Cuba has stood unswervingly by Palestine since 1947 guided by its own rejection of imperialist lawlessness, writes BERNARD REGAN
On January 12 2024 Cuba announced its intention to support the request of the Republic of South Africa to initiate proceedings against Israel in the International Court of Justice.
South Africa’s charge is that Israel is guilty of committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Cuba has a long record of supporting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. This record even pre-dates the 1959 Revolution.
In November 1947 Dr Ernesto Dihigo speaking on behalf of Cuba at the United Nations said that Cuba denounced the violation of international law by the United Kingdom. “The Balfour Declaration, in our opinion,” he said, “ is completely without legal value, since the British government offered in it something that it had no right to dispose of, because it was not its own.”
The Cuban revolutionaries saw Palestine as part of the fight against colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism.
On June 18 1959, just a six months after the birth of the Revolution, Che Guevara and Raul Castro visited Al Burajj Refugee camp in Gaza, then under the control of the Egyptian government of Gamal Nasser.
Che and Raul were touring countries at the forefront of the struggle against imperialism, talking to leaders and discussing how unity could be built across the continents.
Che reaffirmed Cuba’s support for Palestine at the UN general assembly on December 11 1964, making an excoriating critique of the role of US imperialism and extending solidarity, among others, to the “Arabs of Palestine.” He attacked the role of US imperialism in blocking the rights of peoples to self-determination and for interfering in the internal and sovereign affairs of countries across the continents.
The Brazilian president’s move comes after the leftist leader was declared persona non grata in Israel for comparing its genocidal war on Gaza to Hitler’s extermination of Jews.
Brazil recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv for talks on Monday after Israel’s foreign minister declared Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva persona non grata for condemning the Israeli genocide in Gaza.
Israeli state broadcaster Kan reported that Lula recalled Brazilian Ambassador Frederico Meyer amid the escalating row over comments the leftist leader made over the weekend in Ethiopia. The Brazilian news site Carta Capital reported that Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieria called Israeli Ambassador Daniel Zonshine for a meeting on Monday.
This, after Lula told attendees at the African Union (A.U.) summit in Addis Ababa on Sunday that “what’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide.”
“It’s not a war of soldiers against soldiers,” Lula continued. “It’s a war between a highly prepared army and women and children.”
“It is important to remember that in 2010 Brazil was the first country to recognize the Palestinian state,” he said. “What is happening in the Gaza Strip and with the Palestinian people did not exist at any other historical moment. In fact, it existed when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”
Lula asked: “Who will help rebuild those houses that were destroyed? Who will repay the lives of 30,000 people who have died, 70,000 who are injured? Who will return the lives of the children who died without knowing why they were dying?”
According to Palestinian officials, at least 29,092 Palestinians—mostly women and children—have been killed, 69,028 wounded, and more than 7,000 others left missing and presumed dead under the rubble as a result of Israel’s 136-day assault on the besieged coastal enclave of 2.3 million people, around 90% of whom have been forcibly displaced.
Lula’s remarks were well received by A.U. summit attendees, who issued a statement condemning Israel’s “brutal” war on Gaza.
“Gaza is being completely annihilated and its people are deprived of all of their rights,” declared A.U. Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat, who added that he “condemns the Israeli operation, which is unparalleled in the history of humanity.”
Mahamat underscored his support for South Africa as it leads a Gaza genocide case at the International Court of Justice, which found in a provisional ruling last month that Israel is “plausibly” committing genocide against the Palestinian people.
Israeli leaders were incensed by Lula’s remarks. Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said da Silva had “crossed a line.”
“The words of the president of Brazil are shameful and alarming,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is a trivialization of the Holocaust and an attempt to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called Lula’s comments “shameful and grave.”
Katz summoned Meyer for a reprimand at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, where the Jewish Brazilian diplomat—whose country sent 20,000 troops to fight the Nazis in World War II—was paraded before a list of Jews killed by the Third Reich.
“We will not forget and we will not forgive,” Katz told Meyer. “In my name, and in the name of all Israeli citizens, tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he retracts his statements.”
Persona non grata is Latin for “unwelcome person.” Legally, “it refers to the practice of a state prohibiting a diplomat from entering the country as a diplomat, or censuring a diplomat already resident in the country for conduct unbecoming of the status of a diplomat,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Celso Amorim, a former foreign and defense minister who now serves as Lula’s chief adviser for international affairs, called Katz’s declaration “absurd.”
