By María Landi – May 19, 2023
On May 15, the 75th anniversary of Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that destroyed Palestine and established the State of Israel on its ruins was commemorated with events, marches and activities around the world, including in Latin America. In Uruguay, however, the date went unnoticed in institutions and civil society . It is a paradox that in Uruguay, May is the Month of Memory, and that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the civic-military coup, and at the same time, in Uruguay the Nakba continues to be, three-quarters of a century later, a memory denied, silenced, ignored. In short, we accept the memoricide that the Zionist project imposed on the Palestinian reality .
Perhaps this is a phenomenon worthy of further study: why in Uruguay the Palestinian issue is not known, not studied—at any level of formal education—and, therefore, not understood.
It is also pertinent to ask why Uruguay has never made a self-criticism about the role that its representative played in the UNSCOP: the special commission formed in 1947 within the nascent United Nations (which barely had 50 member states) and in which Uruguay promoted the partition of Palestine to hand over 56% of its territory to a movement of European settlers who had been in the country for a few decades, made up less than a third of its population, and owned less than 6% of the land. As Luis Sabini Fernandez explains in a lapidary analysis , the representatives of the progressive governments of Guatemala (then headed by Juan J. Arévalo) and Uruguay (under Luis Batlle) , both aligned with the US neocolonial leadership, were instrumental in persuading their Latin American peers to vote for the partition of Palestine. Worse still, Uruguay’s sin dates back to 1917, as it was one of the few countries to sign the Balfour Declaration, by which the foreign minister of the British Empire formally promised the British Zionist movement his government’s support for the establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine.
From a decolonial point of view, the lack of sensitivity to the existence, interests, and will of the original Arab population, who for centuries had constructed social, religious, and cultural institutions as well as a vibrant society and economy in Palestine, is inadmissible today; and yet—with typical colonialist contempt for the natives—was ignored by the European imperialist power, which gave away a country that did not belong to it to a colonizing movement whose explicit intention was to build in that strategic region a “bulwark of Western culture against barbarism” .
Colonialism is in the DNA of Uruguay, a country created for the interests of the British Empire, populated by successive waves of European immigrants, which still has problems with recognizing its indigenous and African roots . But it is inadmissible that, almost 80 years later, Uruguay still finds more natural affinities with the white Ashkenazis who colonized Palestine and has so many difficulties to feel any empathy towards the Palestinian people, who have been resisting since then a project of territorial colonization, military occupation, and legalized apartheid.
I am not interested in analyzing why the Uruguayan right wing sympathizes with the Zionist project embodied in the State of Israel; the similarities of interests is evident. Instead, what deserves a serious analysis is why the left practices what Palestinian activists call PEP (progressives except for Palestine). The examples of close relations between the Uruguayan left and organized Zionism are many and longstanding. Senior leaders of the leftist bloc Frente Amplio, as well as renowned leftist intellectuals, political analysts, academics, human rights defenders, etc., have received from the hands of the Israeli Central Committee of Uruguay (CCIU) the Jerusalem Award, commemorating the “reunification of Jerusalem,” which is nothing but the occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel, an act considered illegal by the UN (a position that Uruguay, in theory, supports). Did any of them bother to find out what the award they were accepting represented? Is it ignorance, or is it fear of contradicting a powerful economic and media lobby?
The list of sins is extensive and spans the region. In 2007, Mercosur, under progressive governments with the exception of Paraguay, signed a free trade agreement with Israel (the bloc’s first with a country outside the region). It is true that Uruguay formally recognized the Palestinian state; but it did so only in 2011, a year after every one of its Mercosur partners had done so. In 2017, the mayor of Montevideo, Daniel Martínez organized, together with the Israeli embassy, a gala at the Solis Theater to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the creation of that State (completely ignoring the 70 years of Palestinian suffering). In 2020, a month before leaving the government, Tabaré Vázquez adopted the questionable and problematic definition of anti-Semitism created by the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), which qualifies criticism of the policies of the State of Israel as anti-Semitic. And in 2022, the Frente Amplio voted for a staunch defender of the criminal policies of the State of Israel and its systematic violations of international law, one who also lobbies for Uruguay to vote against Palestinian rights at the UN, to become a member of the National Human Rights Institution.
We must not forget that numerous leaders of the left as well as of the trade union, university, business, scientific, cultural and sports circles—with or without Jewish roots—have traveled to Israel, have studied there, have marveled at the economic and technological miracle of that country, but have never been interested in knowing how the Palestinian population lives (not only in the occupied territories, where these Uruguayans have never set foot, but even inside the Israeli territory), nor how billions of dollars of US aid sustains that “miracle,” nor the very foundations on which the so-called exclusive and exclusionary “Jewish State” was built (especially the plight of the Bedouin indigenous communities). Thus, the Uruguayan left, by action or by omission, ends up being aligned with the colonizers and occupiers, and not with their victims. Yet the left, and not just the Uruguayan left, cultivates the fantasy (I do not mean hypocrisy) that they can be in solidarity with the Palestinian people without bothering their oppressor and even maintaining normal relations with the same oppressor.
