By Michael Freund
Imagine a person who planned acts of sabotage and incited violence, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians and damage to public property. A man who embraced brutal dictators throughout the Third World, such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, singing their praises and defending them publicly even as they trampled on the rights and lives of their own people. A person who hugged Yasser Arafat at the height of the intifada, hailed Puerto Rican terrorists who shot US Congressmen, and penned a book entitled, How to be a good Communist.
Picture all this and, believe it or not, you will be staring at a portrait of Nelson Mandela. The death of the South African statesman last week has elicited an outpouring of tributes around the world, with various leaders and media outlets vying to outdo one another in their praise of the man. Highlighting his principled stand against apartheid, and his firm determination to erect a new, post-racial and color-blind South Africa, many observers have hailed Mandela in glowing terms, as though he were a saint free of blemish and clean of sin. But such accolades not only miss the mark, they distort history in a dangerous and damaging way and betray the legacy of Mandela himself.
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