“It only increases Israel’s isolation,” Amorim told Brazilian journalist Andréia Sadi. “Lula is sought all over the world and at the moment, Israel is persona non grata.”
Palestine defenders in Brazil and beyond embraced Israel’s rebuke of Lula. The Arab Palestinian Federation of Brazil said on social media that it’s “an honor for Lula’s biography” to be “persona non grata in the colonial occupation that calls itself a country.”
Switzerland’s Young Socialists propose a 50% tax on inheritances exceeding 50 million francs, aiming to generate funds for climate.
Switzerland, a nation known for its political stability and economic prosperity, is witnessing a significant political movement steered by the Young Socialists, the youth wing of the Social Democrats, the country’s second-largest party. They have successfully collected enough signatures to trigger a national referendum. Their target? The wealthy population of the country. Their proposal seeks to impose a hefty 50% tax on inheritances exceeding 50 million francs (approximately $59 million).
A Green Cause at Heart
The Young Socialists’ initiative is driven by a compelling intent: to generate funds for combating climate change. They believe that the affluent can and should contribute more to the climate cause. Their proposition, if successful, could generate an estimated 6 billion francs annually. These funds would be allocated exclusively for climate protection measures, contributing significantly to Switzerland’s efforts to combat global warming and transition to more sustainable practices.
Reflecting a Global Trend
This move doesn’t stand in isolation. It reflects a broader global trend of increased activism and policy initiatives aimed at addressing environmental concerns, particularly the financial aspects of combating climate change. From protests on the streets to policy proposals in the halls of power, the climate change struggle is increasingly becoming a central issue in contemporary politics. The Young Socialists’ proposition underscores this shift, signifying a push towards leveraging the wealth of the richest individuals in society to finance the transition to more sustainable practices and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The OCISA group formed with the aim of ousting so-called ‘Labour leader’ Keir Starmer has selected Corruption Watch UK director Andrew Feinstein, a Jewish former South African MP and adviser to Nelson Mandela, to stand against Starmer in Holborn and St Pancras in the next general election. Feinstein now lives in the seat.
Feinstein has also consistently stood against Israel’s apartheid and genocide in Gaza, arguing that the same tactics his ANC party in South Africa used to bring down apartheid there must be used against Israel and pointing his social media followers to information about Israel’s slaughter of innocents. Starmer, in contrast, has said Israel has the ‘right’ even to impose the blockade on Gaza that is causing horrific starvation and disease.
Water price hikes: we need a mass movement for public ownership
UNITE’S Sharon Graham calls the water industry “a symbol of the failure of privatisation writ large.”
She is right. The only reaction to water bosses’ announcement that they will raise prices above inflation from April should be a mass campaign for renationalisation now.
Water suppliers claim they need to raise bills because they are planning big investments to cut down on leaks. How dare they?
Since privatisation these crooks have paid out over £70 billion in dividends to shareholders, loaded the sector — debt-free when privatised — with over £50bn in debt and raised bills by over 40 per cent.
While milking the system for everything it’s worth they have neglected basic maintenance and repairs. In London and the south-east alone, water regulator Ofwat calculated last year that 600 million litres, equivalent to 270 Olympic swimming pools, are leaked from pipes every single day.
They have behaved with utter contempt for the environment, discharging untreated sewage into our waterways thousands of times. They have continued to pay executives millions even when fined for their illegal ecological vandalism.
THE director of public prosecutions is appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn the acquittal of two peaceful protesters for insulting Iain Duncan Smith.
Ruth Wood and Radical Haslam were charged over an incident in Manchester during the October 2021 Conservative Party conference at which both called the former work and pensions secretary “Tory scum” and Ms Wood added “F*** off out of Manchester.”
That their case even reached the High Court should have set alarm bells ringing over the creeping restriction of free speech in Britain. That court’s not guilty verdict was welcome, though its consideration of their motives for insulting Mr Duncan Smith was surely unnecessary: rudeness to a politician should not be considered criminal, end of.
THE tragic human cost of the Bibby Stockholm barge was revealed by MPs today as the Tories’ overspend on asylum accommodation landed taxpayers with an extra £2.6 billion bill.
