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Gaza protesters: Palestine and Venezuela in ‘one trench’

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As the international community divides over who to back for leader of Venezuela—President Nicolás Maduro or opposition legislator Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself the rightful head of government—the Palestinians of Gaza see an unsettling similarity to their own history. And as a result, they know who they side with, and against.

“There is a similarity between the Palestinian people and the Venezuelan people,” observed Nisreen Abu Amra, a member of Gaza’s Central Committee for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). “We are in the same trench, facing a reactionary, imperialist conspiracy led by the United States of America and Israel.”

Abu Amra was among the participants at a demonstration held in Gaza City to send a message of solidarity with those in Venezuela who oppose the U.S.-supported regime change. The rally took place in the front of the U.N. headquarters in Gaza City. Palestinian and Venezuelan flags were raised, along with photos of Maduro and posters condemning the U.S. intervention.

“The same powers that are tampering in the internal affairs of Venezuela interfere with ours,” agreed Ahmed Abu Halima, another participant in the DFLP protest.

Talal Abu Zarifa, member of the DFL’s Political Office, called on the United Nations to take a firm stance to stop U.S. intervention.

Indeed, it’s no wonder Palestinians in Gaza call for solidarity with Venezuela’s elected president and against a coup—no matter how imperfect Maduro is. The parallels with Palestine, and specifically Gaza, are striking:

Venezuela: The Wall Street Journal reports that the night before Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela, he received a phone call from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. The American official pledged the United States would back Guaidó if he seized the reins of government from Maduro, and even instructed the until-then-little-known politician to invoke a particular clause in his country’s constitution. Although the U.N. is calling for negotiations between all parties, U.S. administration officials say they will support those only if they are to “negotiate (Maduro’s) exit strategy.”

Palestine: After the Hamas movement won a majority of seats in Palestine’s legislative body in 2006, some international diplomatic experts favored engaging with the party to determine if an accommodation was possible. But instead, the U.S. representatives, supported by its European allies, forbade President Mahmoud Abbas from working with Hamas to form a unified government, threatening to cut off all aid if he did. In fact, within just a few months of the election, U.S. Secretary Condoleeza Rice pushed Abbas to dissolve the new government.

(It didn’t get much media coverage, but Tony Blair—then prime minister of the UK—admitted in 2017 that “we should have, right at the very beginning, tried to pull [Hamas] into a dialogue.” Yet today, the UK has joined the United States in once again opposing negotiations.)

Venezuela: McClatchy News reports that a U.S.-owned plane loaded with arms flew from Miami into Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city, nearly 40 times since January 11, the day after Maduro was sworn in to a second term. The Boeing 767 is owned by a company called 21 Air based in Greensboro, North Carolina. (While no definitive links between 21 Air and the U.S. government have been established, McClatchy reports the chairman of 21 Air has ties to a company involved in the CIA’s rendition program.)

Palestine: The American government armed a leader in Abbas’s party (Mahmoud Dahlan) and sent him and his forces into Gaza for what it hoped would be an overthrow of Hamas. Dahlan worked closely with the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. and developed a warm relationship with Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet.

Venezuela: Leading the charge against Maduro for Trump is his new special envoy, right-wing ideologue Elliott Abrams. He was found guilty for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal and also is linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chávez. And…

Palestine: Leading the initiative to arm and train Dahlan’s forces so they could remove Hamas from government was none other than, you guessed it, the same Elliott Abrams.

Venezuela: While there are many legitimate reasons for Venezuelans to be unhappy with Maduro, a good part of the country’s economic crisis is due to U.S. sanctions imposed since Chavez won office.

Venezuela: As mentioned, the grievances against Maduro are serious and widespread. However, that does not translate into a desire for his forced removal. One recent survey found that only 35 percent of Venezuelans support foreign intervention; more than half instead support renewed dialogue with Maduro or his negotiated removal.

Palestine: International sanctions designed to unseat Hamas have resulted in collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million people. However, while complaints against Hamas—like those about Maduro—are widespread and serious, repeated polls show the majority of Gaza Palestinians do not support America’s insistence on Abbas as their leader due to his willingness to cooperate with Israel (to the extent that he even polices his own people on Israel’s behalf).

