“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”– Nelson Mandela
“Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them, to have everyone hate us, to pull the rug from underneath the feet of the Diaspora Jews, so that they will be forced to run to us crying. Even if it means blowing up one or two synagogues here and there, I don’t care.”-Ariel Sharon
Of course, comparing Nelson Mandela with Ariel Sharon amounts to comparing like with unlike. But fate and destiny record it that the two are the most recent former heads of state that just passed on. Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected President of a non-racial South Africa in 1994. After serving an eventful one term of office, he stepped down in 1999 at the age of 81. Mandela died on December 5th 2013 at the age of 95 after a brief illness. He was buried at a state funeral held on 15 December 2013 in Qunu, South Africa. Ariel Sharon was a two-term Prime minister of the state of Isreal. Having suffered a comma after a debilitating stroke stroke in 2006 at the peak of his war of attrition against the Palestinians, he stepped down. He died 7 years after on Jan. 11 this year and buried on the Jan. 13 at his beloved Sycamore Ranch in Israel’s southern Negev desert. The two late
leaders were products of democratic processes. Of course not few political observers regularly question the quality of Isreali democracy which blatantly limits the freedom of its Arab Palestinian citizens, just as many hail South African all inclusive, non-racial and non-sexist constitution as the most democratic in the world. Indeed Isreal has been accused of some apartheid democracy! But democracy nonetheless in a region under the heels of dictators of varying persuasions. This is however where the similarity between the two late leaders ends.
Even the most benign assessment of Sharon sees him as a controversial longtime political and military leader. Very few leaders paraded such a notoriety brand. Sharon, was known as “the bulldozer” for his aggressive style in governance for which the Palestinians in occupied lands paid dearly in loss of lives and territory. In 1982, as a Defence Minister he spearheaded the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in which many Palestinians in the camps at Sabra and Shatila were massacred. That singular tragedy provoked the largest protest in the history of Israel against Sharon. Indeed a commission of inquiry, headed by the then Chief Justice of Israel’s
Supreme Court, Yitzhak Kahan, indicted him as being negligent as a Defense Minister. . Sharon eventually was forced to resign.. Sharon was undoubtedly a Zionist Isreali patriot but even by Isreali’s standard of a state of fortress, Sharon was an embarrassment and even a failure that could not achieve peace with the Palestinians. Ariel Sharon, was the only Isreali Prime Minister to be so described as a ‘Crime Minister’ of some sort following serial violence that characterised his public office. Conversely Mandela’s enemies and jailers alike agreed too well that he was a liberator, unifier and builder of unprecedented reconcilliation among races. Mandela was certainly not averse to controversies but was globally acclaimed
for his activism for justice, freedom and fairness to all. He received as many as 250 honours while alive, the most outstanding being the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize he shared with De Klerk, with whom he served in the government of national unity. De Klerk saw Mandela as a remarkable man with the biggest of reconciliation and “a remarkable lack of bitterness,” . Certainly Sharon was no Mandela because no Palestinian leader had generous posthumous remarks about him as Mandela’s adversaries did on Mandela. Sharon was no Menachem Begin, the legendary Isreali Prime Minister from ….. (1913-1992) either. Menachem Begin was an acknowledged Israelis statesman and sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel who shared Nobel Prize with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1978 following the unprecedented uncommon peace deal between Isreali and Egypt. Sharon’s second coming as a prime minister was through a deliberate terror-provocation that included provocative
visit to some holly sites in East Jerusalem! Conversely Nelson Mandela came to power on account of multi racial support given his all inclusive commitment to fairness. Mandela inherited a divided South Africa and bequeathed a united country coping with
the challenge of nation building. Retribution was alien to Mandela’s lexicon. In 1995, Nelson Mandela invited for lunch, Percy Yutar , an Armenian Jew, who prosecuted him during the infamous Rivonia Trail that confined him to what Mandela himself called wasteful 27 years in prison. Nelson Mandela also had a tea party with Betsie Verwoerd, the wife of the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd that wasted many lives of Africans.
Conversely Sharon once regretted that he did not ‘liquidate’ (his word) Yasser Arafat, when he had the opportunity in 1982. He once described Yasser Arafat as ‘Bin Laden’ while Mandela singled out Arafat as a ‘Freedom fighter’. Sharon inherited Isreal at war with the Palestinians and left an Isreali still searching for peace with the Palestinans.
A commentator puts it better that ; “A day will come when it will be recognized that leaders such as Sharon, and those who have shared his vision of Israel as a fortress state rather than one that can attain peaceful relations with its neighbors, have done their own people the greatest disservice”.
Lastly by their burials we also know the difference. The whole world was stand still to pay a deserved respect to Nelson Mandela for his global magnificent leadership. Jerusalem Post (Iseali’s best selling English daily) headlined that;”For Palestinians in Gaza, Sharon’s passing is reason to celebrate” underscoring the Shakespearean received wisdom that; “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”.
Issa Aremu mni