Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela Reuters

Leaders in the Palestinian Authority are taking advantage of the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela to slam “Israeli occupation of Palestine”, AFP reported Friday.

Mandela, who fought against apartheid in his country and eventually became its first black president, died Thursday at the age of 95.

According to AFP, PA leaders on Friday likened Mandela’s fight against apartheid to their own struggle to achieve a Palestinian state on what they claim is “occupied Israeli territory.”

Tributes to the late South African leader flooded in from PA leaders on Friday and were far more politicized than the eulogies of Israeli leaders.

"You said: 'We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians'," invoked jailed PA leader Marwan Barghouti in an "open letter" to Mandela.

"And from within my prison cell, I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours," he wrote.

"You are more than an inspiration," wrote Barghouti, an arch-terrorist who is serving five life sentences for planning terror attacks which killed dozens of innocent Israelis.

"Apartheid did not prevail in South Africa, and apartheid shall not prevail in Palestine," he claimed.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was also quick to weigh in on Mandela’s death, saying it was “a great loss for all the peoples of the world, and for Palestine."

Abbas added that Mandela was a "symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation."

"The Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free," he said, according to AFP.

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hailed Mandela as "a fighter for human rights" and a "man of vision and a freedom fighter who disavowed violence."

Mandela was known as a supporter of PA Arabs, saying once that “if the Palestinians are not free, no one is free”, a statement which anti-Israel groups have taken advantage of to accuse Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Arabs.

Mandela had said of late PA Chairman Yasser Arafat that he "was one of the outstanding freedom fighters of his generation ... It is with great sadness that one notes that his and his people's dream of a Palestinian state had not been realized."

Mandela also once criticized the U.S. through Israel, hinting in 2003 that then- President George W. Bush had no foresight because “Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction, but because it’s their ally they won’t ask the UN to get rid of it. They just want the oil.”

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat on Friday quoted Mandela as saying, "Never in the darkest hours of South Africa's apartheid have there been separated roads for blacks and whites.”

Abbas’s rival faction, the Hamas terrorist group which rules Gaza, also eulogized Mandela.

The late South African leader was "one of the most important symbols of freedom and one of the most important supporters of the Palestinian people's cause," Hamas spokesman Moussa Abu Marzuq was quoted by AFP as having said.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)