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Che Guevara’s visit to Gaza

Che Guevara’s visit to Gaza in 1959 was the first sign of the transformation of the Zionist colonization of Palestine from a regional conflict to a global struggle against colonialism. The trigger was the Bandung conference in 1955 and the resulting Non-Aligned Movement, whose members had just thrown off the yoke of foreign domination. Nasser’s stature, as a world leader in the fight against imperialism and colonialism, led world leaders to see for themselves the devastating consequences of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, clearly demonstrated in the Gaza refugee camps.

The Gaza Strip became the symbol of Palestine. This little sliver of land (1.3% of Palestine) was the only place where the Palestinian flag was still flown. It bore a large part of Al-Nakba’s burden when it became a temporary refuge for the inhabitants of 247 villages, driven from their homes in southern Palestine. The southern villages were subjected to ethnic cleansing by the Israeli military operation “Yoav”, also called “The Ten Plagues”, in October 1948. Not a single Palestinian village was left standing. This act of total ethnic cleansing was fueled by several massacres carried out in Al-Dawayima, Bait Daras, Isdud, Burayr, among others.

The refugees, now corralled inside the Gaza Strip, were not immune to Israeli attacks, even after being expelled. Al-Majdal hospital was bombed in November 1948, as was the nearby village of Jura, which were in the area of ​​the former Asqalan and from which many future Hamas leaders would emerge. In January 1949, the Israelis bombed food distribution centers at Dair Al-Balah and Khan Yunis at rush hour, leaving more than 200 bodies decimated by air raids. These attacks led the generally demure Red Cross to describe them as a “horror scene.”

The occupation of Palestinian land and the expulsion of its population gave rise to a resistance movement, then known as the fedayeen. These resistance fighters crossed the Armistice line to attack the occupants of their land.

To stop fedayeen raids and eliminate the idea of ​​resistance, Israel continually attacked refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. In August 1953, Unit 101, commanded by Ariel Sharon, attacked the Al-Bureij refugee camp, killing 43 people in their beds. In August 1955, Israel, again led by Ariel Sharon, blew up the Khan Yunis police station, killing 74 policemen. The same year, the Israelis killed 37 Egyptian soldiers at the Gaza train station and another 28 who were on their way to defend them. The latest attack changed the course of history in the region.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who assumed power in Egypt in July 1952, signed the first arms deal with the Soviet bloc for weapons the British denied him. He also authorized the resistance of the fedayeen by officially organizing them under the command of Colonel Mustafa Hafez.

On October 29, 1956, Israel invaded the Sinai along with Great Britain and France. The attacking Israeli soldiers entered Khan Yunis on November 3, 1956, dragged all the males between the ages of 15 and 50 out of their homes and shot them in cold blood on the threshold of their own house or against a wall in the main square of the town. 520 names were recorded on the list of those killed. The following week another massacre of refugees was perpetrated in Rafah. There was a deafening silence in the West about these massacres until the talented cartoonist Joe Sacco immortalized them in his book “Gaza Footnotes.” [See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOWY8Qdj5K0 ]

These tragic events came to the world’s attention when Nasser became one of the recognized leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement that began with the Bandung conference in 1955. The Gaza Strip and Palestine came to light worldwide as the latest case of colonialism and ethnic cleansing.

As a consequence of this political development, Che Guevara, a Latin American revolutionary, came to visit the Gaza Strip at the invitation of Nasser.

Guevara’s visit was transcendental. It was the first time that a famous revolutionary had come to see firsthand the devastation wrought by Al-Nakba. He was enthusiastically received by resistance leaders such as Abdullah Abu Sitta, leader of the fedayeen and leader of the southern front in the 1936 Arab Revolt (in photo 1, the first from the right in Arab clothing) and Qassem El -Farra (photo 1, third from the right), secretary of the Khan Yunis municipality who kept records of the fedayeen and their activities. Both were members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

After the visit, Cuba gave scholarships to Palestinian students, granted citizenship to stranded Palestinians and held many conferences in support of Palestine.

During the Israeli offensive against Gaza in the summer of 2014, Cuba sent tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza and received injuries. Support was extended to most Latin American countries. El Salvador, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil withdrew their ambassadors from Israel in protest. Bolivian President Evo Morales has labeled Israel a “terrorist state” and restricted Israelis from entering the country. The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, “strongly condemned the actions of the illegal state of Israel against the heroic Palestinian people.” The Solidarity with Palestine campaign in Nicaragua was very explicit both in the official and popular spheres. The presidents of Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela issued a joint statement calling for an end to the violence and an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

In the 1950s, Guevara was not the only well-known figure in the Non-Aligned Movement to support Palestinian rights in a free Palestine. Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, also came to visit Gaza around the same time (photo 5). That was the beginning of the support of India and other Asian countries for Palestine.

Today Palestine is the symbol of the struggle for liberation from the last and longest-lasting colonialist project. That is why more than three quarters of the world’s countries support Palestine at the United Nations. The few that did not are the remnants of the old colonialist countries of the West which, in the first place, are the ones that created the Palestinian colonization project in the first place.


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