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Abbas’s trip to Latin America helps to marginalise Palestinian aspirations

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 25 July 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 25 July 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

As Guatemala prepares to open its embassy in Jerusalem next week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has embarked on a trip to three Latin America countries: Venezuela, Chile and Cuba. Landing in the Venezuelan capital Caracas yesterday, Abbas met President Nicolas Maduro at the presidential palace Miraflores. He thanked him for rejecting the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent decision to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv.

In comments reported by TeleSUR, Maduro described Palestine as “the most beautiful cause of unity.” He added: “We love this nation and we hope that sooner or later talks will resume so that they can recover their territory… There is more to be done for the Palestinian people and much more needs to be done to stop the human crime that has been committed against Palestine.”

Venezuela and Palestine already maintain cooperation agreements in sectors such as agriculture, trade, culture, health and education. In the aftermath of Israel’s military offensive “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, Maduro provided medical assistance for Palestinians in Gaza. Venezuela also issued statements recently, condemning Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians participating in the Great Return March on the Gaza border.

Visiting Latin America to garner support has gained traction in recent years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regards the region as having potential to consolidate ties with countries, such as Guatemala, in order to garner diplomatic support for his country’s colonial expansion. Regional states’ reliance on surveillance and military technology has also proved lucrative to Israel.

Adherence to the two-state paradigm by Latin America, as in the rest of the world, has resulted in a situation where the possibilities of internationalist support, expressed on more than one occasion by the people due to their own anti-colonial struggles for liberation, are shackled by government policy.

There is a striking difference between the approaches taken by Netanyahu and Abbas towards Latin America. While Netanyahu is active and overt in pursuing support for Israel’s aggressive policies against Palestinians, Abbas is seeking support for a cause which the PA has repeatedly betrayed. The diplomatic pledges sought by Abbas are confined to Jerusalem, thus marginalising the rest of the Palestinian struggle for a sliver of important territory which, throughout the years, has been squandered by the PA in dead-end “peace” negotiations with Israel.

Abbas’s Latin America visit is ambiguous on many counts. Seeking support for a strategy which ultimately leads back to the obsolete two-state imposition is a direct road to Israeli expansion. Contrary to the people’s struggle in the region against dictatorship and colonial and neoliberal violence, Abbas is appealing for a stance from governments that is in line with international law, yet with the knowledge that its endorsement will not jeopardise the framework of negotiations that have fragmented Palestine permanently.

In a nutshell, the visit to Latin America is about persuading countries to pledge their support for PA demands, which do not meet Palestinian aspirations. Jerusalem is important, yet it has been subjected to compromise and division not only due to Israeli colonisation, but also within the internationally-accepted context of the two-state “solution”. Behind the façade of indignation created by Abbas over Jerusalem, there is a population that shares a memory and a history similar to that of the Latin America countries. The difference is that Palestinian lives and memory are being exploited as a commodity by the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas.

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

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