of Gaza flotilla

Rachel's war

Subscribe to ShahidulNews



Share/Bookmark


This weekend 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a bulldozer as she tried to prevent the Israeli army destroying homes in the Gaza Strip. In a remarkable series of emails to her family, she explained why she was risking her life

The Guardian, Tuesday 18 March 2003

Article history
February 7 2003
Hi friends and family, and others,
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me – Ali – or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me, “Kaif Sharon?” “Kaif Bush?” and they laugh when I say, “Bush Majnoon”, “Sharon Majnoon” back in my limited arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn’t quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: “Bush mish Majnoon” … Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say, “Bush is a tool”, but I don’t think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago.
Nevertheless, no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I’m done. As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah: a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are refugees – many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Today, as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, “Go! Go!” because a tank was coming. And then waving and “What’s your name?”. Something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously – occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just agressive – shooting into the houses as we wander away.
I’ve been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the “reoccupation of Gaza”. Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren’t already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope you will start.
My love to everyone. My love to my mom. My love to smooch. My love to fg and barnhair and sesamees and Lincoln School. My love to Olympia.
Rachel
February 20 2003
Mama,
Now the Israeli army has actually dug up the road to Gaza, and both of the major checkpoints are closed. This means that Palestinians who want to go and register for their next quarter at university can’t. People can’t get to their jobs and those who are trapped on the other side can’t get home; and internationals, who have a meeting tomorrow in the West Bank, won’t make it. We could probably make it through if we made serious use of our international white person privilege, but that would also mean some risk of arrest and deportation, even though none of us has done anything illegal.
The Gaza Strip is divided in thirds now. There is some talk about the “reoccupation of Gaza”, but I seriously doubt this will happen, because I think it would be a geopolitically stupid move for Israel right now. I think the more likely thing is an increase in smaller below-the-international-outcry-radar incursions and possibly the oft-hinted “population transfer”.
I am staying put in Rafah for now, no plans to head north. I still feel like I’m relatively safe and think that my most likely risk in case of a larger-scale incursion is arrest. A move to reoccupy Gaza would generate a much larger outcry than Sharon’s assassination-during-peace-negotiations/land grab strategy, which is working very well now to create settlements all over, slowly but surely eliminating any meaningful possibility for Palestinian self-determination. Know that I have a lot of very nice Palestinians looking after me. I have a small flu bug, and got some very nice lemony drinks to cure me. Also, the woman who keeps the key for the well where we still sleep keeps asking me about you. She doesn’t speak a bit of English, but she asks about my mom pretty frequently – wants to make sure I’m calling you.
Love to you and Dad and Sarah and Chris and everybody.
Rachel
February 27 2003
(To her mother)
Love you. Really miss you. I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside. Sometimes the adrenaline acts as an anesthetic for weeks and then in the evening or at night it just hits me again – a little bit of the reality of the situation. I am really scared for the people here. Yesterday, I watched a father lead his two tiny children, holding his hands, out into the sight of tanks and a sniper tower and bulldozers and Jeeps because he thought his house was going to be exploded. Jenny and I stayed in the house with several women and two small babies. It was our mistake in translation that caused him to think it was his house that was being exploded. In fact, the Israeli army was in the process of detonating an explosive in the ground nearby – one that appears to have been planted by Palestinian resistance.
This is in the area where Sunday about 150 men were rounded up and contained outside the settlement with gunfire over their heads and around them, while tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses – the livelihoods for 300 people. The explosive was right in front of the greenhouses – right in the point of entry for tanks that might come back again. I was terrified to think that this man felt it was less of a risk to walk out in view of the tanks with his kids than to stay in his house. I was really scared that they were all going to be shot and I tried to stand between them and the tank. This happens every day, but just this father walking out with his two little kids just looking very sad, just happened to get my attention more at this particular moment, probably because I felt it was our translation problems that made him leave.
I thought a lot about what you said on the phone about Palestinian violence not helping the situation. Sixty thousand workers from Rafah worked in Israel two years ago. Now only 600 can go to Israel for jobs. Of these 600, many have moved, because the three checkpoints between here and Ashkelon (the closest city in Israel) make what used to be a 40-minute drive, now a 12-hour or impassible journey. In addition, what Rafah identified in 1999 as sources of economic growth are all completely destroyed – the Gaza international airport (runways demolished, totally closed); the border for trade with Egypt (now with a giant Israeli sniper tower in the middle of the crossing); access to the ocean (completely cut off in the last two years by a checkpoint and the Gush Katif settlement). The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around 600, by and large people with no connection to the resistance but who happen to live along the border. I think it is maybe official now that Rafah is the poorest place in the world. There used to be a middle class here – recently. We also get reports that in the past, Gazan flower shipments to Europe were delayed for two weeks at the Erez crossing for security inspections. You can imagine the value of two-week-old cut flowers in the European market, so that market dried up. And then the bulldozers come and take out people’s vegetable farms and gardens. What is left for people? Tell me if you can think of anything. I can’t.
