With the recent celebration of International Quds Day — a day of support for Palestine and opposition to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza and West Bank — we should take time to examine the union between the struggles for Palestinian and Latin American liberation from Israel’s zionist regime.
Zionism is an imperialist, chauvinist and anti-Semitic ideology used to justify the existence of the Israeli state and the violent oppression of Palestinian people. It is imperialist in its violent occupation of Palestinian lands and its exploitation of Palestinians. It is chauvinist through its apartheid laws banning Palestinians from having political and social rights and the aggressive nationalism that it instills in its population. Finally, it is anti-Semitic, despite Zionist claims that criticisms of the Israeli state are anti-Semitic, because it violently represses Orthodox Jews protesting against military draft laws and restricts the immigration of African Jews into the country, which also highlights its racist, white supremacist tendencies.
Israel severely increased its horrific repression of Palestinians after the 2014 Israeli-instigated conflict. Today, Gazans severely lack access to water and electricity as they continue to recover from the infrastructure damages caused by Israel, all while suffering from one of the most restrictive blockades in the world. The U.N. reported that two million Palestinians live with only four hours of electricity a day in Gaza. In the West Bank, average water consumption is 73 liters, while Israeli’s average is 240 liters, according to a 2010 fact sheet. The Israeli blockade of Gaza — like the imperialist blockades of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK — cuts off the Palestinian people from essential medicine and food supplies needed for their survival. This blockade is an inhumane way of starving and killing people who are in an already dire situation. All of this is coupled with the fact that Israel’s terrorist forces, the IDF, commit daily murders, kidnappings and forced relocations of children, medics, unarmed protestors, journalists and activists.
The oppression of the Palestinian people is intimately linked to the oppression faced in Latin America by campesinos, workers, Indigenous people, Black people, women and other marginalized groups. This is true because Israel exports its violent militaristic tactics, weapons, fascist soldiers and ideology to Latin American elites and their regimes. Israel has a long history of aiding brutal regimes of our region.
Israeli-Latin American relations date back to the 1960s, a time when many of our countries saw brutal repression from dictatorial regimes, coups and civil wars. Israel supplied arms to some of the worst regimes: the military junta in Argentina, which purchased 95 percent of its weapons from Israel in the 1970s and 80s; El Salvador which purchased 92 percent from 1972-79; and Honduras, which purchased 81 percent from 1972-81.
In Ecuador, Israel was a major supporter of the oppressive dictators and military juntas that lasted during the 1960s-80s. The Ecuadorian government sent its youth in the military to be trained in Israel to repress activists. During the military junta in the 1970s, which massively repressed Indigenous and left activists, Israel sold $200 million worth in arms to Ecuador, in addition to providing military training and advisors.
In Guatemala, during the dictatorial regime of Fernando Romeo Lucas García in 1978, which was accused of massive human rights violations, Israel provided tens of thousands of rifles to the regime’s military. In the 1980s, Israel provided Guatemala with military advisors that helped the army murder thousands of Indigenous and leftist activists. The 1982 coup in Guatemala, which put Efraín Ríos Montt in power and led to the killings of over 10,000 Indigenous people, was aided by Israeli military advisors, weapons and funding.
Chile saw the violent overthrow of democratically-elected President Salvador Allende by the fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973. When Pinochet took power, Israel became one of the main suppliers of arms to the brutal regime. Israel also began building close relations with the Chilean army despite its inhumane tactics in repressing activists. Israel became especially close to the Chilean Air Force, whose known tactic was to disappear people by throwing them out of planes into the Pacific Ocean.
Israeli companies like Rafael are also complicit in this repression. Rafael is an Israeli corporation that manufacturers different kinds of weapons, specializing in missiles. In the early 2000s, Rafael signed a deal with the oppressive right-wing government of Colombia to ship $65 million worth of military vehicles to the government. More recently, Israel has begun supplying Latin American nations with not only weapons, but also with drones, which can act as weapons or tools of surveillance.
Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Chile are all states which have bought Israeli drones in order to strengthen their security state through surveillance and suppression of popular movements. In Colombia, these drones were utilized against campesino movements to spy on and terrorize the people. Private Israeli companies have also played a significant role in Latin America, providing mercenaries, weapons and death squads to repress guerrillas in El Salvador and aid the Contras in Nicaragua, who engaged in torture and extrajudicial killings in an attempt to end the socialist advancements of the Sandinistas.
This May, Israel announced it would send 1,000 troops to Honduras in order to train the military and police to protect the border. One look at the horrific killings perpetuated on the borders of Israel-Palestine committed by the IDF and Israeli settlers should make one especially wary of this initiative, which seeks to import the same murderous tactics of Israel to Honduras. Israel has already played a significant role in intervening in Honduras, as there are significant claims that the apartheid regime played a part in the 2009 coup, which overthrew democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya.
Several Israeli individuals and companies were implicated in the coup — one example being David Mirza, who formerly headed the International Security Academy, which trained security forces. Mirza was reported to be in Honduras right before the coup happened, suggesting that he and his security tactics influenced the tactics of the military in the coup and the repression of the population afterwards. In 2016, Juan Orlando Hernández, who took over in Honduras after the coup, signed a military agreement with Israel accepting weapons, funding and training from the fascist state over time. The troops entering the nation now are just one part of this ongoing military agreement.
History shows us that Israel’s Zionist ideology, which consists of hyper-militarism and imperialism, has extended to Latin America. The Israeli state was and still is fundamental to the repressive right-wing regimes in Latin America who rely on Israeli weapons and military advisors to sustain their fascist militaries. The alliance of the elite in Latin America and the fascist settler-colony of Israel makes the liberation of Palestine and the struggle for freedom from exploitation in Latin America an interconnected struggle. The imperialist ideology of Zionism seeps into the oppressive capitalist elite of Latin America. We could see this alliance through the similarity in repressive tactics in Latin America, which include torture, indiscriminate murder, unjustified arrests and the displacement of Indigenous people, Black people, campesinos and workers.
Despite the many dictatorial regimes that have a close relationship with the fascists in Israel, three Latin American states resist Israeli influence and refuse to recognize the Israeli state. Those states are Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. Since Cuba’s revolution in 1959, the Cubans, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, have shown great solidarity with Palestinians, going so far as to train Palestinian comrades in their struggle against Zionist occupiers. In 2015, Venezuela hosted the first Latin American Congress of the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, advocating for the right for Palestinians to return to their land now occupied by Israel.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez once said: “One day, the genocidal state of Israel will be put into its place, and let’s hope that a real democratic state emerges there, with which we can share a path and ideas.” In order to one day put Israel in its place and establish this just and free state, we must acknowledge the historical and material conditions linking the struggles of Palestine and Latin America. Through international solidarity and resistance, the struggles of workers, campesinos and Indigenous people in Latin America — alongside our sisters and brothers fighting for their freedom in occupied Palestine— will overcome Zionism and smash the fascist Israeli state, along with its imperialist allies.
For more extensive information on the ties between Latin America and Israel, check out the BDS Movement in Latin America.