22 April 2015
Last Friday, Venezuela hosted the first Latin American Congress of the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. The initiative brought together Palestinian solidarity activists from various countries across Latin America, including Chile, Cuba, Ecuador and Argentina. According to Palestinian ambassador Linda Sobeh Ali, the event strengthened Venezuela's stance as the focal point for the Palestinian cause in the region.
"This is an international struggle against a common enemy," said Nicola Hadwa Shahwan of the Chilean Committee in Solidarity with Palestine. "The same enemy that besieges Venezuela, that wants to seize the wealth of Venezuela, is the same that wants to seize the wealth of the Middle East and the rest of the world."
Isak Khury from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine stressed the need for a broad approach. "We must combine all forms of struggle: diplomatic, legal and political together with armed resistance," he insisted.
Venezuelan support for Palestine is a legacy of the late President Hugo Chavez, whose anti-imperialist stance emulated that of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution and ultimately emerged as a fulcrum for internationalism against colonial and imperialist dominance. Venezuela's current President, Nicolas Maduro, consolidated the foundations initiated by Chavez and exhibited a commitment to a holistic approach, in particular with regard to Gaza's reconstruction.
While the UN conspired with Israel to develop a mechanism mired in bureaucracy, Venezuela embarked upon a humanitarian and political approach that combined immediate relief for children maimed or orphaned during the war, as well as providing Palestinian youth with the opportunity to further their studies in Venezuela, notably in the field of medicine. The tertiary education programme offered by Venezuela is also set to expand and include other academic specialisms, including architecture and teaching, thus providing Palestinians with opportunities for self-reliance and dignity, as opposed to the UN's deliberate conspiracy of entrenching and normalising displacement, in blatant violation of international law.
A lot of discussion about the Palestinian right of return is based upon international law, yet scant attention is given to the fact that the narrative enshrined within legislation eliminates Palestinian memory and embarks upon an isolation process that seeks to detach the Palestinian struggle from internationalism. As diplomacy overshadowed resistance, the Palestinian right of return retained its priority as an embellishment rather than as a right; it was often reduced to a statement quoted at random for convenience and public displays of support, but was nothing of substance. Its implications were smothered by prevailing talk about compromising with Israel's colonial project in the form of the two-state paradigm, thus rendering the Palestinian right of return into a memory severed by international oppression and complicity.
The conference in Venezuela could well serve to highlight such discrepancies, not only from an academic viewpoint — which has caused displeasure among Israelis — but also from the perspective of a country that has not wavered in its support for Palestine while battling imperialist intervention within its own territory. While Venezuela's support for Palestine is exemplary, however, Maduro can also avail himself of the opportunity to declare himself in favour of the anti-colonial struggle and total liberation by abandoning rhetoric pertaining to the two-state compromise. The latter stance, although overlooked, remains a blemish upon a country that has otherwise proved itself to be consistent in its internationalist role.