Israel and Nelson Mandela, 1962-1965
A Call for Freedom
09 Dec 2013
“You will not silence their voices by hanging them. Their words will ring a thousand times more loudly if you do.”
In the coming weeks, the Israel State Archives will release a collection of documents about Israeli-South African relations between1961-1967. This collection is a part of a wider one on Israel’s relations with Africa during this period. Several documents relate to Nelson Mandela and Israel’s sympathy for his struggle, and they are presented here. All are in Hebrew exceptDocument Number 3.
Most of these documents deal with the Rivonia Trial, and Israel’s reaction to it. The accused were 18 leaders of the African National Congress party. The defendants, who were arrested at a farm near the Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia, were charged with plotting armed sabotage of the apartheid government. Mandela, who had already been imprisoned on other charges, was not among those arrested, but his name was added to the list of defendants in the trial. The South African government was interested in a show trial which would discredit the African National Congress. The prosecution demanded the death sentence for the leading defendants, including Mandela.
The Israeli government became interested in the trial for several reasons. They were particularly concerned that the large number of Jews arrested (about a third of the defendants) in the incident would spark antisemitism in South Africa. The second reason for Israeli interest in the trial was its desire to strengthen ties with black African nations, who naturally rejected the apartheid regime in South Africa. Another contributing factor to Israel’s stand was then Foreign Minister Golda Meir’s opposition to racism and discrimination. She herself invested a large amount of time and attention to developing ties with African countries.
Golda Meir instructed senior Foreign Ministry officials to prepare a manifesto by leading intellectuals criticizing the trial. The Foreign Ministry appealed to philosopher Martin Buber to lend his voice to the campaign. Foreign Ministry Assistant Director-General Ehud Avriel asked Hanan Aynor, of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations in New York, to appeal to author Haim Hazaz to join Buber in signing a declaration on behalf of the Rivonia defendants. Buber and Hazaz’s declaration was published on May 20, 1964. They called on the South African government to release the defendants. “You will not silence their voices by hanging them. Their words will ring a thousand times more loudly if you do,” the two wrote.
On June 12, 1964 the defendants were sentenced. Six of them including Mandela were sentenced to life imprisonment – but not to the death penalty.
Over the years the close relations between Israel and South Africa drew criticism by those who saw them as expressing Israeli support for South Africa’s racist apartheid government. The documents to be released, however, reveal that relations between the two countries in the 1960s were tense, problematic and complicated, and include many examples of Israeli criticism of the South African government.
- Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela’s Close Relationship With the South African Jews (stephendarorionverygreatpeople.wordpress.com)
- President Nelson Madiba Mandela Memorial Service Program, Media Coverage And Official Obituary (theobamacrat.com)
- Mandela’s Relations with the Jews (stephendaroriinzion.wordpress.com)
- New Documents Show Israel Lobbied Against Death Penalty for Mandela (algemeiner.com)
- Madiba Mandela Memorial Live Streaming (harounkola.com)
- LEFT LIES THEY WONT TELL YOU THIS ….President P W Botha offers Nelson Mandela conditional release from prison (ufohunterorguk.com)
- Nelson Mandela, Palestine And The Fight Against Apartheid – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- [PHOTOS] Photos From Nelson Mandela’s Burial In S.A… (9jaamebor.wordpress.com)
- Remembering, Who was Nelson Mandela (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013): He sacrificed his freedom so we could be free (vikasnath.com)