Barghouti: Mandela gave Palestinians hope for freedom
Published Friday 06/12/2013 (updated) 07/12/2013 13:59
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and former president of South
Africa Nelson Mandela wave to cheering members of the
Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City on October 20, 1999
(AFP/File Fayez Nureldine)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Nelson Mandela's struggle for freedom inspired Palestinians to believe that their own liberation was "possible," jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti 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 Organization 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.
Barghouti 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," Barghouti 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, Barghouti was arrested in April 2002 and sentenced two years later.
Barghouti has since said he never supported attacks on civilians inside Israel and in recent years has thrown his support behind peaceful resistance.