Philip Weiss in Mondoweiss:
Last Tuesday night, the Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani gave a speech at Columbia University, where he is a professor, saying that Palestine has not yet reached its “South African moment.” Most of his speech is excerpted below. It followed Omar Barghouti’s speech, which I lately covered.
“The end of apartheid was a negotiated settlement,” Mamdani said. The South African anti-apartheid struggle did not succeed by military resistance so much as by education, bringing whites to understand that they would only be safe if they ceased to be settlers. They came to agree. In Israel and Palestine, the work is also educational. Israeli Jews and their western supporters have been indoctrinated in the wake of the Holocaust to believe that Jews will only be safe with a Jewish state. The majority Jewish population within the state of Israel is not yet convinced that it has an option other than Zionism. This is the real challenge. The Zionist message to the Jewish population of Israel is this, Zionism is your only guarantee against another holocaust. The opposite is the case. Jews can have a homeland in the Middle East, but their safety can only be achieved by dismantling the Jewish state, Mamdani said. His speech was a political challenge to Jewish anti-Zionists, now just a splinter, to launch a political struggle inside the Jewish community to liberate it from Zionism.
There was no military victory against apartheid in South Africa. I begin with that. The end of apartheid was a negotiated settlement. Boycott and collaboration are two ends of a spectrum of tactics. In the middle lie different forms of critical engagement. The Boycott was one instrument among many. To view the boycott in isolation would be misleading. To see the boycott in a larger context is to understand the politics that informed the boycott. Thus my question: What was the decisive moment of that anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, what was the South African moment?
My argument would be the following. I believe the South African moment involved a triple shift. It was first a shift from demanding the end of apartheid to providing an alternative to apartheid.
Second, it was a shift from representing the oppressed, the black people of South Africa, the majority, to representing the whole people of South Africa.
Third, it was a turn from resisting within the terms set by apartheid to redefining the very terms of how South Africa should be governed.