The international community is not without outstanding examples of people to emulate, if it ever decides to prioritise Palestinian anti-colonial struggle over legitimising Israel and its violations of international laws and conventions. Although mostly ignored by mainstream media outlets, the Third International Arab Forum on Justice for Palestine welcomed the Cuban Five’s René González to speak at the inaugural session held in Beirut on the 14-15 May.
González, a former anti-terror Cuban agent, was imprisoned in 1998 by the US along with four of his comrades for seeking to prevent terror attacks against Cuba which were being planned by ex-CIA agents. The trial leading to the Five’s imprisonment attracted worldwide attention for its irregularities and eventually sparked an international movement which contributed to the possibility of diplomatic talks leading to the eventual release of the group.
In keeping with the internationalist example advocated for and implemented by Fidel Castro, González has campaigned for several causes since his release from prison, including Palestine. In his address to the Justice for Palestine forum, he made it clear that the international community is responsible for bequeathing Israel with the required power to sustain the Palestinian tragedy. Periodico26 summarised the main points of his speech, which utilised history as the foundation for the criticism and condemnation of Israel’s colonial violence, including its current repression of Palestinian hunger strikers.
“After two world wars,” González declared, “the right to colonise other people should have disappeared from the laws of men.” UN ambiguity on colonisation, despite its proclamations that it no longer exists, have led to Israel occupying positions within the organisation’s affiliated institution, which influence the already flawed “humanitarian” approach adopted as a substitute for anti-colonial struggle. The difference between Cuban support and the diplomatic agenda, as González pointed out succinctly, can be traced to the adherence to, or oblivion of, history.
Cuba’s revolution, led by Fidel, was never consigned to a mere historical occurrence. On the contrary, revolutionary consciousness is an integral part of education. This makes Cuban support for Palestine unique, as it is not informed by generalised activist trends or steeped in compromise — as is the case with the Palestinian Authority and its fluctuations regarding Palestinian rights — but is entrenched in awareness and real experience of anti-colonial struggle. Indeed, González stated that Cuban solidarity with the Palestinian cause “will continue because we study history and we have learned what happens to all who renounce their principles.”
Hence, there is a difference between René González speaking out against Israeli policies such as administrative detention, and the international community which issues its perfunctory statements and then considers the matter closed. The Cuban example seeks an end to violations based upon basic human rights principles, whereas the UN has routinely manipulated human rights to promote the continuation of an abusive cycle while suggesting an interim alleviation — but not eradication — of the consequences.
The political stagnation in Palestine might express its partiality to the international discourse, yet what Palestinians need is unequivocal support and help in navigating the international channels as a platform for their demands, rather than a tool encouraging assimilation. Ultimately, however, González’s appeal resembles the collective assertion of Palestinians, which renders it valuable to understand how the people have been allowed a voice without obscurity.