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A proud history of solidarity

Cuba has stood unswervingly by Palestine since 1947 guided by its own rejection of imperialist lawlessness, writes BERNARD REGAN

ON January 12 2024 Cuba announced its intention to support the request of the Republic of South Africa to initiate proceedings against Israel in the International Court of Justice.  

South Africa’s charge is that Israel is guilty of committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

Cuba has a long record of supporting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. This record even pre-dates the 1959 Revolution.  

In November 1947 Dr Ernesto Dihigo speaking on behalf of Cuba at the United Nations said that Cuba denounced the violation of international law by the United Kingdom. “The Balfour Declaration, in our opinion,” he said, “ is completely without legal value, since the British government offered in it something that it had no right to dispose of, because it was not its own.”

The Cuban revolutionaries saw Palestine as part of the fight against colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism.  

On June 18 1959, just a six months after the birth of the Revolution, Che Guevara and Raul Castro visited Al Burajj Refugee camp in Gaza, then under the control of the Egyptian government of Gamal Nasser.  

Che and Raul were touring countries at the forefront of the struggle against imperialism, talking to leaders and discussing how unity could be built across the continents.

Che reaffirmed Cuba’s support for Palestine at the UN general assembly on December 11 1964, making an excoriating critique of the role of US imperialism and extending solidarity, among others, to the “Arabs of Palestine.” He attacked the role of US imperialism in blocking the rights of peoples to self-determination and for interfering in the internal and sovereign affairs of countries across the continents.

Yasser Arafat appreciated and understood Cuba’s solidarity with Palestinian struggle. In an interview he did for the September 1971 edition of the Tricontinental magazine he said: “We have great confidence in our Cuban friends. We know that they are very close to our cause. Support is something very important for the kind of struggle we are carrying on. We look firmly toward the Cuban Revolution.”  

He went on to say “To the people of Latin America, I can say that we are in the same trench and in the same battle and we want to increase our co-operation and unity, coming closer to each other. There is no sense in distance. Inside, we are close — very close to each other.”

Cuban support for the Palestinian cause never waned. Fidel Castro speaking at the sixth summit of the non-Aligned Movement in Havana on September 3 1979, describing the oppression of the Palestinians, observed that “No more brutal dispossession of the rights to peace and existence of a people has been committed in this century.”

A sentiment he underlined again on November 22 at the UN general assembly when speaking on behalf of the non-aligned countries, he stated that “No just peace can be established in the region unless it is based on total and unconditional withdrawal by Israel from all the occupied Arab territories, as well as the return to the  Palestinian people of all their occupied territories and the restoration of their inalienable rights, including their right to return to their homeland, to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state in Palestine in accordance to Resolution 3236 of the UN general assembly.”

To this day Cuba has been steadfast in its support for the rights of the Palestinian people and its solidarity with them. Today in Cuba there are 300 Palestinian students training as doctors at no cost to the Palestinians.  

There have been scholarships for Palestinian students to study in Cuba since 1959. On November 10 a march for peace took place in the city of Santa Clara.  

On December 28 2023 the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel condemned Israel’s attacks against the Palestinian people, a position endorsed the following day by the Cuban parliament, which reiterated “ the necessity for a far-reaching, fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the setting up of two sates, allowing the Palestinian people their right to free determination and have their independent and a sovereign state according to the borders drawn up before 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital city.”

On January 17 2024, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla reaffirmed Cuba’s position proposing that there should be an International Protection Mission from the Non-Aligned Movement sent to Gaza, authorised by the UN general assembly “entrusted with the security and the protection of the civilian population, and to facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid and food.”

Cuba has been and will undoubtedly remain at the side of the Palestinian people in their search for peace, justice and statehood.

Bernard Regan is the secretary of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and a trustee of the National Education Union. He’s the author of The Balfour Declaration: Empire, the Mandate and Resistance in Palestine.


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