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Reaffirming historical ties between Israel and Guatemala

January 23, 2014 at 5:37 am

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has travelled to Israel on an official visit, during which “issues related to bilateral cooperation and the situation in the Middle East” are to be discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A spokesman for the Guatemalan president confirmed that an official invitation to visit Israel had been made several months ago.

Strengthening ties with Israel may also be analysed with regard to Guatemala’s recognition of Palestine followed by its subsequent relinquishing of such an acknowledgment. While on 8 April, Guatemala recognised Palestine as a “free, independent and sovereign state”, it failed to assert further recognition during the UN vote on the status of Palestine, abstaining from the vote and affirming its historical ties with the colonising power. Elaborating upon the decision, Guatemala stated that the initial recognition should not jeopardise its diplomatic relations with Israel.

Netanyahu described Guatemala as “one of Israel’s oldest friends … we always remember that you stood with us on the formative days of Israel’s independence and the votes on the international recognition in the UN for the establishment of the Jewish state, and we will never forget that”. Perez Molina reciprocated in kind, stating that: “There are excellent relations between both our countries and between the people of Israel and the people of Guatemala … Guatemala did participate in the foundation of Israel, so that has led the foundations for tradition and the unity between our two peoples.”

The Guatemalan ambassador to the UN in 1947, Jorge Garcia Granados, was instrumental in lobbying in favour of the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, meeting with several Zionist leaders and insisting upon a recognition of the alleged links between Zionism and the “Jewish question”, manipulating the dynamics of guilt instigated by the holocaust.

Since 1954, right-wing governments in Guatemala have benefited from Israeli cooperation with regard to developing and using oppressive tactics to combat revolutionary movements at a grassroots level. Alleged security concerns led to the massacres of over 100,000 Guatemalan civilians between 1954 and 1984. Military cooperation with Israel commenced in 1971 and flourished in 1977, when former US President Jimmy Carter suspended military aid to Guatemala due to excessive human rights violations.

The imparted rhetoric of the current visit stressed an ongoing complicity, which completely disregards the systematic oppression inflicted upon Palestinians. Apart from blurring the distinction between official representation and the people of Guatemala, the government’s willingness to enter into any semblance of cooperation with Israel with regard to basic services and defence consolidates the intricacies of internationally sanctioned oppression of Palestinians in the name of security concerns – a discussion which led to Netanyahu’s preoccupation about the alleged influence of Iran in the Middle East and Latin America. Attempting to divert attention away from Israel’s increasing international influence due to its growing military capabilities, Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons is instead discussed. However the focus immediately shifts from international and regional concerns to the security of the colonising power, echoed by Perez Molina in a final contradiction that affirms Guatemala’s hopes for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons while simultaneously indulging in Israel’s self-imposed victimised stance and right to defend itself from the antagonism it fuelled through violations of international law throughout the decades.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.