Dame Diana Johnson said asylum-seekers were facing “claustrophobic” conditions that could amount to a breach of human rights after the home affairs select committee visited the Portland vessel.
The committee chairwoman wrote to illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson to set out serious concerns about the wellbeing of asylum-seekers on the barge.
She said it was “disheartened to see some of the living conditions on the Bibby Stockholm” after finding “many individuals having to share small, cramped cabins (originally designed for one person), often with people (up to six) they do not know (some of whom spoke a different language to them).”
“These crowded conditions were clearly contributing to a decline in mental health for some of the residents, and they could amount to violations of the human rights of asylum-seekers,” she added.
The committee complained of “discrepancies” between the accounts of officials and asylum-seekers themselves, noting MPs received “inconsistent” information regarding access to GP services for those on board.
AN ELECTED Labour mayor who was barred by the party from standing in May’s mayoral election has launched his election campaign standing as an independent.
North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll attacked Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in a packed community hall in Sunderland on Thursday night asking: “What if – it’s a general election year – Keir Starmer says, ‘here’s my 10 pledges’ – would you trust him to keep them?”
He criticised Labour MPs and other politicians who changed their positions each time a policy was altered by the leadership.
“The day I left the Labour Party was the day Labour said they would adopt the Conservative policy of the two-child benefit cap — a policy that plunged 250,000 kids into poverty at a stroke,” he said.
“And all those Labour frontbenchers – and Labour mayoral candidates – who’d said that policy was ‘heinous’ and ‘cruel’ changed their tune, and said, ‘ah, well, you know, public finances,’ and meekly swallowed the party line that it’s OK to keep children in poverty.
At the International Court of Justice, South Africa spoke on behalf of the billions of people who oppose Israel’s genocide in Gaza — and put Western governments to shame for their deplorable complicity.
‘There is no safe space in Gaza and the world should be ashamed.’
Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh’s closing speech at the International Court of Justice will stay with me forever. Devastating and forensic in equal measure, Ní Ghrálaigh spoke for millions of people around the world who have been utterly appalled by the horrors unfolding live on our screens. ‘This is the first genocide in history where its victims are broadcasting their own destruction in real time,’ she said, ‘in the desperate and so far vain hope that the world might do something.’
Here was an Irish lawyer — who had previously worked on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry — speaking on behalf of South Africa, in support of the Palestinian people. For the Irish and the South Africans, the plight of occupied peoples is only too familiar. It should not come as any surprise, then, that South Africa’s case opened by placing Israel’s latest activity ‘within the broader context of Israel’s 25-year apartheid, 56-year occupation and 16-year siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.’ It was remarkably refreshing to hear South Africa articulate something so obvious yet routinely ignored by politicians in this country. Exposing the shallow state of our own political system, the hearing will go down in history as a momentous display of international solidarity from a people who know what it’s like to endure — and dismantle — apartheid.
This solidarity has grown and grown; South Africa’s case eventually gained the support of many countries, including Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia, as well as interstate actors like The Arab League. Politicians in this country can deny it all they want: millions of people around the world are desperate to see an end to the massacre of human beings, and will continue to support efforts to build a just and lasting peace.
We were required to be at the Court before 6am to gain entry, queuing in desperately cold weather. The International Court of Justice in the Hague is a beautiful building. It was built after the First World War, when there was real hope that the League of Nations and its judicial system would bring about peace. There was something poignant about Palestinian people who had lost relatives in Gaza and the West Bank, who were outside the Court to bear witness in search of justice.
South Africa presented its case against Israel under the Genocide Convention. The hearing was devastating — horror after horror, laid out in plain sight for all to see. The arguments were brilliantly marshalled by South Africa, and they should be commended for doing so. It is regrettable that most of our media did not deem these arguments important enough to broadcast. The BBC did not provide a live stream of South Africa’s case, choosing instead only to show Israel’s response the next day. It is to the credit of Al Jazeera that they not only live-streamed the hearing, but provided continuous and accurate coverage of the conflict, despite witnessing the deaths of their colleagues in the process.
