By Palestine Chronicle Staff
Legendary Cuban leader, Fidel Castro died Friday at the age of 90. He left behind a remarkable legacy, that of a man who challenged the most militarily powerful country in the world, and remained undefeated.
For Palestinians, Castro represented a heroic figure, who offered a hand of support and solidarity to the Palestinian cause, thus defying US hegemony, western and Israeli threats and intimidation.
And long before the Palestinian struggle became a cause of global solidarity, Cuba, under Fidel raised the bar of solidarity so high. In fact, the current international solidarity with Palestine had in fact started in Havana, decades ago.
A Leader Like No Other
Writing in Middle East Monitor, Yvonne Ridley commented,
“Palestine has lost one its oldest and closest friends following the death of Cuba’s former president and leader of the Communist revolution, Fidel Castro. Few leaders, with the exception of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, gave such vocal and unstinting support to the Palestinian people and their decades-long struggle for justice.
“Castro played host to PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1974, making it clear to the rest of the world that his loyalty and support was with the Palestinian people. He greeted and embraced the Palestinian leader like an old friend in Havana and extended the hand of friendship to a people and a cause which was not as popular as it is today. Arafat and Castro would meet and embrace again during the 1994 inauguration of their mutual friend Mandela as President of South Africa.
“A year before his historic meeting with Arafat, Cuba’s relations with Tel Aviv had plummeted as a reaction to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, during which Castro broke diplomatic relations with Israel. Supporters of the Zionist state, including Texas senator Ted Cruz, were furious when US President Barack Obama announced the restoration of relations with Cuba last year and the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana. Cruz described it as a “slap in the face” to Israel ..
“Palestine has lost a great friend and Cuba has lost a great revolutionary leader. We are unlikely to see the likes of Fidel Castro again.”
Castro was a hero for Palestine, flaws yes, but he introduced a free healthcare system, drove up literacy standards & redistributed wealth https://t.co/7QJJpPOK6r
— yvonne ridley (@yvonneridley) November 26, 2016
Palestine in Latin America
“The Cubans played a vital role in facilitating our interactions on the Latin American scene,” said Hisham Abu Ghosh, a member of the DFLP’s political bureau.
The DFLP had an especially close relationship with the Cuban regime; the party’s leader Nayef Hawatmeh made dozens of trips to the island, the most recent of which was made in November 2013.
The PLO also found fertile ground in Cuba for political training and support, giving “logistical and professional guidance for Palestinian factions”, according to Abdel Majeed Sweilim, professor of political science at Al Quds University.
The Latin American state also took a special interest in providing educational support to Palestinians.
“Despite Cuba’s economic woes, the government would give more than 150 Palestinians annually opportunities to study medicine, engineering and other disciplines,” said Odeh, who studied dentistry on the island in 1970 under a full scholarship granted by the Cuban government.
— The IMEU (@theIMEU) November 26, 2016
On the Gaza ‘Holocaust’
Two years ago, Castro condemned Israel’s offensive in Gaza. He described it as a “new, repugnant form of fascism” in a column for the Cuban communist party newspaper titled Palestinian Holocaust in Gaza.
“Why does the government of [Israel] think that the world will be impervious to this macabre genocide that is being committed today against the Palestinian people?” he wrote.
In the same year Castro signed an international pro-Palestine manifesto which demanded that Israel respect United Nations resolutions.
This included the withdrawal of all Israeli troops and settlers from the occupied Palestinian territories in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
— Days of Palestine (@DaysofPalestine) November 26, 2016
Palestinian author and journalist, Ramzy Baroud wrote on Facebook soon after Castro’s death,
“Fidel is dead. To say that one feels sorrow is an understatement. He has inspired generations of good men and women, and now, the warrior he was, travels to Valhalla, head held high. Undefeated. But sadness this time should not last long. Times are hard, and the fight ahead is arduous.
“Fortunately, he left it with a proud legacy and much writing to guide us through the rough terrain ahead.
“As a Palestinian, I also want to say: Thank you, Fidel, and thanks to your people, you made us feel accepted, when much of the world turned their back on us. We are indebted, and forever grateful.”