How Middle Eastern newspapers reacted to Mandela’s death

Tributes for former President Nelson Mandela are seen at the South African High Commission in London. (Reuters)

The world woke up to news of revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela’s death this morning, with his images spread over media outlets across the globe with corresponding , disparate content focusing on the long and turbulent life of the South African leader.

London based Pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper provided dates of historic milestones in Mandela’s life, noting the significance of being the first black president to hold the position of presidency in South Africa.

The publication was also one of many media outlets which continually updated its website with statements on Mandela’s life and death from international figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama and UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron.

It also noted that Palestine had announced a day of mourning to commemorate Mandela’s life.
Egypt’s state run al-Ahram newspaper provided a brief biography of Mandela, highlighting milestones in his tempestuous life.

Highlights included his birth on July 18, 1918, tribal leadership, studying law before eventually the anti-apartheid moment. The publication also noted his noteworthy life achievement of wining the Nobel Prize in 1993 with Frederick De Klerk, who released him from prison and later served under Mandela as vice president.

Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper quoted a tweet by Mohammad ElBaradei, Egypt’s former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, mourning the Mandela’s death. “ Nelson Mandela: ‘Let freedom reign’ Humanity has lost its greatest son,” ElBaradei’s tweet said.

Other prominent Egyptian figures also took to Twitter to express their sentiments about Mandela’s death.

Egyptian news website al-Masry al-Youm quoted Amr Hamzawy, professor of political science at Cairo University and leader of the Freedom Egypt Party, as saying: “Modern humanity lost the man who best portrayed its propensity for right, justice, tolerance, and equality. Our African continent lost its high humanitarian stature, we have lost the great Mandela.”

Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper shared BBC Arabic’s “six unknown Mandela facts,” which included the fact Mandela was on the U.S. terrorist watch list till 2008 and that he frequently dressed up as a driver, gardener or chef to evade authorities. Also included was how Mandela forgot his eye glasses in prison, making him unable to read his speech, causing him to wear his then wife’s glasses.

UAE-based newspaper The National focused on Mandela’s support of the Palestinian cause in an article titled “Palestinians remember Mandela as the ‘most courageous who supported us’” which quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“In their struggle to end Israeli occupation, Palestinians draw inspiration from Mandela’s efforts to bring down the apartheid regime,” wrote Hugh Naylor of The National.

Remembering Mandela’s meeting with Yasser Arafat shortly after the anti-apartheid icon was released from prison, The National quoted Mandela’s words describing the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader, as a “fellow freedom fighter.”

Mandela and Israel

While Israeli officials like Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres were some of the first international officials to release statements on his death, The Jerusalem Post highlighted the “ambivalent” relationship between South African and Israel.

“One of Mandela’s greatest strengths was his ability to bury but not forget ¬ the bitterness of the past, and actively work for a fairer future,” wrote Steve Linde, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post in an article simply titled “Mandela and Israel.”

The article recalled Linde’s interview with Mandela during the latter’s visit to Jerusalem in 1999.

“To the many people who have questioned why I came, I say: Israel worked very closely with the apartheid regime. I say: I’ve made peace with many men who slaughtered our people like animals. Israel cooperated with the apartheid regime, but it did not participate in any atrocities,” Mandela reportedly told Linde.

The article commented on further on Mandela’s personal relationships with Jewish people early in his life.

“Mandela had an ambivalent, almost love-hate relationship with Jews and Israel… his first job had been with a Jewish law firm in Johannesburg, and some of his closest friends, political advisers and business associates were Jewish. When he needed advice or money, they were the first people he called upon,” read the article.

Another UAE-based newspaper, Gulf News, focused on a detail that the world seemed to have forgotten: Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, who is mourning the death of her husband.

Gulf News’ article entitled “Nelson Mandela’s wife: ‘I learned to separate the man from the myth’”, focused on Grace Machel, compiling statements she had made throughout her life.

“She was to be his champion and companion in his twilight years and first witness to his inexorable decline,” David Smith of Gulf News wrote about Machel.

Gulf News quoted Mandela talking about his third wife Machel, “I’m in love with a lovely lady. I don’t regret the reverses and setbacks because late in my life I’m blooming like a flower because of the love and support she’s given me.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
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