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 Robben Island

 

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio

A contribution in Einat Leader and David Goss (dir.), Borrowed Syndrome

On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died. It took me but a few moments to realize that this person’s funeral will be attended by a record number of people from all over the world – who will truly be sorry for his passing away, and not just for protocol’s sake. I understood this mentally, but didn’t feel it. Mandela is a black hole in my political maturation. My partner Eleonore, on the other hand, wept during the funeral. I envied her. 

A few years ago I visited Cape Town with a group of Israelis and Palestinians. We came to learn about apartheid and its aftermath. We also visited Robben Island, where Mandela and his comrades were imprisoned. It was interesting, but still I wasn’t moved, despite realizing the magnitude of this man. 

Today I understand why. At the time of apartheid in South Africa, I grew up in Israel. Israel was the last country to maintain close relations with that racist regime. I remember closely following the tennis matches between the African power and our admired players. 

The truth about apartheid dawned on me only years later, and I realized the full extent of its evilness only through the understanding that Israel has a similar, if not an identical regime. Eleonore told me that the first demonstration her parents took her to was in support of Mandela and of ending the apartheid. As a child, she recalls the day of his liberation as an exciting celebration. This is her first political memory. That day does not exist for me. It has been repressed under the shamelessness of collaborating with the white regime in South Africa. In the future, many in the world will remember having supported the Israeli re