If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment and destroy all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held captive with 149 other people for several hours – do you think we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect whatever fragments remained? I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and fruit trees destroyed – just years of care and cultivation. I think about you and how long it takes to make things grow and what a labour of love it is. I really think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best they could. I think Uncle Craig would. I think probably Grandma would. I think I would.
You asked me about non-violent resistance.
When that explosive detonated yesterday it broke all the windows in the family’s house. I was in the process of being served tea and playing with the two small babies. I’m having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to my stomach a lot from being doted on all the time, very sweetly, by people who are facing doom. I know that from the United States, it all sounds like hyperbole. Honestly, a lot of the time the sheer kindness of the people here, coupled with the overwhelming evidence of the wilful destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I really can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it. It really hurts me, again, like it has hurt me in the past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be. I felt after talking to you that maybe you didn’t completely believe me. I think it’s actually good if you don’t, because I do believe pretty much above all else in the importance of independent critical thinking. And I also realise that with you I’m much less careful than usual about trying to source every assertion that I make. A lot of the reason for that is I know that you actually do go and do your own research. But it makes me worry about the job I’m doing. All of the situation that I tried to enumerate above – and a lot of other things – constitutes a somewhat gradual – often hidden, but nevertheless massive – removal and destruction of the ability of a particular group of people to survive. This is what I am seeing here. The assassinations, rocket attacks and shooting of children are atrocities – but in focusing on them I’m terrified of missing their context. The vast majority of people here – even if they had the economic means to escape, even if they actually wanted to give up resisting on their land and just leave (which appears to be maybe the less nefarious of Sharon’s possible goals), can’t leave. Because they can’t even get into Israel to apply for visas, and because their destination countries won’t let them in (both our country and Arab countries). So I think when all means of survival is cut off in a pen (Gaza) which people can’t get out of, I think that qualifies as genocide. Even if they could get out, I think it would still qualify as genocide. Maybe you could look up the definition of genocide according to international law. I don’t remember it right now. I’m going to get better at illustrating this, hopefully. I don’t like to use those charged words. I think you know this about me. I really value words. I really try to illustrate and let people draw their own conclusions.
Anyway, I’m rambling. Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: “This is the wide world and I’m coming to it.” I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside.
When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I’ve ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.
I love you and Dad. Sorry for the diatribe. OK, some strange men next to me just gave me some peas, so I need to eat and thank them.
Rachel
February 28 2003
(To her mother)
Thanks, Mom, for your response to my email. It really helps me to get word from you, and from other people who care about me.
After I wrote to you I went incommunicado from the affinity group for about 10 hours which I spent with a family on the front line in Hi Salam – who fixed me dinner – and have cable TV. The two front rooms of their house are unusable because gunshots have been fired through the walls, so the whole family – three kids and two parents – sleep in the parent’s bedroom. I sleep on the floor next to the youngest daughter, Iman, and we all shared blankets. I helped the son with his English homework a little, and we all watched Pet Semetery, which is a horrifying movie. I think they all thought it was pretty funny how much trouble I had watching it. Friday is the holiday, and when I woke up they were watching Gummy Bears dubbed into Arabic. So I ate breakfast with them and sat there for a while and just enjoyed being in this big puddle of blankets with this family watching what for me seemed like Saturday morning cartoons. Then I walked some way to B’razil, which is where Nidal and Mansur and Grandmother and Rafat and all the rest of the big family that has really wholeheartedly adopted me live. (The other day, by the way, Grandmother gave me a pantomimed lecture in Arabic that involved a lot of blowing and pointing to her black shawl. I got Nidal to tell her that my mother would appreciate knowing that someone here was giving me a lecture about smoking turning my lungs black.) I met their sister-in-law, who is visiting from Nusserat camp, and played with her small baby.
Nidal’s English gets better every day. He’s the one who calls me, “My sister”. He started teaching Grandmother how to say, “Hello. How are you?” In English. You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers passing by, but all of these people are genuinely cheerful with each other, and with me. When I am with Palestinian friends I tend to be somewhat less horrified than when I am trying to act in a role of human rights observer, documenter, or direct-action resister. They are a good example of how to be in it for the long haul. I know that the situation gets to them – and may ultimately get them – on all kinds of levels, but I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity – laughter, generosity, family-time – against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death. I felt much better after this morning. I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances – which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY AND THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA MASSACRE

