Active Palestinian student and youth organizer Mandela Salem was seized by Israeli occupation forces on 4 January. The former coordinator of the Progressive Democratic Student Pole at Bir Zeit University, Mandela is an engineering graduate who continues to be an active youth organizer.
From the village of Douma near al-Khalil, Mandela is active in a number of initiatives and forums as part of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and return and he was clearly targeted by Israeli occupation forces for his political work and activity.
In addition to his role as a local youth organizer, Mandela is well-known to many international activists who have met with him over the years. Several spoke about his impact on their own organizing:
Geke Hasperhoven, medical student in The Netherlands, said:
“In 2016, when I traveled to Palestine with Students for Justice in Palestine, I met Mandela and his friends. We had such a great time with them, Mandela always joking but never drawing too much attention to himself.”
“He appears laid-back, but at the same time he is always open to learn something new, and to have discussions. After my visit, we continued to speak on facebook, and I found him to be so thoughtful and nuanced. He would explain their work and the situation with extreme patience, and with thorough understanding of how our ‘western perspective’ would make it difficult for us to work hard for the resistance. Also, his general interest shows to be very broad, for he graduated a science major, but his mind seems always concerned with (local, university national etc) politics, writing ‘I can’t live without politics.'”
“He has so many ideas about democracy and on how to structurally improve the situation in Palestine. I feel like the struggle on the resistance weighs heavy on Mandela’s shoulders, but it doesn’t keep him from being interested in other people, other countries and struggles. For example when I was in Cairo, Egypt last year, and I told him about a demonstration there in memory of Basil al-Araj, he showed to be so very considerate about the tense situation there, that makes it also difficult for Egyptians to protest. In other words, I am happy to know Mandela Salam and I am wishing for him (and all other political prisoners) to be released soon.”
A member of New York City Students for Justice in Palestine on the 2016 delegation said:
“I met Mandela Salem through an international solidarity delegation. While thinking about his case, I am reminded of the similarities between progressive students here and in Palestine. While the Zionist states exacts its own brutality, we share in being surveilled, arrested, and repressed in our organizing. Mandela pushed me to more deeply understand the significance of international solidarity, and the fact that we must unite struggles happening in the United States with the Palestinian cause. On a personal level, he was an extremely welcoming host when I was in Palestine. We shared meals and relaxation time, usually at the end of the day when our group finished the itinerary for the day. I know we will meet again in a free Palestine.”
Another international activist who joined a 2017 delegation to Palestine said:
“Another Palestinian activist was arrested by Israeli forces. I would like to use my voice to honour Mandela’s braveness to stand up against the Israeli Occupation forces. Notwithstanding that a couple of weeks ago his comrade Saleh was arrested, as well as dozen other Palestinians on a daily basis, he continued to fight the fight against injustice. This fight can be fought armed. Another powerful tools, however, are organising, resisting and speaking up. Mandela used his time and effort to raise awareness about the degrading treatment Palestinians have to suffer by hosting foreign activists in his very home. .. Knowing about Mandela’s engagement in the cause, it is sadly not surprising that the Israeli forces would eventually step in. I am sure, however, that whatever cruelty awaits him during his arrest, this young Palestinian, too, will not be silenced. I am lucky that I met this extraordinary person and am thankful for everything he did for my and friends while we were in Palestine. My thoughts are with him and his family.”
Another delegate said:
“Mandela never hesitated to take me in when i traveled, as a Palestinian, to Palestine the first time in my entire life. I stayed at his apartment and he let me stay at his home as if it’s my own. Besides his deep ideals en visions, he is one of the most optimistic guys i met in Palestine. He showed me my own roots. The land, the beauty of Palestine and he helped me solve a lot of questions i had. He took me to the museum of Mahmoud Darwish and to the tomb of my greatest hero: Yasser Arafat. He took me to the Nelson Mandela statue and told me stories about him. Mandela is not only a great friend. He is a brother.”
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network denounces the seizure of Mandela Salem and demands his immediate release – and the freedom of all 6,200 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. The targeting of Mandela Salem is only the latest example of the systematic policy of attacks and imprisonment against prominent youth activists and young Palestinian leaders under occupation, in an attempt to jail the next generation of Palestinian strugglers leading the movement forward; this is something that is also visible in the imprisonment of Ahed Tamimi and thousands more young Palestinians. We urge all friends and supporters of Palestine, and especially student and youth organizations, to join the call to free Mandela and his fellow Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
1) Individuals, organizations, associations and student unions and groups: write a letter or a statement in support of Mandela, or take a group photo with a sign that says, “Free Mandela Salem!” and use #FreeMandela on social media. Share your statements and photos on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Organize or join one of the many protests for Jerusalem and Palestinian prisoners and distribute this post and other news about Mandela, Ahed and all of the Palestinian prisoners. Get others involved in the struggle for Palestinian freedom! Tell us about your events – email email@example.com.
3) Join the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Campaign to build the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and complicit corporations like HP and G4S.