Lessons from South Africa for the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Seeking Mandela

Peacemaking Between Israelis and Palestinians

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Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley

"An enduring feature of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse has been the pygmy moral stature of the leadership on both sides. Stepping firmly into a notorious minefield of ethnic/religious passions, Adam and Moodley argue convincingly that hoping for some savior figure to bring the warring parties together is futile. For the uncompromising quality of their political analysis, and for the tough realism of the advice they offer, they are to be applauded."
J.M. Coetzee

The ongoing violence, despair and paralysis among Israelis and Palestinians resemble the gloomy period in South Africa during the late 1980s. Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley show that these analogies with South Africa can be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for two purposes: to showcase South Africa as an inspiring model for a negotiated settlement and to label Israel a "colonial settler state" that should be confronted with strategies (sanctions, boycotts) similar to those applied against the apartheid regime. Because of the different historical and socio-political contexts, both assumptions are problematic. Whereas peacemaking resulted in an inclusive democracy in South Africa, the favored solution for Israel and the West Bank is territorial separation into two states.

Adam and Moodley speculate on what would have happened in the Middle East had there been what they call "a Palestinian Mandela" providing unifying moral and strategic leadership in the ethnic conflict. A timely, relevant look at the issues of a polarized struggle, Seeking Mandela is an original comparison of South Africa and Israel, as well as an important critique on the nature of comparative politics.



Read the Preface and an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).



"A sweeping, authoritative and balanced analysis of a highly sensitive issue, bound to raise a heated debate."
Dr. Meron Benvenisti, Historian and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem

"Those interested in what kinds of world pressures cause or impede change will find a great deal of food for thought. Meticulously constructed, Seeking Mandela is well-worth a lay person read."
Island Tides

“Two leading specialists on South Africa, who, for some forty years, have closely studied the evolution of racial conflicts and their resolution in that country, now turn to the question of how much of the South African experience is applicable to the perennial Israel – Palestine conflict. They criticize any facile analogy between South Africa and Israel as ‘fascist,’ ‘racist,’ or ‘apartheid’ societies, and give us a nuanced analysis of similarities and differences between them, with emphasis on the latter.”
Nations and Nationalism



Preface: Reflections on Moral Literacy

Introduction Political Travel through the Holy Land
The Gaze of Outsiders • Conversations with Palestinians • Unscrambling History

Part I. Probing the South African Lessons

1. Controversial Issues in Overview
Context • Uses and Abuses of the Israel-South Africa Comparison • The Relevance of the Middle East for South Africa • False Analogies and Theoretical Approaches

2. Nationalism, Patriotism, and Multiculturalism Revisited
Ultra-Nationalism in Defiance of Universal Norms • Critical Patriotism • Multiculturalism and Cosmopolitanism

3. A Brief History of South Africa and Apartheid
The History of South African Colonialism • The Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism • The Many Faces of Apartheid • Resistance and Liberation

4. The Problematic Israel-South Africa Analogy
Economic Interdependence • Unifying versus Divisive Religion • Third-Party Intervention • Embattled Leadership in Controversial Compromises • A Militarized Political Culture • Violence, Deterrence, and the Psychic Energy of Martyrdom • Rescuing Negotiations

5. Visions of Endgame
Islamic Extremist Positions • Jewish Extremist Positions • Two-State Positions • A Multicultural Common State

Part II. After the Violence

6. Collective Memories: How Democracies Deal with the Crimes of Previous Regimes
The Politics of Memory • Conclusions

7. The Politics of Reconciliation and Transitional Justice
Truth Commissions and the Globalization of Justice • Between Perpetrators and Victims • Success and Failure of the TRC

8. An Israeli-Palestinian Truth Commission?

Part III. Conclusions

9. Solutions Revisited and Lessons Drawn
Differences and Similarities between South Africa and Israel • Palestine • Israel • Palestine in the International Context • Zionism, Anti-Zionism, and Post-Zionism Revisited in the Twenty-First Century • The Two-State versus the Common-State Option • South African Lessons for Peacemaking • Future Scenarios

Works Cited


About the Author(s)

Heribert Adam is a political sociologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and also teaches at the University of Cape Town. He has published extensively on comparative ethnic conflicts and peacemaking, particularly socio-political developments in South Africa. He was awarded the 1998 Konrad Adenauer Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Kogila Moodley is a sociologist at the University of British Columbia and was the first holder of the David Lam Chair. Raised in the Indian community of apartheid South Africa, her research is focused on critical multiculturalism, anti-racism education and citizenship. She has served as President of the International Sociological Association's Research Committee on Ethnic, Minority and Race Relations (1998-2002).

Adam and Moodley live in Vancouver and Cape Town.

Subject Categories

Political Science and Public Policy
Jewish Studies

In the series

Politics, History, and Social Change, edited by John C. Torpey.

This series will disseminate serious works that analyze the social changes that have transformed our world during the twentieth century and beyond. The main topics to be addressed include international migration; human rights; the political uses of history; the past and future of the nation-state; decolonization and the legacy of imperialism; and global inequality. The series will also translate into English outstanding works by scholars writing in other languages.



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