It is therefore understandable that this so-called left would experience cognitive dissonance when, after decades of condemnations by Palestinians, major Israeli and international human rights organizations finally recognize, as they have done in recent years, that “the only democracy in the Middle East” is in reality an apartheid state: a racist regime of Jewish supremacy, built on the elimination, expulsion, segregation, and discrimination of the Palestinian people who do not really constitute a minority but more than half of the population living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, in addition to the fact that the Palestinian refugee population is double that number, and that “demographic threat” is the reason why they are not allowed to return to their ancestral land.
A separate chapter should be devoted to media of the entire ideological spectrum, which do not address the Palestinian issue, or do so in an inadequate manner to give an account of the ping-pong of aggressions from both sides, always without context or causal analysis. In the media programs and sections of international politics, Palestine does not exist, and it is better to ignore it than to mess with the powerful lobby and its allies. Years and years of Israeli investment in the well-served “annual press junkets” have paid good dividends.
Thus, it is not surprising that, across the political spectrum, Tyrians and Trojans seek the front rows to commemorate with the CCIU the night of broken glass, but little do they care that in Palestine every night is a night of broken glass (and broken houses, crops, ancient olive trees, water reservoirs, solar panels, tractors, vehicles, schools, mosques, animals, and human bodies) carried out by Israeli soldiers or by gangs of armed settlers, now formally integrated into the colonial army under a terrorist Minister of Security who never stops encouraging this violence.
What is the importance of remembering the Nakba, beyond the moral duty to break the silence and fight against memoricide, the denial of the existence, identity and centuries of history of the Palestinian people in their land, before they were dispossessed of it? In the reality of Uruguay, a country where the Zionist project has never been critically analyzed, nor has its responsibility for making it possible been reviewed, remembering the Nakba is important in order to get out of the epistemic trap of interpreting the Palestinian question as a conflict between two peoples disputing a territory, which is nothing more than applying the theory of the two demons, putting on an equal footing the oppressor and the oppressed, the occupier and the occupied, the colonizer and the colonized.
With this logic, one tends to consider that the core of the “conflict” lies in the 1967 occupation. As if the Zionist colonization of Palestine prior to 1947—with the complicity of the imperialist powers—did not involve any injustice towards the native Arab population. As if UN Resolution 181 had been equitative. As if the State of Israel had always been there; as if 1948 had been “a war” and not a deliberate plan (Plan Dalet) of ethnic cleansing, destruction of Palestinians’ villages and theft of property, massacres and expulsion of 750,000 people who today, together with their descendants, number 7 million and continue to live as stateless refugees. As if the UN resolutions from 1949 onwards were just and not a violation of its own founding charter, since these resolutions legitimized the establishment of Israel in 78% of the Palestinian territory (even more than the 56% granted by the already unjust Resolution 181) despite the fact that it was territory acquired through a war of conquest.
The Nakba refutes these naturalized myths and reminds us of the need to decolonize the analysis in order to understand that the root cause of the oldest problem that persists on the UN agenda, with grave consequences for a region that has never again experienced a day of peace, is the colonial, racist and supremacist project, which has materialized in a system of apartheid that should not be tolerated in the 21st century.
A number of Jewish organizations throughout the world have reached this conclusion, such as Jewish Voice for Peace (USA), Independent Jewish Voices (Canada), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Na’amod (UK) and many others, as well as numerous Jewish people in the academia, the social and physical sciences, journalism, culture, and the arts. They are so many and so brilliant that it is impossible to name them in this column, but all these voices have been raised again and again to respond “Not in my name!” to the crimes committed by the Zionist state against the Palestinian people. I am privileged to count some of those exceptional Jewish people among my friends and fellow travelers.
Not a single one of those voices has been heard in Uruguay, a country that several personalities and organizations have proudly defined as “the most Zionist country in the continent.” Perhaps the absence of critical Jewish voices, as well as of a local Palestinian community (and an Arab community in solidarity with their cause) in the national public scene has contributed to this unanimous silence of the Uruguayan society, a situation that is unique in Latin America.
Perhaps it is time to start reflecting as a whole society, in this Month of Remembrance, and on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état, that when we say “Never again” we must commit to ourselves that it is for all peoples everywhere in the world, including the Palestinian people, who have been resisting State terrorism and fighting for their liberation for 75 years.
1. With the exception of an event organized by the Vivián Trías Foundation and the Commission for the Support of the Palestinian People.
2. When I speak of Zionism, I am not only referring to its Jewish expression, but also to its Christian aspects, which are even older than the former. Christian Zionism is a great ally and facilitator of Israel’s colonizing project.
3. ONU 1947. Uruguay en el origen de Israel. Ediciones I Libri, 2022.
Jorge García Granados represented Guatemala and Enrique Rodríguez Fabregat represented Uruguay in UNSCOP. Two politicians of white and Eurocentric imprint, completely lacking in sensitivity towards indigenous issues, as Sabini points out.
5. Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State (1896). European Zionist leaders spoke explicitly about their colonization project, but stopped doing so when in the post-war period the decolonization processes gained legitimacy in the world; then they converted their discourse to “independence.”
6. Sabini observes that even in a leftist intellectual as influential as Carlos Quijano, “a strong anti-Americanism coexisted with no interest in the indigenous question.”
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/September 24, 2023
scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/September 23, 2023
scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/September 23, 2023