Cuba stands with Palestine

Below we republish an article from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (Britain):

Since its establishment in 1959, the Cuban revolutionary government has consistently supported the Palestinian national liberation struggle. In the context of the current Israeli onslaught, President Miguel Díaz-Canel stated in a speech broadcast on 29 October that ‘Cuba condemns, in the harshest terms, the bombings against the people in Gaza and the destruction of their homes, hospitals, and civil infrastructure… Nothing can justify what Israel’s army is doing against Gaza. Nothing can justify the serious violations of international humanitarian law that Israel is committing.’

 Despite there being no moral justification, Díaz-Canel was clear about the imperialist incentive for the Zionist state’s actions. Quoting Fidel Castro, he said, ‘From the beginning of humanity, wars have arisen fundamentally for one reason: the desire of some to deprive others of their riches… If colonialism disappears and exploitation of countries by monopolies disappears… humanity will have reached a true stage of progress.’ Cuba was among the first countries to condemn the barbarity of Israel’s response to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood the day after it was launched. On 8 October, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) blamed Israel for the violence, which it identified as ‘a consequence of 75 years of permanent violation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and of Israel’s aggressive and expansionist policy’. The socialist state, and the Cuban people, could not be clearer in their denunciation of Zionist occupation. November saw thousands of people take to the streets in cities across Cuba, demanding an end to the genocide. Referencing the murderous targeting of journalists, one protester stated that Israel’s actions were ‘not only a crime against humanity, but against freedom and against truth.’

As part of the revolutionary government’s first overseas solidarity mission in June 1959, Che Guevara visited the United Arab Republic, which existed from 1958-61 and comprised what is now Egypt, Syria and Yemen; during this visit, Guevara visited Gaza, where he met with Abdullah Abu Sitta, a leader of the fedayeen guerilla fighters. Witnessing the devastating effects of the Nakba and ongoing Zionist oppression, Guevara recognised that Palestine and Cuba shared a common struggle against the forces of imperialism, and proposed supplying arms and training directly to the fedayeen. From the time of that first visit to Gaza, Cuba began granting citizenship to stranded Palestinian refugees and giving Palestinian students scholarships. Upon the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1964, Cuba was among the first countries to recognise it.

Building on the momentum of its own revolution, Cuba played a leading role in forging international anti-imperialist solidarity. A seminal event in the history of this movement was the founding conference of the Organisation of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America, hosted in Havana in 1966. This was attended by delegations from the PLO and 81 other liberation movements from across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

After the Six Day War in 1967, Cuba condemned Israel’s ‘armed aggression against the Arab peoples’, and immediately dispatched guerilla warfare experts to Palestinian camps in Jordan to train Fatah and other resistance fighters. Cuba broke off all diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973 following the Arab-Israeli War of that year. PLO leader Yasser Arafat visited Cuba in 1974 and established a Palestinian embassy in Havana. The following year, Fidel Castro co-sponsored UN Resolution 3379, which recognised that ‘Zionism is a form of racism’. Cuba again trained Palestinian guerillas during the 1987 Intifada.

Cuban-Palestinian solidarity has remained strong in the 21st century. Castro helped Palestine gain observer status at the UN in 2012, and in 2014 Cuba sent a six-ton shipment of medical aid to Gaza following Israel’s brutal attacks.

Since Cuba and Palestine first established relations, they have been part of an international network of mutual solidarity. Cuba provided diplomatic and military support to liberation movements in Algeria and Angola, and the PLO supplied training and assistance to resistance struggles across Latin America. Palestinian leaders helped build global support for the release of the Cuban Five, who were imprisoned in the US in 1998, accused of spying on behalf of the Cuban government. At a summit of the G77 and China hosted in Havana earlier this year, Díaz-Canel reaffirmed this spirit of anti-imperialist solidarity when he spoke of the necessity for the global majority to dismantle the ‘barriers closely associated with an unjust and unsustainable international economic order that perpetuates conditions of privilege for the developed countries and condemns most of mankind to underdevelopment.’

On 29 October 2023, Díaz-Canel said at the UN General Assembly: ‘We will not accept any selective indignation that seeks to ignore the danger of the genocide that is being perpetrated against the Palestinians, portray the Israeli side as the victim, and ignores 75 years of aggression, occupation, violations, and exclusion’. He made clear Cuba’s support for Palestine against imperialism: ‘The position of the US government [unconditional support for Israel] does not surprise. It has historically acted as an accomplice to Zionist barbarism…a comprehensive, fair and lasting solution to the conflict demands undoubtedly the real exercise of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.’ The UN has always been used by Cuban representatives as a platform to promote an anti-imperialist agenda, including by Castro himself, who in 1979 told the General Assembly that ‘the issue of Palestine lies at the core of the Middle Eastern problem,’ adding that ‘the basis for a just peace in the region begins with the total and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories, and implies for the Palestinian people the return of all their occupied territories and the recovery of their inalienable national rights.’ Since the destruction of its socialist bloc allies, Cuba has had to exercise greater prudence to safeguard the gains of the Cuban Revolution, but its solidarity with Palestine has remained steadfast.

Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) has trained 30,000 doctors from impoverished communities around the world, including 213 Palestinians. Training is provided for free, and graduates are encouraged to return to serve their communities. On 19 November 2023, Díaz-Canel hosted Palestinians currently studying at ELAM, including 53 from Gaza, at the Revolutionary Palace in Havana, telling them, ‘Our country stands and will continue to stand by the cause of the brotherly Palestinian people.’ On 24 October 2023, ELAM alumnus Dr Fayez Abed uploaded a video from Al Awda Hospital in Gaza. His words are a source of strength for everyone determined to fight for a better future for humanity: ‘I send through this message, my testimony to the whole world, to my comrades everywhere and especially to my comrades in Cuba. Today, what is happening in the Gaza Strip is an ethnic cleansing in every sense of the word, it is a genocide of the Palestinian people, after 18 days of continuous bombing day and night, the numbers of martyrs killed are on the rise, 400 civilians are being killed daily in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli occupation army threatened to bomb our hospital four times and we are not surprised after the massacres that this criminal regime has committed, but we decided to defy this regime and stay at our workplace, providing service to the wounded and saving lives. We need your support to continue fighting, and remain firm in our land. We need supplies and medical brigades to strengthen our resilience. So far, we have not received anything.’ Fayez concluded with Palestinian and Cuban revolutionary slogans: ‘Long live Free Palestine. Long live the struggle of the Palestinian people. To die for the homeland is to live. Homeland or death. We shall overcome!’

Felix Lancashire

FIGHT RACISM! FIGHT IMPERIALISM! 297 December 2023/January 2024