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share/Bookmark


Editorial, The Electronic Intifada, 31 May 2010
Early this morning under the cover of darkness Israeli?soldiers stormed the lead ship of the six-vessel Freedom?Flotilla aid convoy in international waters and killed and?injured dozens of civilians aboard. All the ships were?violently seized by Israeli forces, but hours after the?attack fate of the passengers aboard the other ships?remained unknown.
The Mavi Marmara was carrying around 600 activists when?Israeli warships flanked it from all sides as soldiers?descended from helicopters onto the ship’s deck. Reports?from people on board the ship backed up by live video?feeds broadcast on Turkish TV show that Israeli forces?used live ammunition against the civilian passengers, some?of whom resisted the attack with sticks and other items.
The Freedom Flotilla was organized by a coalition of?groups that sought to break the Israeli-led siege on the?Gaza Strip that began in 2007. Together, the flotilla?carried 700 civilian activists from around 50 countries?and over 10,000 tons of aid including food, medicines,?medical equipment, reconstruction materials and equipment,?as well as various other necessities arbitrarily banned by Israel.
As of 6:00pm Jerusalem time most media were still?reporting that up to 20 people had been killed, and many?more injured. However, Israel was still withholding the?exact numbers and names of the dead and injured.?Passengers aboard the ships who had been posting Twitter?updates on the Flotilla’s progress had not been heard from?since before the attack and efforts to contact passengers?by satellite phone were unsuccessful. The Arabic- and
English-language networks of Al-Jazeera lost contact with?their half dozen staff traveling with the flotilla.
News of the massacre on board the Freedom Flotilla began?to emerge around dawn in the eastern Mediterranean first?on the live feed from the ship, social media, Turkish?television, and Al-Jazeera. Israeli media were placed?under strict military censorship, and reported primarily?from foreign sources. However, by the morning the?Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli soldiers who?boarded the flotilla in international waters were fired?upon by passengers. Quoting anonymous military sources,?the Jerusalem Post claimed that the flotilla passengers?had set-up a “well planned lynch.”
(“IDF: Soldiers were?met by well-planned lynch in boat raid”)?The Israeli daily Haaretz also reported that the Israeli?soldiers were “attacked” when trying to board the?flotilla. (“At least 10 activists killed in Israel Navy?clashes onboard Gaza aid flotilla”)?This narrative of passengers “attacking” the Israeli?soldiers was quickly adopted by the Associated Press and?carried across mainstream media sources in the United?States, including the Washington Post. (“Israeli army:?More than 10 killed on Gaza flotilla”)?Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon stated in a?Monday morning press conference that the Israeli military?was acting in “self-defense.” He claimed that “At least?two guns were found” and that the “incident” was still?ongoing. Ayalon also claimed that the Flotilla organizers?were “well-known” and were supported by and had?connections to “international terrorist organizations.”
It is unclear how anyone could credibly adopt an Israeli?narrative of “self-defense” when Israel had carried out an?unprovoked armed assault on civilian ships in?international waters. Surely any right of self-defense?would belong to the passengers on the ship. Nevertheless,?the Freedom Flotilla organizers had clearly and loudly?proclaimed their ships to be unarmed civilian vessels on a?humanitarian mission.
The Israeli media strategy appeared to be to maintain?censorship of the facts such as the number of dead and?injured, the names of the victims and on which ships the?injuries occurred, while aggressively putting out its?version of events which is based on a dual strategy of?implausibly claiming “self-defense” while demonizing the?Freedom Flotilla passengers and intimating that they?deserved what they got.
As news spread around the world, foreign governments began?to react. Greece and Turkey, which had many citizens?aboard the Flotilla, immediately recalled their?ambassadors from Tel Aviv. Spain strongly condemned the?attack. France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner?expressed “profound shock.” The European Union’s foreign?minister Catherine Ashton called for an “enquiry.”
What should be clear is this: no one can claim to be?surprised by what the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights?correctly termed a “hideous crime.” Israel had been openly?threatening a violent attack on the Flotilla for days, but?complacency, complicity and inaction, specifically from?Western and Arab governments once more sent the message?that Israel could act with total impunity.
There is no doubt that Israel’s massacre of 1,400 people,?mostly civilians, in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009?was a wake up call for international civil society to?begin to adopt boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)?against Israel similar to those applied to apartheid-era?South Africa.?Yet governments largely have remained complacent and?complicit in Israel’s ongoing violence and oppression?against Palestinians and increasingly international?humanitarian workers and solidarity activists, not only in?Gaza, but throughout historic Palestine. We can only?imagine that had former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi?Livni indeed been arrested for war crimes in Gaza when a?judge in London issued a warrant for her arrest, had the?international community begun to implement the?recommendations of the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report,?had there been a much firmer response to Israel’s?assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai, it would not?have dared to act with such brazenness.
As protest and solidarity actions begin in Palestine and?across the world, this is the message they must carry:?enough impunity, enough complicity, enough Israeli?massacres and apartheid. Justice now.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. JACOB ZUMA

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share/Bookmark



HAIDAR EID ? AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. JACOB ZUMA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA
10 September, 2009 ??Palestine Chronicle

