Nelson Mandela’s Inspiration (Revised)
Editor’s Note: Of interest because of Mandela’s comments shifting the responsibility for violence from the oppressed to the oppressor. Not only in the case of Israel/Palestine. We have seen this double standard in the U.S. with Occupy, a basically nonviolent movement that was met with extreme force and violence by Homeland Security, the organization that orchestrated the police raids that put an end to the physical occupation part of Occupy, not just on Wall Street, but all over the country. The spirit of Occupy lives on. In Minnesota we have Occupy Homes MN, still very active in saving homes from foreclosure, and Occupy MN, currently working on environmental issues such as the Enbridge pipeline with 350MN.org and the Red Lake Nation where there’s a pipeline on their land in northern Minnesota and also on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). Mandela’s observation is, of course, astute. Blaming nonviolent protestors is like blaming the victim, not the perpetrator. As for the second part of the observation, that the protestors were forced to act violently in response, that is trickier. How to avoid falling into that trap is the question for those who are nonviolent.
Prefatory Note: Thanks to my friend Nader Hashemi, I have added this important comment on the role of violence in emancipatory struggles for freedom that Nelson Mandela articulated after his release from prison in 1993; it is highly relevant to the demands by Israel that Palestinians renounce violence while Israel sustains a structure of occupation and oppression that includes nakba as process, that is, continuous dynamics of dispossession and dispersal of the oppressed and encroachment on their remaining rights via unlawful settlement, ethnic cleansing, discriminatory policies.
What follows is an excerpt from an appearance by Mandela on Charlie Rose’s interview program:
Rose: You have, at this moment, no reservation or indecision – along with the counsel that you’ve taken with your colleagues – that the decisions made by you and them are right for South Africa – the sacrifices, the toll, the price you’ve paid, the blood that’s been spilled was necessary, painful, but necessary?
Mandela: Absolutely. We are an organization which, from its foundation, committed itself to building a nation through peaceful, nonviolent, and disciplined struggle. We were forced to resort to arms by the regime, and the lesson of history is that for the masses of the people, the methods of political action which they use are determined by the oppressor himself. If the oppressor uses peaceful means, the oppressed would never resort to violence. It is when the oppressor – in addition to his repressive policies – uses violence, that the oppressed have no alternative but to retaliate by similar forms of action. And, therefore, the pains, the blood that was spilled, and the responsibility for that lies squarely on the shoulders of the regime.
Source: Interview with Charlie Rose, September 30, 1993