THE Palestinian people’s fight for national liberation stands at the centre of the struggle for socialists, progressives and all those seeking to build a better world in the 21st century.
For decades, Latin America’s left has been among Palestine’s strongest allies and, as a genocidal war has been waged against the Palestinian people in recent months, left governments and movements in Latin America have been vocal in their condemnation of what Hugo Chavez once described as the “terrorist and murderous state” of Israel.
From the moment it came into existence, revolutionary Cuba has been at the forefront of this movement in the region. From Che Guevara’s visit to the refugee camps of Gaza in 1959, Cuba has been unwavering in its support for the Palestinians—providing direct assistance to the Palestinian fedayeen (guerillas) in the ’60s and ’70s, severing all diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973 and supporting Palestine’s attempts to gain international recognition as an independent state in recent years.
Since October 7, Cuban leaders have been forthright in their condemnation of Israel’s genocide in Gaza. In an impassioned message recorded on October 29, President Miguel Diaz-Canel spoke on behalf of the Cuban people and put the issue of Palestine into the wider historical context:
We do not accept certain selective indignation that seeks to ignore the seriousness of the genocide that is perpetrated today against the Palestinians, presenting the Israeli side as the victim and ignoring 75 years of attacks, occupation, abuse and exclusion. Nothing can justify what Israel’s army is doing in Gaza.
Cuba threw its weight of support behind South Africa’s historic case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) earlier this month.
A statement from Cuba’s foreign ministry made clear that, as a signatory to the UN convention of 1953, Cuba “has the obligation to prevent and punish genocide.” It expressed Cuba’s conviction that South Africa’s claim “should be understood and heeded as an urgent call to stop the hideous international crimes of genocide, against humanity and apartheid being perpetrated against the Palestinian people.”
Cuba’s support for the Palestinians over the past few months, however, has gone beyond public statements. The Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana teaches students from all over the world, in particular students from the global South, many of whom are granted scholarships.
ELAM currently hosts around 250 Palestinian students, including Razan Maleh from Ramallah, in the West Bank. “Cuba is giving many scholarships to Palestinians and that allows Palestine to, in the future, have a group of doctors who will go to work and help the people of the homeland,” she told the news outlet Belly of the Beast.
In a gesture of solidarity, Diaz-Canel invited 144 of these young Palestinian students to the Palace of the Revolution for a meeting on November 17.
At the meeting, Diaz-Canel was presented with a black and white keffiyeh by the students, a cherished symbol of Palestinian resistance and their struggle for self-determination.
We are going to take care of you, we are going to give you all of our attention, we are going to accompany you in your careers, because you are the future of Palestine, the Cuban president told his guests.
We Cubans learned to defend the Palestinian cause from the internationalist and humanist vision of the historic leader of our Revolution, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, who was always a friend of that nation that demands its right to self-determination.
A week later, on November 24, around 100,000 people marched through the Cuban capital, calling for an immediate ceasefire, an end to the occupation and justice for the Palestinians.
Chants of “Genocidio basta ya, Palestina vencera!” (Stop the genocide, Palestine will win!) and “Que viva la lucha del Pueblo Palestino!” (Long live the fight of the Palestinian people!) were led by Palestinians themselves as they marched down the Malecon.
“We’re marching to defend our rights and to support Palestine,” Malak Balout, a Palestinian student, explained. Palestinians celebrated the strength of the ties between Cuba and Palestine on the march, with Balout saying “we’re so grateful for what Cuba is doing for us and for our people.”
In stark contrast to the approach of other world leaders, Diaz-Canel—sporting his black and white keffiyeh—was at the front of the march, leading the demonstrators past the U.S. embassy, joined by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and other Cuban leaders.
Cuba knows full well what it’s like to confront imperialist aggression and occupation. The steadfast support of Cuba and the region’s left for Palestine is a testament to a shared struggle, and serves as an important reminder of the importance of international solidarity.
As Maleh told Belly of the Beast:
The Palestinian cause is not only for Palestinians, it’s the cause of all oppressed peoples of the world.
Tariq Anderson, Campaigns Officer, Cuba Solidarity Campaign.