People in Johannesburg March in Solidarity with Palestine

Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to express my dismay and disappointment with both your attendance at the national conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies ? a racist organization by any standards ? as well as the content of your speech at that forum.
I am a naturalised South African of Palestinian origin. I spent more than five years in? Johannesburg, during which I earned a PhD from the University of Johannesburg and lectured at the-then Vista University in Soweto and Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg.
I would like to take issue with the manner in which you express your support for the two-state solution: ?It is a solution that fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, adjoining, and viable state of Palestine? (emphasis mine). Allow me, Mr. President, as a resident of Gaza, to express my shock with the fact that ? only 8 months after the Gaza massacre, in which 1500 civilians, including 434 children, were brutally murdered ? you still believe that there are two symmetrical sides. You even call it the ?Israeli-Palestinian conflict!? Was that your belief in the 1970?s and 80?s; that there were ?two-sides? to the South African ?conflict?? Were there two equal parties, namely White and Black, with equal claim to the land and equal historical responsibility for the-then status quo? No doubt, this sounds like a bizarre interpretation of South African history?and one which we Palestinians find equally astounding when applied to our history and our reality today.
Mr. President, these words of yours are even more disturbing, given your own involvement in the commendable struggle against the brutal, anti-human apartheid system and the notion of ?independent homelands? which were based on the separation of human beings. Your struggle as Black South Africans, was morally superior to apartheid because it was inclusive where apartheid focused on separation; it was embracing where apartheid focused on division; it was life-affirming where apartheid was violent and murderous.
The South African anti-apartheid goal, adopted by anti-apartheid activists all around the world was unequivocal: the end of the racist system and ideology of apartheid. There could be no toenadering (rapprochement) with apartheid ideologues; no creation of homelands and puppet leaders: the system had to be dismantled in its entirety. Many South Africans supported by a sustained global anti-apartheid campaign, sacrificed their lives to bring down the Bantustansan euphemistically, called independent homelands by the apartheid regime.? Mr. President, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, the Mxenges, the Slovosac to mention but a few anti-apartheid heroes must have listened to the speech to the JBD and wondered what happened to the universal values and human rights espoused by the ANC.
Comrade Jacob (if I may),
I would like to brief you on the nature of the powerful party, i.e. Israel ? with whom your post-apartheid government still, amazingly, maintains exceptional diplomatic and economic ties.
Unlike the new post-apartheid South Africa, which you helped to create, in the State of Israel all human beings are NOT equal. There are fundamental artificially created and selectively rewarded? a level of of citizens in the state. Israel defines itself as a Jewish State. It, therefore, creates a bizarre distinction between ?nationality? and ?citizenship.? Almost 22% of the citizens of Israel are Palestinians who are excluded from such a definition. Israel thus, by definition is NOT the state of its citizens, but rather that of ?The Jewish People?, most of whom, like the members of JBD whom you were addressing, have no birthright connection to it. The question which begs an answer is what the status of those Palestinian citizens in a Jewish state is? The answer is, as every single ? to use a word you must abhor ?non-white? South African knows: Racism.
The delegates at the national conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish, but at the same time, South African citizens ?enjoy full rights? in Israel, rights that apartheid Israel denies to us, the indigenous people of this land. They also call us ?Israeli Arabs?,? ?Jerusalem residents?, ?Arabs of the territories?, not to mention the refugees living in the Diaspora, whose mere mention always spoils any party, and whose right to return and compensation is sanctioned by International Law (UNGA resolution 194).
Israeli nationality, therefore, is non-existent. Instead, there is ?Jewish Nationality?. To make such a bizarre term comprehensible, think of ?White Nationality? as opposed to South African. In your speech before the JBD, you state very eloquently that ?(m)uch as we are conscious of who we are culturally and otherwise, it must not take away the national identity, as we should be South Africans first?.
The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crimes of Apartheid, Article 2, Part 3, clearly defines apartheid as:
?[a]ny legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work? the right to education, the right to leave and return to their country the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence.?
This definition, in its entirety, clearly applies not only to the Palestinian people residing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also those living in Israel itself. This is precisely the reason that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Territories, a fellow South African, John Dugard, concluded that ?the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid appears to be violated by many practices?.
If you were born to Palestinian parents living in Israel ? a fate you have been spared, Mr. President ? you too would be denied the rights of? ?Jewish Nationality? and been forced to submit to institutionalized inferiority or choose to resist it.
Furthermore, ICSPCA (quoted above), Article 2, Part 4, makes it crystal clear that:
?[t]he term ?the crime of apartheid?,? shall apply to ?any measures including legislative measure, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate measures and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups The expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof..?
Comrade Jacob, the word apartheid never appears once in your speech before the JBD! A listener would never know that you were speaking to an audience who actively support apartheid in another country.
Did you know that racist laws used to forbid Black property ownership in white areas in apartheid South Africa are in force in apartheid Israel? Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel are not only prohibited from living on land owned by ?Jewish institutions?, ?but are also not allowed by force of ?law? to reside in any areas designated ?Jewish? either.
I, myself, Mr. President, a resident of Gaza, like so many Palestinians, have legal title to my parents? land in Israel, but have no ?legal? right to it because my parents? property, like that? of millions of other Palestinians?, was taken away from us and given over to Jewish ownership. The facts are that Jews owned only 7% of Palestine before 1948; today 93% is considered ?state land? and can only be owned by Jews or Israel.
This is only one example, Comrade Jacob, of the nature of the state your government deems ?democratic?and ?friendly? despite its past strategic ties with apartheid SA. In your presidential campaign, you were quoted singing ?kill the Boer!? And yet, in your speech, you ?unequivocally? condemn ?all forms of violence from whatever quarter?, particularly where civilians are targeted!
I fail to understand this contradiction. Is this a reflection of the difference between comrade Jacob and President Zuma? Do you, as president, think that Palestinians have no right to resist their occupation and dispossession? You even equate our resistance with the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity committed by the Israeli Occupation forces in the West Bank and, in particular, in Gaza.
Is it too much, comrade Jacob, for us, representatives of Palestinian Civil Society organizations to ask your government to sever all diplomatic ties with apartheid? Israel, and endorses not to say lead the growing global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel? Is that really too much to ask a democratic post-apartheid South Africa for?
Is this the embodiment of Fanon?s prophecy about the ?Pitfalls of National (Racial?) Consciousness??? Is it because the Black Middle class which your government represents and which has taken power from the White Middle class is underdeveloped? Fanon, whom you? must have read while on the run from the apartheid police, says that this national middle class ?has practically no economic power, and in any case it is in no way commensurate with the bourgeoisie of the mother country which it hopes to replace.? Is this why you are prepared to kowtow to the South African Jewish community which ?has been called one of the most tightly-knit in the world, overwhelmingly united in its support for Israel??
Your government, Mr. President, turns a blind eye to the war crimes of its own citizens against Palestinians. The South African war criminal David Benjamin was allowed to freely move around South Africa and share his tactics of support and defence for the? Israeli Occupation Forces in its recent onslaught against the Gaza Strip with impunity. There are seventy other South Africans that are known to have links with the destruction of the Israeli Occupation Forces who enjoy the same impunity. It is left to individuals and civil society organizations in South Africa to take action against these criminals that should rightly be the task of the government.
Your post-apartheid government, Mr. President, unashamedly, supports the two-state solution: one for Palestinians (Muslim and Christians), and one for Jews. In other words, you support the re-birth of Bantustans, albeit in the Middle East this time. The two-state solution is a racist solution, comrade Jacob. If you did not accept it for yourselves in South Africa, why force it on Palestinians instead of supporting us as we demand the right to our homeland every single inch of it?
Mr. President,
A politics based on narrow-minded, selfish pragmatism was rejected by all anti-apartheid forces, locally and internationally during the years of the anti-apartheid struggle. What was promoted, instead, was adherence to universal principles of equality and dignity.
I truly hope you will reconsider. I know that it is my constitutional right as a citizen of the New South Africa ? which I am proud of ? to address you directly. I do so to express my deep disagreement and dissatisfaction with your government?s Middle East policy and its continued support for the apartheid policies of the Israeli government, given that this support undermines and actively harms the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination.
Sincerely,
Professor Haidar Eid
Gaza, Palestine
– Dr. Haidar Eid is Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Dr. Eid is a founding member of the One Democratic State Group (ODSG) and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

