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How Israel helped Latin America’s death squads – part 1

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley (C-L) speaks ahead of a voting session to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza, in the United Nations General Assembly on 13 June 2018 in New York, US [Mohammed Elsham/Anadolu Agency]

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced on Wednesday that the country was pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council. Trump-appointee Haley accused the council of being “a cesspool of political bias” and of having an “unending hostility towards Israel.”

She also slammed the UNHRC for not considering any resolutions against Venezuela, or any other countries that Washington considers to be its official enemies. It comes as no surprise to note that Venezuela and other left-wing Latin American governments have often been critical of Israeli human rights abuses.

This is due to several factors, including the relatively large Palestinian refugee and diaspora population in South America, and the fact that the people of Latin America have often been the victims of US imperialism, as have people across the Arab world. There is, though, another factor, closely related to the latter. Israel has a decades-long history of military, political and intelligence support for the most right-wing, repressive and blood-stained dictatorships in Latin America. Again, it is no surprise to learn that these murderous regimes have operated habitually in close coordination with the US.

This fact adds a bitter irony to Haley’s hypocritical sermonising about the “human rights abusers” whom she accused the UNHRC of protecting. One of the best books dealing with this issue is Alexander and Leslie Cockburn’s 1991 Dangerous Liaison, “The inside story of the US-Israeli covert relationship and the international activities it has served to conceal.”

UN chief regrets US exit from rights council

Israel’s connection to Latin America’s most brutal dictatorships boomed in the 1980s, when the country was ruled by right-wingers like Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon. However, it also thrived under the auspices of supposedly “left wing” Zionist politicians like David Ben-Gurion and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres who, as I wrote in my previous MEMO column, justified the arming of a dictatorship in the Dominican Republic by citing blatantly mercenary principles.

The connection, in fact, is even older than the State of Israel itself. Way back in 1939, the Haganah — the pre-state Zionist militia which went on to lead the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine and morph into the Israel Defence Forces — established links with General Anastasio Somoza Garcia, the dictator who then ruled Nicaragua. Garcia’s son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, would later also rule the country with an iron fist. Somoza Senior was a man so cruel that US President Franklin Roosevelt is reputed to have said of him that he “may be a son of bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

This leader of the Nicaraguan torture regime helped to smuggle weapons to the illegal Zionist militias during the British Mandate occupation of Palestine. He also helped Haganah agents by issuing them with passports and helping to smuggle arms during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and its people in 1948.

The international community should not stand by as Israel abuses Palestinians

Decades later, Somoza Junior’s terrible human rights record proved too embarrassing even for his main backer in the White House. President Jimmy Carter’s administration abandoned him over his regime’s indiscriminate bombing, torture and executions. Israeli companies soon leapt in to fill the vacuum left by Washington. The elder Somoza’s help for the Zionist cause in the 1940s was often cited as justification for this renewed arms supply to the monstrous Nicaraguan government.

After Somoza Junior was overthrown by the left-wing Sandinista revolution in 1979, the US under Ronald Reagan refused to accept the loss of its brutal ally. With the aid of Israel, Reagan attempted to overthrow the Sandinista government.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did this by creating an army recruited mostly from the former torturers and murderers of the Somoza dictatorship’s armed forces. These death squads were dubbed the Contras, named after the contrarrevolución – the counter-revolution — since they were fighting the revolutionary left-wing government.

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In the US, the Contras were propagandised by Reagan as “freedom fighters” against communism, but many didn’t buy it. Congress moved to bar the White House from further arming of the Contras, citing concerns about their record of human rights abuses, including torture, rape and executions.

One of the ways that the CIA got around these restrictions was to employ Israel’s assistance as a “cut-out” to help it aid the Contras illegally. The Israelis did this using various means, one of the more ironic of which was to ship former PLO weapons to the Contras.

In 1982, Israel had invaded Lebanon in order to crush the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the political and military leadership body of the Palestinian people. The PLO’s armed wing put up staunch resistance, and Israeli progress into the Lebanese capital Beirut was slow. Eventually, however, the US brokered a PLO exit from the country. The result was the infamous massacre of 3,000 defenceless Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut’s southern suburbs, executed in cold blood by Christian militias allied to, and assisted by, Israel.

Click here for part 2

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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