Nakba commemoration in Cleveland: ‘Today South Africa, tomorrow Palestine’


Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, grandson of the late South African President Nelson Mandela, was the keynote speaker at a Nakba (Great Catastrophe) commemoration in Cleveland on May 17. He is the tribal chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council and a member of South Africa’s Parliament, representing the African National Congress.

Mandela drew parallels between the successful movement to overturn apartheid in South Africa and the ongoing resistance to Zionist apartheid in occupied Palestine, along with struggles in the U.S. against the oppression of African-American and Indigenous peoples. He referenced significant dates in Cleveland’s resistance history: May Day 1919; the 1966 Hough rebellion; the 1968 Glenville rebellion; and the police repression of May 30, 2020, during a Black Lives Matter protest.

The crowd applauded Mandela throughout his talk, including when he declared: “Today South Africa, tomorrow Palestine!”

Other speakers represented organizations co-hosting the event: U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Palestine Youth Movement, Council on American-Islamic Relations and the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia. The Cleveland program was part of Mandela’s national speaking tour, sponsored by USPCN, PYM and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

May 15 was the 75th anniversary of Nakba, the genocidal expulsion of hundreds of Palestinians from their homeland to establish the Zionist apartheid state of Israel. As speakers pointed out, Nakba was not a one-time event; it continues to this day.

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