Related posts:
The Mandela Moment that changed South Africa
67 Minutes for Madiba
South Africa: Zuma presidency: New era or business as usual? By Fazila Farouk
Letter from South Africa By Cynthia McKinney
AN OPEN LETTER TO BRANFORD MARSALIS
Goldstone banned from grandson?s bar-mitzvah in South Africa By Ran Greenstein
Revive Lincoln?s Monetary Policy ? An Open Letter to President Obama By Ellen Brown
Ken Loach open letter to the Edinburgh Film Festival
Socialist Green Coalition Launched in South Africa
An open letter to Caryl Churchill from a Palestinian Mother 3 May, 2009
Video: South Africa ? Forgotten freedom fighters Part One
Sign MAP?s Open Letter to Gordon Brown- end to the blockade, end the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza

67 Minutes for Madiba

OK. I’ll admit it. I do have a soft spot for older women. My grandmother, my mother, Shejokhalamma, Chotokhalamma, Chotomami, Sufia Khala (poet Sufia Kamal), Didi (Mahasweta Devi) were all pretty special. All in their eighties or so. I can’t be entirely to blame though. When a woman says, “I’ve been waiting for you all day. I’ll wait all night. You must come.” How can one say no? Especially if it’s a woman you haven’t even met. And Fatima Meer was some woman. Continue reading “67 Minutes for Madiba”

Quitting Is Leading Too

Subscribe to ShahidulNews



Share/Bookmark


If only our own leaders (past and present), Mugabe, Bush and a host of others could learn! At the silver jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence, Madiba had set an example. He had called out to Khaleda (then the leader of the opposition) from the stage. An act of respect and reconciliation none of our leaders (including Khaleda) have learnt from.
Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership

The President and the Prime Minister attending the Silver Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence along with visiting foreign dignitaries President Demirel of Turkey, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and President Yasser Arafat of Palestine. ? Abir Abdullah/Drik/Majority World

Nelson Mandela has always felt most at ease around children, and in some ways his greatest deprivation was that he spent 27 years without hearing a baby cry or holding a child’s hand. Last month, when I visited Mandela in Johannesburg ? a frailer, foggier Mandela than the one I used to know ? his first instinct was to spread his arms to my two boys. Within seconds they were hugging the friendly old man who asked them what sports they liked to play and what they’d had for breakfast. While we talked, he held my son Gabriel, whose complicated middle name is Rolihlahla, Nelson Mandela’s real first name. He told Gabriel the story of that name, how in Xhosa it translates as “pulling down the branch of a tree” but that its real meaning is “troublemaker.”

