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The possibilities of challenging Netanyahu’s claims about Latin America

August 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 11 February 2017 [Facebook]

Latin America is once again Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic target, at a time when violence in the region fomented by US imperialism is once again rising to the fore. Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the UN Partition Plan, Netanyahu is planning to visit Mexico and Argentina before addressing the UN General Assembly next month.

Israeli media is reflecting on the historical processes of the Partition Plan, when several Latin American and Caribbean countries voted in favour, giving approval for Israel’s intended colonisation of Palestine. Six countries abstained and Cuba voted against the resolution, with Cuban delegate to the UN Dr Ernesto Dihigo declaring partition to be “contrary to law and justice”, adding: “We have solemnly declared the principle of the free determination of the peoples, but with great concern we see that when the time has come to enforce it we forget it.”

Support for the Partition Plan from other countries, however, still forms a premise for Netanyahu. At a time when political violence is threatening to engulf the region, it comes as little surprise that Netanyahu has envisaged the possibilities of exerting additional influence.

In 2014, while still Mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, now president of Argentina, travelled to Israel for a conference during which he stated: “Israeli suffering has to be understood. From afar it’s easy to give advice, but you have to be in Israel to really understand the situation.” The comments should not come as a surprise from Macri, who last year angered Argentinian victims of the Videla dictatorship by refusing to acknowledge the thousands of murdered and disappeared civilians.

Mexico’s hosting of Netanyahu comes after a call earlier this month made by US President Donald Trump to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. A transcript of the call published by the Washington Post includes Trump’s reference to Israel and Netanyahu over the Apartheid Wall – which Trump wants to construct as border control between the US and Mexico. According to the transcript, Trump stated:

Israel has a wall and everyone said do not build a wall, walls do not work – 99.9 per cent of people trying to come across that wall cannot get across and more. Bibi Netanyahu told me the wall works.

The region’s ties with Israel cannot be disputed particularly at a time when Latin America was colonised, plundered and exploited by the US. Some countries have remained staunch allies of Israel and the US due to their political allegiances which have not changed. Guatemala’s support for the partition of Palestine and its lobbying to enable the passing of the resolution is one such instance and its support for Israel remains referenced to earlier historical ties. Chile under Augusto Pinochet also sustained ties with Israel: repression, surveillance, murder and disappearance of civilians constituting a common ground for the colonial entity and the dictator.

Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia have, in the past years, been the staunchest supporters of Palestine. The deaths of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro have left a political void that is hard to emulate. However, both countries’ experience of US imperialism has instilled in the people an internationalist approach – one that has the potential to lead if other countries follow suit. Brazil’s refusal to accept settler leader Dani Dayan as ambassador last year was step in the right direction – Netanyahu’s efforts to promote settler colonialism through a settler leader advocating for expansion failed.

However, Latin American countries must also shoulder responsibility for consistency when it comes to supporting Palestine and its struggle against colonisation. If Netanyahu’s plans are to be thwarted, Latin American countries must develop a narrative of Palestinian support away from the two-state compromise. In doing so, Netanyahu’s claims of a region friendly towards Israel can be dispelled and Palestinian internationalist support will benefit from a new approach – that of former victims of colonial and neoliberal violence uniting and challenging the passive acceptance of Israel at an international level.

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