Mandela: I was inspired by Begin’s struggle against the British

Mandela’s statements about Begin on the one hand and Arafat on the other should make just about everyone uncomfortable.

In Chapter 42 of his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela describes how, in 1961, he began forming the African National Congress’ (ANC) military wing to launch guerrilla attacks on the apartheid regime. “I, who had never been a soldier, who had never fought in battle, who had never fired a gun at an enemy, had been given the task of starting an army. … I began in the only way I knew how, by reading and talking to experts.”

Mandela recalls that he read about Castro and Che Guevara, about Mao Tse-Tung, about the uprisings in Ethiopia, Kenya, Algeria, even about the Boer revolt against their former British rulers. He mentions three books that were crucial to his education.  One was Commando by Deneys Reitz about the Boer rebellion. The second was Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China about Mao’s revolution.  And this was the third:

I read The Revolt by Menachem Begin and was encouraged by the fact that the Israeli leader had led a guerrilla force in a country with neither mountains nor forests, a situation similar to our own.

Interesting. It gets even more interesting when you read what Mandela told Yasser Arafat in 1990, two weeks after he was released from 27 years in prison:

There are many similarities between our struggle and that of the PLO. We live under a unique form of colonialism in South Africa, as well as in Israel…”

Mandela against apartheid, Begin against the British Mandate, Arafat against the occupation. Their differences as rebel leaders are not as important as what they had in common: All three took up arms in the cause of freedom.

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On Mandela’s legacy: Three political innovations