Nelson Mandela at 90

A look at the life and leadership of the world’s great hero.
Narrated by TIME’s Managing Editor, Rick Stengel

As he celebrates his 90th birthday next week, Nelson Mandela has made enough trouble for several lifetimes. He liberated a country from a system of violent prejudice and helped unite white and black, oppressor and oppressed, in a way that had never been done before. In the 1990s I worked with Mandela for almost two years on his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. After all that time spent in his company, I felt a terrible sense of withdrawal when the book was done; it was like the sun going out of one’s life. We have seen each other occasionally over the years, but I wanted to make what might be a final visit and have my sons meet him one more time.
I also wanted to talk to him about leadership. Mandela is the closest thing the world has to a secular saint, but he would be the first to admit that he is something far more pedestrian: a politician. He overthrew apartheid and created a nonracial democratic South Africa by knowing precisely when and how to transition between his roles as warrior, martyr, diplomat and statesman. Uncomfortable with abstract philosophical concepts, he would often say to me that an issue “was not a question of principle; it was a question of tactics.” He is a master tactician.
Mandela is no longer comfortable with inquiries or favors. He’s fearful that he may not be able to summon what people expect when they visit a living deity, and vain enough to care that they not think him diminished. But the world has never needed Mandela’s gifts ? as a tactician, as an activist and, yes, as a politician ? more, as he showed again in London on June 25, when he rose to condemn the savagery of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. As we enter the main stretch of a historic presidential campaign in America, there is much that he can teach the two candidates. I’ve always thought of what you are about to read as Madiba’s Rules (Madiba, his clan name, is what everyone close to him calls him), and they are cobbled together from our conversations old and new and from observing him up close and from afar. They are mostly practical. Many of them stem directly from his personal experience. All of them are calibrated to cause the best kind of trouble: the trouble that forces us to ask how we can make the world a better place.
No. 1
Courage is not the absence of fear ? it’s inspiring others to move beyond it
In 1994, during the presidential-election campaign, Mandela got on a tiny propeller plane to fly down to the killing fields of Natal and give a speech to his Zulu supporters. I agreed to meet him at the airport, where we would continue our work after his speech. When the plane was 20 minutes from landing, one of its engines failed. Some on the plane began to panic. The only thing that calmed them was looking at Mandela, who quietly read his newspaper as if he were a commuter on his morning train to the office. The airport prepared for an emergency landing, and the pilot managed to land the plane safely. When Mandela and I got in the backseat of his bulletproof BMW that would take us to the rally, he turned to me and said, “Man, I was terrified up there!”
Mandela was often afraid during his time underground, during the Rivonia trial that led to his imprisonment, during his time on Robben Island. “Of course I was afraid!” he would tell me later. It would have been irrational, he suggested, not to be. “I can’t pretend that I’m brave and that I can beat the whole world.” But as a leader, you cannot let people know. “You must put up a front.”
And that’s precisely what he learned to do: pretend and, through the act of appearing fearless, inspire others. It was a pantomime Mandela perfected on Robben Island, where there was much to fear. Prisoners who were with him said watching Mandela walk across the courtyard, upright and proud, was enough to keep them going for days. He knew that he was a model for others, and that gave him the strength to triumph over his own fear.
No. 2
Lead from the front ? but don’t leave your base behind
Mandela is cagey. in 1985 he was operated on for an enlarged prostate. When he was returned to prison, he was separated from his colleagues and friends for the first time in 21 years. They protested. But as his longtime friend Ahmed Kathrada recalls, he said to them, “Wait a minute, chaps. Some good may come of this.”
The good that came of it was that Mandela on his own launched negotiations with the apartheid government. This was anathema to the African National Congress (ANC). After decades of saying “prisoners cannot negotiate” and after advocating an armed struggle that would bring the government to its knees, he decided that the time was right to begin to talk to his oppressors.
When he initiated his negotiations with the government in 1985, there were many who thought he had lost it. “We thought he was selling out,” says Cyril Ramaphosa, then the powerful and fiery leader of the National Union of Mineworkers. “I went to see him to tell him, What are you doing? It was an unbelievable initiative. He took a massive risk.”
Mandela launched a campaign to persuade the ANC that his was the correct course. His reputation was on the line. He went to each of his comrades in prison, Kathrada remembers, and explained what he was doing. Slowly and deliberately, he brought them along. “You take your support base along with you,” says Ramaphosa, who was secretary-general of the ANC and is now a business mogul. “Once you arrive at the beachhead, then you allow the people to move on. He’s not a bubble-gum leader ? chew it now and throw it away.”
For Mandela, refusing to negotiate was about tactics, not principles. Throughout his life, he has always made that distinction. His unwavering principle ? the overthrow of apartheid and the achievement of one man, one vote ? was immutable, but almost anything that helped him get to that goal he regarded as a tactic. He is the most pragmatic of idealists.
