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We are all Palestinians: Voices from Latin America

January 2009

The surge in solidarity with Palestinian people in Gaza is still strong. And I hope it will never wind down. My inbox is flooded with op-eds and solidarity messages from all over Latin America. Indigenous communities from Mexico speak about the similarities between the unjust occupation of a sovereign territory and their situation as peoples whose right to land is ignored. Messages from Brazil call on people to increase support to Palestinian farmers.

The wave of solidarity grows stronger as more voices connect. A colleague in the communications department of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil wrote that she was thrilled to learn that there are people in the Jewish community in the United States who are also against the Israeli occupation and the siege of Gaza. She went on to say that this knowledge has given her renewed hope for the possibility of peace with justice and a viable internationally recognized Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The voices of solidarity, unsettled by the vivid images of injustice, keep multiplying. The violence of this most recent military incursion into Gaza – and the long border closings – has generated a mix of anger, frustration and sadness. On about the seventh day of the Israeli strikes in Gaza, another email popped up on my screen with a long poem in it. The author is Adalberto Monteiro. Adalberto is a poet and journalist and president of the Maurício Grabois Foundation in Brazil. Below are some excerpts from his

“Protest Against the Mass Murder in Gaza”

There were not enough bandages for so many
Wounded in Gaza.
Attacked by sea, air and land
Gaza bleeds, Gaza screams.
Seized, mutilated, Gaza shakes.
Gaza is not a mountain of concrete.
Gaza is its people…

Nonetheless, Gaza breathes
Gaza loves and resists,
And will fight back,
Until the last olive tree stands,
Until the last tamarind tree survives,
Until the last child lives…

Later I read that Venezuela and Bolivia suspended relations with Israel. It didn’t take too long to learn that social movements in other countries were rallying other national governments to follow suit. Continental campaigns have been organized to boycott Israel’s products.

In Mexico, more than a hundred people protested in front of Israel’s embassy in Mexico City to ask for an end to the killing of innocents in Gaza. Banners and flyers were distributed as 200 police officers looked on.

From Peru, the picture in Spanish (above) says: “Your silence hurts. This is not a war. It is a mass murder of innocents. We all are Palestine today.”

Why such reactions in Latin America? There are several ways to explain it. One is the history of militarization in both regions.

The “Wall of the Death” on the border between Mexico and the United States is being built by the same contractor responsible for building the “Separation Wall” in Palestine.

The experience of indigenous people in Latin America has other similarities to the plight of Palestinian people. The destruction of livelihoods by occupying forces and militarization of Gaza is very similar to what the Mayans in Guatemala and Afro-descendants in Colombia have experienced both in the past and in recent times.

The Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU), an ally of the Via Campesina, has written that food stocks and crops worth millions of dollars have been lost. More than 40,000 agricultural workers are out of work, due to the occupation of both the West Bank and Gaza (while in theory Israel left Gaza it still occupies it for all intents and purposes as Gaza has no open borders via land or sea and is virtually isolated from the outside). A similar fate befalls millions of peasant families all across Latin America during U.S. sponsored civil wars in Central America and Colombia, and millions more peasant families and indigenous people across Mesoamerica whose land is occupied as a result of the implementation of the U.S. sponsored Plan Merida and Plan Colombia.

There is very little question why the suffering of Palestinian people hits home in Latin America. We just need to listen to the voices from below.

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