As American investigative journalist Allan Nairn commented on the radio program Democracy Now, “In both situations (Venezuela and Palestine), the U.S. has no standing to be a mediator, a disinterested third party. The U.S. is on one side. They’re on the side of the right-wing and the rich in Venezuela, who are trying to topple this government. It’s the same with Israel-Palestine. The U.S. has claimed for years to be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, when, in fact, everyone knows the U.S. is on the side of the Israelis and against the aspirations of the Palestinians to have their legal rights under international law enforced and to regain their political sovereignty.”

Given these strong parallels between Venezuela and Palestine, it is no surprise that Guaidó now is in the process of restoring ties with Israel, which had been severed a decade ago by Chávez. Guaidó also announced he may open the new Venezuelan Embassy in Jerusalem, following the lead of the United States.

Abdul Sattar Qassem, professor of political science at Gaza’s An-Najah National University, observes that under Chavez and Maduro, “Venezuela has stood with the Palestinian cause and with all other oppressed people in the world. And all the oppressed are under the thumb of the United States. The U.S. has many reasons for intervening in Venezuela—including installing a leader it can control. The American government always says we must uphold international law, but they are the biggest phonies.”

Pam Bailey

Pam Bailey is founder of and international secretary for the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. She is based in Washington, DC, and travels to the Middle East frequently.

Other posts by .

Mahmoud Alnaouq

Mahmoud Alnaouq is a Gaza-based writer and researcher in WeAreNotNumbers.

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8 Responses

  1. Keith on February 18, 2019, 4:55 pm

    “This is the story of Venezuela in black and white, the story not told in The New York Times nor the rest of our establishment media. This year’s so-called popular uprising is, at its heart, a furious backlash of the whiter (and wealthier) Venezuelans against their replacement by the larger Mestizo (mixed-race) poor.” (Greg Palast)

  2. just on February 18, 2019, 10:25 pm

    ” The U.S. has many reasons for intervening in Venezuela—including installing a leader it can control. The American government always says we must uphold international law, but they are the biggest phonies.””

    All true, and never forget the oil… imperialism… etc.

    This happened today:

    ‘Let your people go’: Trump calls on Maduro loyalists to end nightmare of his regime …

    Donald Trump has told a rally in Florida “a new day is coming in Latin America” as he again warned president Nicolás Maduro that he sought a peaceful transition of power “but all options are open”.

    The US president, sought support from the largest Venezuelan community in the US for opposition leader Juan Guaidó, appealed directly to Venezuela’s armed forces, saying: “We want to restore Venezuelan democracy and we believe the Venezuelan military and its leadership have a vital role to play in the process.”

    “Today, I ask every member of the Maduro regime: end this nightmare of poverty, hunger, and death for your people. Let your people go. Set your country free,” Trump told the crowd at Florida International University in Miami.

    Maduro responded with televised comments in which he accused Trump of speaking in an “almost Nazi style” and thinking he could deliver orders to Venezuela’s military.

    “Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?” Maduro said. “They think they’re the owners of the country.”

    Critics of Maduro say his re-election last year was fraudulent. The US and other countries recognise Guaidó as the country’s rightful leader. Throughout his presidency, Trump has reportedly asked advisers if US military intervention is possible. …

    Trump praised Venezuelan dissidents, kissing and bringing to the lectern for brief remarks in Spanish the mother of Oscar Pérez, a rebel helicopter pilot who was killed near Caracas last year after dropping grenades on government buildings.

    “I don’t know what she said but I think I know what she said,” Trump said, vowing the woman’s son “will not have died in vain”. …

    “We must work together to end a humanitarian disaster,” Trump said in Miami. “Unfortunately, Dictator Maduro has blocked this lifesaving aid from entering the country,” he said, claiming the leader was happy to see his people starve.

    Among a number of mentions of Cuba, the socialist country with which the Obama administration moved to normalise relations, Trump claimed the Venezuelan armed forces were “risking their future, their lives and Venezuela’s future for [Maduro], a man controlled by the Cuban military and protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers”.