“He’s a historical man,” says Ramaphosa. “He was thinking way ahead of us. He has posterity in mind: How will they view what we’ve done?” Prison gave him the ability to take the long view. It had to; there was no other view possible. He was thinking in terms of not days and weeks but decades. He knew history was on his side, that the result was inevitable; it was just a question of how soon and how it would be achieved. “Things will be better in the long run,” he sometimes said. He always played for the long run.
No. 3
Lead from the back ? and let others believe they are in front
Mandela loved to reminisce about his boyhood and his lazy afternoons herding cattle. “You know,” he would say, “you can only lead them from behind.” He would then raise his eyebrows to make sure I got the analogy.
As a boy, Mandela was greatly influenced by Jongintaba, the tribal king who raised him. When Jongintaba had meetings of his court, the men gathered in a circle, and only after all had spoken did the king begin to speak. The chief’s job, Mandela said, was not to tell people what to do but to form a consensus. “Don’t enter the debate too early,” he used to say.
During the time I worked with Mandela, he often called meetings of his kitchen cabinet at his home in Houghton, a lovely old suburb of Johannesburg. He would gather half a dozen men, Ramaphosa, Thabo Mbeki (who is now the South African President) and others around the dining-room table or sometimes in a circle in his driveway. Some of his colleagues would shout at him ? to move faster, to be more radical ? and Mandela would simply listen. When he finally did speak at those meetings, he slowly and methodically summarized everyone’s points of view and then unfurled his own thoughts, subtly steering the decision in the direction he wanted without imposing it. The trick of leadership is allowing yourself to be led too. “It is wise,” he said, “to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”
No. 4
Know your enemy ? and learn about his favorite sport
As far back as the 1960s, mandela began studying Afrikaans, the language of the white South Africans who created apartheid. His comrades in the ANC teased him about it, but he wanted to understand the Afrikaner’s worldview; he knew that one day he would be fighting them or negotiating with them, and either way, his destiny was tied to theirs.
This was strategic in two senses: by speaking his opponents’ language, he might understand their strengths and weaknesses and formulate tactics accordingly. But he would also be ingratiating himself with his enemy. Everyone from ordinary jailers to P.W. Botha was impressed by Mandela’s willingness to speak Afrikaans and his knowledge of Afrikaner history. He even brushed up on his knowledge of rugby, the Afrikaners’ beloved sport, so he would be able to compare notes on teams and players.
Mandela understood that blacks and Afrikaners had something fundamental in common: Afrikaners believed themselves to be Africans as deeply as blacks did. He knew, too, that Afrikaners had been the victims of prejudice themselves: the British government and the white English settlers looked down on them. Afrikaners suffered from a cultural inferiority complex almost as much as blacks did.
Mandela was a lawyer, and in prison he helped the warders with their legal problems. They were far less educated and worldly than he, and it was extraordinary to them that a black man was willing and able to help them. These were “the most ruthless and brutal of the apartheid regime’s characters,” says Allister Sparks, the great South African historian, and he “realized that even the worst and crudest could be negotiated with.”
No. 5
Keep your friends close ? and your rivals even closer
Many of the guests mandela invited to the house he built in Qunu were people whom, he intimated to me, he did not wholly trust. He had them to dinner; he called to consult with them; he flattered them and gave them gifts. Mandela is a man of invincible charm ? and he has often used that charm to even greater effect on his rivals than on his allies.
On Robben Island, Mandela would always include in his brain trust men he neither liked nor relied on. One person he became close to was Chris Hani, the fiery chief of staff of the ANC’s military wing. There were some who thought Hani was conspiring against Mandela, but Mandela cozied up to him. “It wasn’t just Hani,” says Ramaphosa. “It was also the big industrialists, the mining families, the opposition. He would pick up the phone and call them on their birthdays. He would go to family funerals. He saw it as an opportunity.” When Mandela emerged from prison, he famously included his jailers among his friends and put leaders who had kept him in prison in his first Cabinet. Yet I well knew that he despised some of these men.
There were times he washed his hands of people ? and times when, like so many people of great charm, he allowed himself to be charmed. Mandela initially developed a quick rapport with South African President F.W. de Klerk, which is why he later felt so betrayed when De Klerk attacked him in public.
Mandela believed that embracing his rivals was a way of controlling them: they were more dangerous on their own than within his circle of influence. He cherished loyalty, but he was never obsessed by it. After all, he used to say, “people act in their own interest.” It was simply a fact of human nature, not a flaw or a defect. The flip side of being an optimist ? and he is one ? is trusting people too much. But Mandela recognized that the way to deal with those he didn’t trust was to neutralize them with charm.
No. 6
Appearances matter ? and remember to smile
When Mandela was a poor law student in Johannesburg wearing his one threadbare suit, he was taken to see Walter Sisulu. Sisulu was a real estate agent and a young leader of the ANC. Mandela saw a sophisticated and successful black man whom he could emulate. Sisulu saw the future.
