Why Latinxs Should Support Palestine
Or: Why we need to boycott MAC's Selena line
A preface to "A Beginners Guide to the BDS List"
by Natalie De La Rosa
When I look at the way Palestinians are fighting for their land that is being occupied, colonized, and stolen, I can’t help but be reminded of the occupation, colonization, and theft of Latin America. While being able to see yourself in a group of people struggling for their freedom and human rights is not (and should not be) the only reason to support them, the parallels between us are one of the reasons I see Palestinians as my primxs in an ongoing struggle for liberation.
As groups of people, Latinxs and Palestinians have had their homelands stolen from them based on the idea that it rightfully belongs to another group.
For Latinxs, the occupation of land was put into place by people who came from the Iberian Peninsula; for Palestinians, the occupation of land was put into place by the state of Israel. Both of these occupations were and still are heavily impacted by religion as well. In the case of Latin America, conquistadors worked with priests to fully occupy the land and use Catholicism as a tool to justify the mistreatment of indigenous people, offering many a choice between conversion and assimilation or death.
In the case of Israel, a huge increase occurred in the migration of Jewish peoples to Palestine in 1914 with the rise of Zionism, which states that the land Arabs had been living in and calling Palestine was rightfully Jewish land, and was used to justify the mistreatment of Arab Palestinians. After the British government declared support for the Zionist idea that Palestine was the "national home for the Jewish people" in 1917, the occupation of Palestine escalated quickly.
The British government also insisted that Zionists agree that, "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities". This agreement was not respected, and in 1948, Israel declared its independence while causing 750,000 Palestinians to become refugees. The continuous occupation of Palestine also mirrors the occupation that Puerto Ricans have experienced, as their homeland is sometimes referred to as the “oldest colony in the world.” In an article by Adrianna Maesta and Rania Khalek, which is centered on the connections between Palestinians and Latinxs, a Puerto Rican musician who traveled to Bethlehem shared his thoughts on Palestine.
René Pérez, of the hip-hop group Calle 13, shot a music video in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank in December 2013. Pérez told the Associated Press during that trip that Puerto Ricans are connected to Palestinians “because we are a colony of the United States. Here you have the situation with Israel.” He added, “It would be good to start building bridges between Palestine and Puerto Rico.”
The occupation of Palestine has worsened over the years. From 1948 to 2016, the occupation resulted in Palestinians losing their land and homes in ways that the United Nations describes as violating international law. Palestinians have faced the traumatizing reality of inhumane treatment, loss of family members, and oftentimes loss of their own lives at the hands of Israeli occupation, triggering the rise of guerrilla groups that claim to fight for Palestinian freedom. There have been violent attacks perpetrated by some of these groups, although their attacks are dwarfed by the decades of military occupation and violence carried out by Israel due to the power the state of Israel has, and the fact that Israel is “the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.” In a situation such as the occupation of Palestine, we must recognize the power imbalance that exists.
Any cursory Google search will show that the connection between Latinxs and Palestinians became very literal when Israel took steps to intervene in Latin American politics by arming right-wing regimes and political groups in Latin America. In an article by Jeremy Bigwood which discusses the Israeli government’s exploits throughout Latin America, Bigwood notes that Israel’s military relations with right-wing groups and regimes spans Latin America from Mexico to the southernmost tip of Chile, beginning just a few years after the Israeli state came into existence.
This means that both Latinxs and Palestinians have shared years of suffering due to violence carried out by the Israeli government and military. Some conflicts in Latin American countries have become notorious for the extensive violence, bloodshed, and ruthlessness that mar them. However, Israel’s role in these conflicts is not as notorious. Bigwood explains that, “Where Israel has excelled is in advising, training and running intelligence and counter-insurgency operations in the Latin American ‘dirty war’ civil conflicts of Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and now Colombia.”
Latin America has not recovered from these conflicts, wars, and actions from countries such as the United States and Israel. These foreign interventions can be found at the root of a large-scale movement of many people from Latin American countries hit the hardest by them-- many of who do not possess documents.
Many people do not understand the complex history of Latin America which causes Latinxs to migrate to the United States; This is a main reason why Donald Trump has successfully attained the presidency. In fact, the inspiration for President Trump’s idea of a giant wall was drawn from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his “successful” separation barrier that runs 440 miles to keep Palestinians out of occupied land. According to The Trump Campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump discussed, “at length Israel’s successful experience with a security fence that helped secure its borders.” This past September, the two met to discuss US-Israeli relations. On January 22nd, President Trump invited Netanyahu to visit Washington in February.
Netanyahu’s support doesn’t end there; he has previously warned The United States about a “Second Mexico” and shares a similarly xenophobic mentality with Donald Trump. Together, their rhetoric alienates, criminalizes, and demonizes ethnic groups they label to be dangerous.
After doing the research and digging into the complex and intertwined histories of Latinxs and Palestinians, my conscience will not let me ignore Palestinian resistance. I would feel hypocritical calling for Latinx and Indigenous resistance without supporting Palestinian resistance; Palestine is important to me both as a Latina and as a human being, and I am calling on all Latinxs to stand in solidarity with Palestine.
What's next? Read "Fighting Occupation, Colonialism, & Apartheid With Your Makeup Collection" to learn about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement and what you can do to help.