    “Maduro is not a Venezuelan patriot,” Trump said. “He is a Cuban puppet, that’s what he is.”

    “The eyes of the entire world,” he said, were on the Maduro regime “today, and every day in the future. You cannot hide from the choice that no confronts you.”

    An offer of amnesty from Guaidó could be accepted by Maduro’s supporters, Trump said, as “President Guaidó does not seek retribution against you and neither do we”.

    But he added: “You can choose to continue to support Maduro. If you choose this path you will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”

    In his condemnation of “the horrors of socialism and communism”, which he said had produced “a nightmare of poverty, hunger and death”, Trump was also looking to draw a contrast with the policies of progressive Democrats, which he calls “socialist” as he gears up for the 2020 election.

    “Years of socialist rule have brought this once thriving nation to the brink of ruin,” he said, saying the Venezuelan government had suppressed the press, ruined the economy and destroyed the rule of law.

    “The results have been catastrophic,” he said, adding: “The twilight of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere and frankly in many other places in the world.” He said socialism was doomed in Nicaragua and Cuba as well.

    Trump has been spending the holiday weekend at his private club in West Palm Beach, Florida, playing golf each day at his own course.”

    And there you have it. Thank you Pam and Mahmoud.

  3. chris_k on February 19, 2019, 12:27 am

    Countries outside the US orbit of influence will also make token statements, withdraw ambassadors, in those moments when there’s an Israeli incursion or protestors being shot – situations when an objective country expresses concern about war crimes. Israel takes note of that. They have a map of those regimes that aren’t silenced by them and they want them gone. Libya’s been a target for a while, taken care of now and the hardship of the people is of no concern to US or Israeli leaders.

    I’m not saying that Israel is the reason for the US policy on Venezuela, not just Trump’s but the previous coup attempt and Obama’s attempt to isolate them by making nice to Cuba. Oil is big here as well as a Cold War struggle against a socialist bloc or a South American resistance to US hegemony. But Israel’s another big, growling political doggie. Guaidó and Netanyahu are both friends of the openly Fascist Bolsonaro, and the message here is that if you put up any resistance to, among others, Israel, the clamps will be put on economically, your people will starve and leave the country, and if possible we’ll steal your oil and gold thank you very much while the UN asks our permission to use the rest room.

    Israel is after all a model economy and Venezuela is ‘failed socialism,’ so put sanctions on Venezuela so they can’t sell your oil and give billions of dollars to Israel every year, because Israel, um, needs it more or whatever. Fun fact: since South Africa ended apartheid, their GDP growth has been almost the same as Israel’s during the same time, without Uncle Sam’s allowance.

  4. RoHa on February 19, 2019, 2:38 am

    Worthwhile article here.

    (But Isabel Peron was not the first female leader in world history.)

  5. Jejasalo on February 19, 2019, 11:03 am

    While the similarities may be striking, there is an important difference. The opposing faction in Palestine (Hamas) was democratically elected to power in January 2006. It never carried out a violent coup to seize that power. Additionally, the Palestinian Authority became the default US-Israeli collaborating partner for reasons expedient to both: US-Israeli manipulation is much more insidious with a partner that is eager to receive an authority bestowed upon it by externally clenched fists.

    • Mayhem on February 22, 2019, 4:44 pm

      Hitler gained power through democratic elections and as soon as that happened he destroyed any semblance of democracy in Germany. And so we see it with the Hamas Nazis with no elections in Gaza since 2006.

  6. Jejasalo on February 23, 2019, 8:38 am

    A bit disingenuous, don’t you think? I’ve lived under Hamas and can tell you their rule is terrible. Almost everyone I know in Gaza can’t stand them. They were still elected to power and the US-PA tried to dislodge them in an illegal coup attempt in 2007. They have reasons to be paranoid. Of course I think they should be democratically elected. But then be fair and say it of all the other leaders who’ve assumed power in the Middle East & elsewhere. Tyranny rules most of these countries – and has many different, frightful faces.

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