On Cuba’s Historic Connections to Palestinian Liberation

A file photo of Cubans at a protest condemning Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip, in Havana. (Photo: Javier Galeano)

By Benay Blend

“People be ‘nuancing’ and ‘both-siding,’ then a government is overthrown and a country falls into devastation and they are nowhere to be found.” That quote from Hood Communist sums up the history of imperialism and colonialism in the Global South.

In the case of Palestine, “both-side-ism” has a long and inglorious history. As Ramzy Baroud observes, the notion of a “conflict” with two equally responsible sides has never been applicable to the Occupation, a situation in which there is “unilateral” aggression on the part of the Occupier met with justifiable resistance from the other side.

Reiterating this point, Palestinian-American activist/commentator Steven Salaita lists “things that are complicated”: “planning a family reunion,” “assembling an Ikea futon,” among other ventures, but noticeably absent is “’solving’ the Palestine-Israel ‘conflict.’ A solution is only complicated,” Salaita adds,

“insofar as the many people (inside the colony and across the world) who benefit from Palestinian dispossession exhibit a violent unwillingness to alter the status quo. But the actual conditions for peace–return, equality, movement, dignity, restitution (in short, justice)–are exquisitely straightforward and haven’t changed in 72 years.”

Returning to the quote, Palestine is very much alive, a tribute to the sumoud (resilience) of its people. Nevertheless, its existence is often lost in the maze of Western media’s campaign to misrepresent facts by either skewing information or downright false reporting.

As Ajamu Baraka notes:

“The propagandists of death never sleep. Even as their system is being exposed as the generator of global warming (climate change), nuclear madness, cultural degeneration, and strange, violent societies and people, the ideological dirty workers are busy diverting attention away from the failures of their system to the internal contradictions found within the few examples of societies struggling to remake themselves in ways that center the needs and aspirations of the people.”

On July 14, 2021, for example, the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) reported that the Israeli army had detained dozens of students from Birzeit University who had visited the Shalabi family to support them after the army had demolished their home. According to the PPS, this targeting of Palestinian students, particularly from Birzeit, stemmed from an effort to intimidate them into stepping down from leadership roles in what the young people feel is a just and rightful cause.

Compare that report, from the Palestine Chronicle blog, to an AP headline of the same event: “Israel arrests dozens of Hamas-linked students in West Bank.” In the body of the article there was an admission that the Israeli military had “no evidence to back up the claims,” but for those who read no farther, the headline was framed without questioning the validity of its source.

On the other side of the world, Cuba’s history as an island fiercely defending its 1959 revolution has much in common with Palestine, a people who struggle against the same powers that would like to see both nations disappear.

On a positive note, there is a flip side to the Unites States’ agenda. From ongoing U.S. efforts to overturn the Cuban Revolution to Zionists’ desire to freeze out Ben and Jerry’s decision to pull its sales from Illegal Israeli settlements, there is a direct correlation between level of oppression by the U.S. government and solidarity among the people it affects.

As in any transnational study, there are certain differences. Cuba has not been directly colonized by the United States, but it has been the target of US sanctions. Just as Gaza has suffered from the Israeli blockade, also supported by the US government, so Cuba experiences shortages in every sector due to American sanctions.

Despite campaign promises to the contrary, Joe Biden has done nothing to help this situation. On July 11, 2021, groups of counter-revolutionaries staged demonstrations in major Cuban cities. As Francisco Dominquez reports, along with sanctions there have been US-backed plans for destabilization. USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have been funding at least 54 groups opposed to the Cuban Revolution.

“We are doubtlessly witnessing part of this today,” he writes, “with the co-ordinated violent street demonstration combined with a U.S.-led social media offensive.” Like the Palestine-Israel “conflict,” it is all very “nuanced” in the media.

“All kinds of slick word salad maneuvers,” writes Mawusi Ture, “to try to give u.s. imperialism and other reactionary forces in Miami and other parts of Latin America a pass of some sort; ish about “nuance” and “layers,” she continues, “and other ish to diminish the importance of ending the u.s. embargo against Cuba.”

As sister to Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), who very early recognized the international potential of the Black radical struggle by linking it to Palestine and Cuba, Mawusi Ture carries on her brother’s legacy.

In “A Cosmovisión of Solidarity: Anticolonial Worldmaking in Havana, Palestine, and the Politics of Possibility,” Sorcha Thomson traces the evolution of Cuba’s historic ties with Palestine’s anti-colonial struggle. “For the Palestinians,” she writes, Havana was “a place where connections were built, connections that would support the ascent of the movement on the global stage, and outlast the high era of tricontinentalism, in an enduring model of reciprocal solidarity between anti-imperial struggles.”

As Cuba celebrates the 65th anniversary of its revolution on July 26, 2021, and the Palestinian solidarity movement gains increasing recognition around the world, these ties are all the more important. Grounded as they are, as Thomson writes, in the “collective practice of transformative solidarity,” their history offers “a shared belief in the possibility of alternative futures.”

– Benay Blend earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: ‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

– Benay Blend earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: ‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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