Your excellencies, Fellow engineers,
We are gathered here to honour several South American countries for their unwavering support for justice and the rule of international law in Palestine and for the Palestinian people’s hundred years’ long struggle for freedom.
That was demonstrated most courageously last summer during the genocidal war on Gaza, the last fortress in Palestine. They did not stay silent before the massacres of our people, which were graphically splashed on our screens every night.
Let me give you just few examples:
- Bolivia's President Evo Morales denounced Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, labeled the country a "terrorist state" and restricted the entry of Israelis into the country.
- El Salvador, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil have all withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel in protest.
- Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign with Palestine was very vocal both in the official and popular fields.
- The presidents of Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela issued a joint statement calling for a cessation of violence and an end to the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave.
- Cuba sent tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the received the injured. Cuban staunch support for Palestine is very well known.
- Venezuela under President Hugo Chávez condemned Israeli actions, twice expelled the Israeli ambassador to Venezuela. During 2014 Israel war on Gaza, President Nicolás Maduro "vigorously condemned the actions the illegal state of Israel against the heroic Palestinian people".
I could go on and on but with the risk of leaving someone out I should now turn to another point. Why is this special relationship between South America and Palestine?
First there is a historical link. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, hundreds of people from Greater Syria, that is Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan today, immigrated to various countries in South America. They were called Turcos. They blended well with the people there and contributed to the countries’ welfare and development.
But it is not all historical or emotional. Palestinians and South Americans had a common goal: To fight against foreign domination, colonialism, racism and Apartheid. They both suffered and are suffering greatly from these evils.
In the mid twentieth century, European colonialism in Asia and Africa started to roll back its troops. While its soldiers packed their bags and returned to Europe, Zionist European colonial soldiers marched in the opposite direction to occupy and destroy Palestine. In the largest planned and continuous ethnic cleansing operation in modern history, Israel depopulated over 600 towns and villages and emptied Palestine of its people. Today there are 12 million Palestinians. Two thirds are homeless refugees within sight of their homes and the third is under Israeli occupation.
Gaza became the symbol of Palestine. Although it was only 1% of Palestine area, it remained the only part of Palestine that was not annexed to another country and raised no flag other than the Palestinian flag. It was very crowded. Why?
Because it was the temporary shelter, a huge refugee camp, for the people of 247 villages in the southern half of Palestine who were depopulated and expelled by Israel in 1948.
Since then, and until today, it became the centre of Palestinian resistance against Israeli ethnic cleansing and occupation.
In Gaza an Egyptian officer, by the name of Gamal Abdel Nasser, realized the need for revolution and reform in his country and the Arab World. He not only toppled the monarchy in Egypt but he became one of the Third World leaders, uniting against colonialism and foreign domination.
In 1955, in Bandung, 25 countries representing half the world population met and formed the Non Aligned Movement. Its leaders were Nasser of Egypt, Tito of Yugoslavia and Nehru of India. Today The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has 120 members and 17 observer countries, including 26 South American members.
In a highly significant early positive action, some leaders of the movement came to visit Gaza.
Only a few months following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara visited Gaza on June 18, 1959, sharing resistance strategies with Palestinians involved in the anti-colonial struggle. He encouraged them to continue their struggle and never to give up their resistance. They are still doing that.
Another distinguished guest in the same year to support the Palestinian resistance was the towering figure of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Today the movement is the bulwark of Palestinian support in the United Nations General Assembly.
As the hegemony that the US exercised over South American countries is receding and US continuous attempts at destabilizing the order in these countries is almost broken, nothing illustrates this better than Palestine. A major factor in the forthright tone of current criticism of Israel, is South America’s relatively newfound independence from U.S. foreign policy. For the first time, a majority of the continent is not afraid to face its northern neighbor.
Recently a new force emerged. The new continental body, the Union of South American Nations, has been meeting since 2004, and passed a constitutional treaty in 2008. The Union is now a legal body, whose economic, political and foreign policy powers are growing.
In recent years, nearly all South American countries have recognized the Palestinian state.
The list of South American nations that refuse to recognize the Palestinian state follows the list of nations with the strongest military and economic ties to the United States and Israel: Colombia, Mexico and Panama. Let us hope these countries come to the side of justice and freedom for the victims of colonialism.
In the words of a South American analyst, “A South America freed from U.S. dictums has the capacity, if not to isolate a wayward state like Israel, at least to send a powerful message of opprobrium”.
I am sure the support of South American countries will continue and those who do not will come to the fold.
There is nothing more precious in life than freedom from colonialism, racism and other evils visited upon us by foreign domination. We must fight the oppressor. It is the duty of every decent human being.
That is what you have done out of your own convictions.
Not waiting for any recognition. Nevertheless I say thank you, thank you, thank you.