Caracas, October 16, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan social movements gathered outside the United Nations' headquarters in Caracas on Wednesday to protest an ongoing Israeli crackdown against Palestinians in the occupied territories, which has claimed the lives of at least 35 Palestinians since October 1.
Unfurling a giant Palestinian flag at the entrance to the office building, the several dozen protesters held signs and chanted slogans calling on the international community to take action in defense of Palestinian rights.
“We are here at the United Nations office in Caracas simply because we cannot remain silent in the face of the genocide being committed against the Palestinian people,” Hindu Andari, spokesperson for the Itinerant Forum of Popular Participation, told Venezuelanalysis.
The most recent Israeli crackdown has sought to quell a Palestinian uprising gaining momentum in the past two weeks, sparked by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, 27-year-old Mutaz Ibrahim Zawahreh was shot and killed with live ammunition by Israeli occupation forces during clashes near the illegal Israeli separation barrier in Bethlehem, while 33 others were injured, nine with live fire.
Thirty-five Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of October, including at least seven children, as well as numerous bystanders and unarmed protesters shot dead in “extrajudicial killings”, according to Amnesty International. 1300 Palestinians have also been injured this month, including 550 by live fire and 600 by rubber-coated bullets, the Palestinian Ministry of Health confirms. Meanwhile, seven Israelis have been killed, mostly in stabbing attacks.
Coming on the heels of Venezuela’s commemoration of “indigenous resistance day” on October 12, several present at Wednesday’s protest drew parallels between Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonization and indigenous struggles in South America.
“The Venezuelan people survived a similar genocide when Columbus came to America. The Palestinian people are resisting as we resisted, as our indigenous peoples resisted in the face of that [Spanish] genocide. Venezuela cannot be indifferent to this cause,” explains Mercedes “Chelena” Rosa of the Movement of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Artists.
Last year, Venezuela shipped tonnes of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in response to a 51-day Israeli assault that killed close to 2200 Palestinians, two-thirds of whom civilians, provoking international outrage and renewed calls for international sanctions.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions
The recurrent US-backed Israeli assaults on the Gaza Strip in recent years have fueled the rise of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to replicate the nonviolent tactics successfully used against apartheid South Africa to force Israel’s compliance with international law.
The international movement has been so successful that Venezuelan social movements are in the process of organizing their own BDS campaign, says Andari.
“We must break relations with companies that finance the occupation of Palestine,” she stated, noting that the Caracas UN office is located in the HPTower, also home to the offices of US multinational IT firm Hewlett-Packard, which produces biometric ID technology used both in Israeli checkpoints and US prisons.
“We have to turn up the pressure so that no university in the country can have educational and athletic agreements with Israeli [universities]. We believe that the Bolivarian government shouldn’t send Venezuelan athletes to any international competitions in Israel,” Andari added, underscoring the importance of the academic and cultural boycott.
A New Era of Solidarity
Under the administrations of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has become a key ally to the Palestinian cause, signing a number of agreements with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, including a “solidarity” oil deal, the creation of a scholarship program for Palestinian medical students, as well as the extension of the Cuban-Venezuelan eye surgery mission to the West Bank.
Before the Bolivarian Revolution, Palestine solidarity work was extremely difficult and even dangerous, emphasizes Susana Khalil, spokesperson for the Canaan Association of Aid to the Palestinian People.
“It’s important to stress that in the years before the Bolivarian Revolution, to speak about the Palestinian issue was taboo, censured, and often when we organized activities like this one, we were persecuted, blacklisted, even jailed. But today we can speak freely.”
“Venezuela has become the epicenter of the Palestinian struggle, the epicenter of the struggle for popular democracy, and for me as a Venezuelan-Palestinian, Arab-Latina, it’s a point of great pride,” affirmed Khalil, whose family fled to Venezuela following their expulsion from Palestine during what historians have termed a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated by Zionist forces between 1947 and 1949.
In the latest round of Israeli violence, occupation forces opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip on Friday, killing two and injuring over a hundred so far.
Yahiya Abd al-Qader Farhat, 24, was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers in northern Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Later on, Mahmoud Hatim Hmeid, 22, was also shot and killed in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Last weekend, Israeli forces killed 12 Palestinians in Gaza, 10 of whom shot dead during protests at the border and two killed in an Israeli airstrike, including a two-year-old and her pregnant mother.
Under international law, Gaza remains occupied by Israel, with the Israeli military exercising “effective control” over the strip’s borders, airspace, and territorial waters.