Mandela ‘an inspiration to Palestinians’

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iol news pic Mandela Arafat

AP

South African President Nelson Mandela, center greets Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat at the 12th Non-Aligned Movement Summit meeting, Wednesday September 2, 1998. At Mandela\'s side is his wife, Graca Machel. (AP Photo / Tim Zielenbach)

Jerusalem - Nelson Mandela's struggle for freedom inspired Palestinians to believe that their own liberation was “possible,” jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti said on Friday.

His remarks were made in an open letter to Mandela sent from Cell 28 of Hadarim prison in Israel, which was published by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) a day after the South African liberation leader's death.

“You said: 'We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.'

“And from within my prison cell, I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours,” he wrote.

Barghuti still wields huge influence from inside prison where he is serving five life sentences for attacks on Israeli targets and has been dubbed “the Palestinian Mandela”.

“Apartheid did not prevail in South Africa, and apartheid shall not prevail in Palestine,” he wrote.

Mandela, who first visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in 1999, was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a champion for Middle East peace.

Many Palestinians have taken inspiration from Mandela's successful struggle against apartheid in their decades-long struggle to end Israeli occupation.

“You are much more than an inspiration,” Barghuti wrote.

“You carried a promise far beyond the limits of your countries' borders, a promise that oppression and injustice will be vanquished, paving the way to freedom and peace ... All sacrifices become bearable by the sole prospect that one day the Palestinian people will also be able to enjoy freedom.”

A lifelong activist who supported the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, Barghuti is widely believed to have masterminded the second Palestinian intifada that erupted in 2000.

He was arrested in April 2002 and sentenced two years later.

Barghuti has since said he never supported attacks on civilians inside Israel and in recent years has thrown his support behind peaceful resistance.

Sapa-AFP


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