Sisulu once told me that his great quest in the 1950s was to turn the ANC into a mass movement; and then one day, he recalled with a smile, “a mass leader walked into my office.” Mandela was tall and handsome, an amateur boxer who carried himself with the regal air of a chief’s son. And he had a smile that was like the sun coming out on a cloudy day.
We sometimes forget the historical correlation between leadership and physicality. George Washington was the tallest and probably the strongest man in every room he entered. Size and strength have more to do with DNA than with leadership manuals, but Mandela understood how his appearance could advance his cause. As leader of the ANC’s underground military wing, he insisted that he be photographed in the proper fatigues and with a beard, and throughout his career he has been concerned about dressing appropriately for his position. George Bizos, his lawyer, remembers that he first met Mandela at an Indian tailor’s shop in the 1950s and that Mandela was the first black South African he had ever seen being fitted for a suit. Now Mandela’s uniform is a series of exuberant-print shirts that declare him the joyous grandfather of modern Africa.
When Mandela was running for the presidency in 1994, he knew that symbols mattered as much as substance. He was never a great public speaker, and people often tuned out what he was saying after the first few minutes. But it was the iconography that people understood. When he was on a platform, he would always do the toyi-toyi, the township dance that was an emblem of the struggle. But more important was that dazzling, beatific, all-inclusive smile. For white South Africans, the smile symbolized Mandela’s lack of bitterness and suggested that he was sympathetic to them. To black voters, it said, I am the happy warrior, and we will triumph. The ubiquitous ANC election poster was simply his smiling face. “The smile,” says Ramaphosa, “was the message.”
After he emerged from prison, people would say, over and over, It is amazing that he is not bitter. There are a thousand things Nelson Mandela was bitter about, but he knew that more than anything else, he had to project the exact opposite emotion. He always said, “Forget the past” ? but I knew he never did.
No. 7
Nothing is black or white
When we began our series of interviews, I would often ask Mandela questions like this one: When you decided to suspend the armed struggle, was it because you realized you did not have the strength to overthrow the government or because you knew you could win over international opinion by choosing nonviolence? He would then give me a curious glance and say, “Why not both?”
I did start asking smarter questions, but the message was clear: Life is never either/or. Decisions are complex, and there are always competing factors. To look for simple explanations is the bias of the human brain, but it doesn’t correspond to reality. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it appears.
Mandela is comfortable with contradiction. As a politician, he was a pragmatist who saw the world as infinitely nuanced. Much of this, I believe, came from living as a black man under an apartheid system that offered a daily regimen of excruciating and debilitating moral choices: Do I defer to the white boss to get the job I want and avoid a punishment? Do I carry my pass?
As a statesman, Mandela was uncommonly loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and Fidel Castro. They had helped the ANC when the U.S. still branded Mandela as a terrorist. When I asked him about Gaddafi and Castro, he suggested that Americans tend to see things in black and white, and he would upbraid me for my lack of nuance. Every problem has many causes. While he was indisputably and clearly against apartheid, the causes of apartheid were complex. They were historical, sociological and psychological. Mandela’s calculus was always, What is the end that I seek, and what is the most practical way to get there?
No. 8
Quitting is leading too
In 1993, Mandela asked me if I knew of any countries where the minimum voting age was under 18. I did some research and presented him with a rather undistinguished list: Indonesia, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea and Iran. He nodded and uttered his highest praise: “Very good, very good.” Two weeks later, Mandela went on South African television and proposed that the voting age be lowered to 14. “He tried to sell us the idea,” recalls Ramaphosa, “but he was the only [supporter]. And he had to face the reality that it would not win the day. He accepted it with great humility. He doesn’t sulk. That was also a lesson in leadership.”
Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make. In many ways, Mandela’s greatest legacy as President of South Africa is the way he chose to leave it. When he was elected in 1994, Mandela probably could have pressed to be President for life ? and there were many who felt that in return for his years in prison, that was the least South Africa could do.
In the history of Africa, there have been only a handful of democratically elected leaders who willingly stood down from office. Mandela was determined to set a precedent for all who followed him ? not only in South Africa but across the rest of the continent. He would be the anti-Mugabe, the man who gave birth to his country and refused to hold it hostage. “His job was to set the course,” says Ramaphosa, “not to steer the ship.” He knows that leaders lead as much by what they choose not to do as what they do.
Ultimately, the key to understanding Mandela is those 27 years in prison. The man who walked onto Robben Island in 1964 was emotional, headstrong, easily stung. The man who emerged was balanced and disciplined. He is not and never has been introspective. I often asked him how the man who emerged from prison differed from the willful young man who had entered it. He hated this question. Finally, in exasperation one day, he said, “I came out mature.” There is nothing so rare ? or so valuable ? as a mature man. Happy birthday, Madiba.