The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London held on Thursday the fourth online panel discussion of its Return Week III, kick-started on Monday, December 05th.
The panel discussion was entitled “Palestinian Exodus: Turning Latin America Red” and chaired by Farrah Koutteineh, from the Palestinian Return Centre.
The first speaker was Lujain Al-Saleh, member leader of the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, also known as AROC, based in San Francisco, California. AROC serves poor and working class Arabs and Muslims across the San Francisco Bay Area, while organizing to overturn racism, forced migration, and militarism. Along with Lujain's role at AROC, she serves as the East Oakland Clean Air Project Coordinator for Communities for a Better Environment, one of the preeminent environmental justice organizations in the nation. The mission of CBE is to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low income communities to achieve environmental health and justice by preventing and reducing pollution and building green, healthy and sustainable communities and environments. Lujain holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Management and minors in Professional Writing and Middle East & South Asia Studies from UC Davis and a Master of Public Health in Global Health & Environment from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.
Lujain tackled Latin American governments’ responses to Israel’s violations of international law and solidarity with the Palestinian people.
As examples of Latin America’s support for the Palestinian cause, Lujain said after the 2019 attack on Gaza Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic ties with Israel; Similarly after the Israeli attack on Mavi Marmara solidarity ship Nicaragua suspended diplomatic relations with Israel.
At the same time, in response to the 2014 onslaught on Gaza, Chili, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil protested Israel’s crimes and accused it of genocides and crimes against humanity.
Cuba has also shown permanent solidarity with Palestine, for example through its support of a UN resolution to define Zionism as a form of racism and its material support for Palestinian students wishing to study medicine for free in Cuba along with its military support for Palestinian resistance.
She quoted Cuban diplomat Jorge Luis Garcia, who pointed out that Cuba was the first Latin American country to cut diplomatic ties with Israel, as early as 1973. Even further back, when the UN voted on the fate of the Palestinians in 1947, pre-revolutionary Cuba was one of the 13 countries – the only one from Latin America - that voted against partition. Cuba has continued to demonstrate solidarity with Palestine, consistently affirming the right of return and calling for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
“We recognize that it’s crucial for Palestinians and Arabs in the United States to extend solidarity with the Palestinians and revive anti-imperialist movements that challenge US imperialism on every level”, she further stated.
For the detailed program click here
The second speaker was Ignacio Asfura a Palestinian-Chilean Economist from the University of Santiago. He has a masters in International Development, and is also a member of the current Chilean president's Party, Gabriel Boric's 'Convergencia Social'.
Ignacio started his speech by tackling Israeli connections with Latin America. Following years of dictatorship, Latin America in the 80’s and 90’s established a period of neoliberal policy. In the 21st century onwards, governments like Venezuela focused on social justice and equality and engaged in direct confrontations with US foreign policy, including the latter’s political and military support for Israel.
He compared Israeli settler colonial brutality to some of the most brutal violations happening in some Latin American countries against indigenous peoples.
The third speaker was Leonardo Schiocchet. He studied social anthropology in Brazil and acquired his PhD at Boston University. He specialises in Palestine and his research focuses on forced migration, refugee studies, rituals, affiliations, ethnicity and the relationship between the Middle East and Austria.
Leonardi said international recognition of the state of Palestine has been the primary objective of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.
He underscored Brazil’s strong bilateral ties with Palestine, citing as a proof Yasser Arafat’s visit to Brazil, Abbas diplomatic visit to Brazil, Brazil leaders’ visits to Palestine along with the Latin American country’s generous donations to help reconstruct the Gaza Strip and rehabilitate vital facilities for vulnerable Palestinian communities affected by Israeli onslaughts and the blockade.
The final speaker was Gabriel Huland, a journalist and a PhD candidate at SOAS, University of London. His research looks at the coverage of the Syrian conflict in three American newspapers - the NYT, the WP, and the WSJ. He recently published “For or Against War?: The Syrian Conflict on the New York Times Opinion Pages” in the Journal of Communication and Media Studies. Before moving to London, he lived in Spain, Costa Rica, and Brazil, where he grew up and has his family. He worked as the editor of Página Roja, an independent Spanish newspaper, and as a researcher at the Latin American Institute of Socio-economic Studies (ILAESE), in Brazil. His research interests include migration, international politics, labour movements, news framing, and media policy.
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He provided an overview of the Pink tide in Latin America, in reference to a political wave and perception of a turn towards left-wing governments in Latin American democracies moving away from the neoliberal economic model in the 21st century. As a term, the phrase is used in contemporary 21st-century political analysis in the news media and elsewhere to refer to a move toward more economic progressive or social progressive policies in Latin America. Such governments have been referred to as "left-of-centre", "left-leaning", and "radical social-democratic”. They are also members of the São Paulo Forum, a conference of left-wing political parties and other organizations from the Americas.
Expanding on the ties between Israel and Latin America, he explained how in the cold war, Israel was a chief supplier of arms to Latin American dictatorships and paramilitary groups.
He referred to the commonality of experience of Palestine and many Latin American countries, from outright colonization by a regional superpower to hegemony in terms of economic and military control thinly veiled as "cooperation".
Watch the full seminar here