JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s state archives has published a 50-year-old letter from the Mossad spy agency claiming it unknowingly offered paramilitary training to a young Nelson Mandela, along with documents illustrating the Jewish state’s sympathy for the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1960s.
The release of the documents on the archives’ website in the wake of Mandela’s death appear to be aimed at blunting criticism of the close alliance Israel later developed with South Africa’s apartheid rulers.
Israeli relations with post-apartheid South Africa remain cool. The South African government is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause, and the Palestinians frequently compare their campaign for independence to the black struggle that ended apartheid.
Early this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was conspicuously absent from the dozens of world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who attended Mandela’s funeral. In a decision that was widely criticized, the globe-trotting Netanyahu cited the high cost of chartering a plane and bringing a large security detail.
The newly published Israeli documents from the 1960s, released days after Mandela’s death on Dec. 5, highlight Israeli officials’ voices against apartheid and their attempts to rally international pressure on the South African government to stop the 1964 Rivonia Trial, in which Mandela would be sentenced to life in prison.