Israel lobbied against death penalty for Nelson Mandela, new documents show

Nelson Mandela in 2008. Credit: South Africa The Good News.

( Newly declassified documents reveal that the Israeli Foreign Ministry, under the leadership of future prime minister Golda Meir, in 1964 convinced Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and Israeli author Haim Hazaz to send a letter asking the South African apartheid government not to seek the death penalty against Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress (ANC) members in their trial.

“Talk to them. Listen to them. They have something to say. You will not silence their voices by hanging them. ... From the land of Israel, we ask you to assert your faith in the nobility of man, whatever the color of his skin. And if you ‘do unto others’ in accordance with this faith, the future is yours, and theirs—and the world’s,” Buber and Hazaz wrote, according to documents released Sunday by the Israel State Archives, Israel Hayom reported. 

Mandela, who died Dec. 5, had been indicted for sabotage and conspiracy. He was sentenced to life in prison, but earned his freedom in 1990 and became South African president in 1994.

Posted on December 9, 2013 .