The Uruguayan Congress has held a special session for Palestine to express solidarity with the Palestinian people as they stand against the ongoing aggression of Israel's military occupation. The session followed an invitation by number of deputies who support the Palestinian cause and the Uruguay-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Committee which was established in December 2021.
The bilateral session was attended by deputies and senators from all parliamentary parties with the objective of mobilising popular and official support across Uruguay and Latin America to serve the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people wherever they might be. It was also attended by the Palestine Ambassador in Uruguay, Nadya Rasheed, as well as a number of other ambassadors, diplomats and political figures from Latin American, Arab and Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Qatar.
"The Palestinian people are still unable to exercise their inalienable rights of self-determination, independence, national sovereignty, return and building their present and future in peace," said Uruguayan deputy Ubaldo Aita during the session. He asked Uruguayans and all supporters to take a serious step towards the Palestinians cause. "Solidarity cannot be words alone," he insisted. "Practical actions are needed to put an end to this drama. It is necessary to denounce and condemn the situation in which the Palestinian people find themselves. Israel is directly responsible for this situation."
Opposition deputies in the Uruguayan Congress could not hide their anger at this Palestine solidarity session. Some refused to speak, while others spoke loudly in defence of Israel's right to commit crimes against the Palestinians. Deputy Gustavo Zubía said that there is no reason for Uruguay to sever relations with Israel. His colleague Felipe Schipani, meanwhile, expressed surprise that Congress was "attacking a state that Uruguay has recognised since its creation [in 1948]."
Senator Sandra Lazo told me that it is necessary for such sessions to publicise the vulnerable position of the Palestinian people, as well as to support their legitimate right to self-determination.
"We have expressed our concern because some sectors in the current government have not been firm enough in denouncing the situation of those who suffer exile, dispossession and death, moving away from what the Uruguayan State has historically carried out in terms of diplomacy and conflict resolution," said Lazo. "Left-leaning governments in Latin America have maintained a position of solidarity with Palestine. We have arranged many activities during the past year and ask the Ambassador to prepare a schedule of joint activities within the framework of planning for 2023 with an open session in the national parliament."
She pointed out that she had personally contributed some ideas to share more information about the richness of Palestinian culture through various lectures, art exhibitions and field visits to Palestine. "The Uruguayan people, not only parliamentary representatives, deserve to know Palestine's artists, poets, athletes and history."
Uruguay was the latest country in Latin America to recognise Palestine as a state in 2011 without specifying its borders. This was to avoid interfering in an issue that would require a bilateral agreement, said the Uruguayan foreign ministry. Israel condemned this at the time, claiming that recognition of a Palestinian state "was highly damaging interference by parties that were never part of the Middle East peace process."
Around 5,000 Uruguayan citizens have Palestinian ancestry, many of whom live in Chuy near the Brazilian border. The city has witnessed demonstrations to denounce Israel's military offensives against the Palestinians.
"Uruguay has not changed its historic position in defence of international law and it does not give any contradictory signals to what should be a clear and firm commitment to achieve justice and peace," concluded Senator Lazo.