South Africa pointed out that the Genocide Convention existed to protect all people, and that the Israeli action met the requirements of the convention in its deliberate and systematic destruction of civilian life in Gaza. South Africa also cited several statements from Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians pledging to diminish the population of Gaza by at least 90 percent. South Africa demonstrated what Palestinians have been trying to tell us all along: this was not a war of equals, but the systemic slaughter of the Palestinian people.
South Africa is determined not only to be on the right side of history, but change the course of it — and if the International Court of Justice was true to its name, it would give due consideration to South Africa’s case. It would find that the bombardment is wrong, the bombardment is illegal, and the bombardment represents the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. And it would rule that acts of genocide have been committed by the Israeli Government.
In the meantime, the South African case asked for interim relief, which would require a rapid call for an immediate ceasefire. It is a call that should be made by any political representative anywhere in the world committed to the protection of civilian life. It is to the great shame of the British and American political systems that relatively few elected representatives in either country have supported this call for an end to the loss of human life.
There is no way forward other than a ceasefire observed by all sides, which would present the opportunity then to map out a just and peaceful future. This is a decision to be made by the Palestinian people, not by those of us who support them. Acts of solidarity cannot entail telling others what to do.
Outside, after the hearing finished, the fantastic team of lawyers took questions from a huge group of journalists on the steps of the ICJ, in utterly freezing conditions. I was there on behalf of the Progressive International. We held a media event in the street in front of us, and made the case that the popular voice of ordinary people around the world is one of peace, and that we would campaign for as long as it takes to bring about justice for the Palestinian people.
‘We did what we could. Remember us.’ Ní Ghrálaigh finished her address by showing two photos of a whiteboard at a hospital in Gaza. The first showed a handwritten message on it by a doctor. The second photo was of the same whiteboard after an Israeli strike on the hospital. It showed the board completely destroyed. The author of the message had been killed.
Millions are appalled, watching in real time the destruction of human life in Gaza. History will not forget those who refused to treat Palestinian and Israeli lives with equal worth. But neither will it forget those who are determined to campaign for a more peaceful world.
About the Author
Jeremy Corbyn is the member of parliament for Islington North.
The move will save families up to £1,000 per child over the two-year period, according to analysis by City Hall.
The Mayor of London is being praised for rolling out free school meals for another year for primary school pupils across the city, as families grapple with the cost of living crisis with millions more pushed into poverty under Tory austerity and soaring bills.
Sadiq Khan put forward plans worth £140 million to extend universal provision of hot meals for the 2024/25 school year, after piloting the approach in state-funded primaries across the Capital from September.
The move will save families up to £1,000 per child over the two-year period, according to analysis by City Hall.
The Mayor of London said that he was ‘thrilled to extend this lifeline for another year’.
Research from the Child Poverty Action Group, shows that nationally, around 800,000 children who are living in poverty are currently missing out on free school meals, due to restrictions on eligibility.
Khan’s scheme provides lunches for every other London pupil not already covered under government funding.
As we welcome in the new year, we must raise our collective voices for sustainability, peace and justice more urgently than ever, says JEREMY CORBYN MP
There has to be an alternative which refuses to accept Tory tax policies that favour the better-off. An alternative that ends the scandal of the two-child benefit policy. An alternative that builds council housing. An alternative that takes energy, water, rail and mail into democratic public ownership.
An alternative that challenges the dehumanisation of human beings seeking asylum. The rhetoric against the so-called “boat people” is appalling, racist and fuels the most dangerous forces in our society. Their heart-rending tales should shame anybody who seeks to outsource their responsibilities to fellow human beings trying to survive.
There are more refugees than ever in this world, more desperate people who want to survive, and more people who want to live and contribute to our collective good. It requires political leadership and vision to stand up and say: refugees are human beings, and we need an immigration system that treats everybody with dignity, care and respect.
Refugees are victims of environmental disaster. They are victims of persecution. They are victims of war. We know this because we can see it live on our TV screens.
Over 20,000 people have already been killed by the Israeli assault on Gaza, in response to the 1,200 killed on October 7 by Hamas. Meanwhile, there has been a horrifying increase in settler violence on the West Bank, as the Israeli Defence Force supports a system of oppression and apartheid.
Only an immediate ceasefire can bring about a halt to the killings. That should be the first step to an international demand for the end to the occupation, and justice for the Palestinian refugees in camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
THREE British arms firms supplying Israel with weapons were blockaded today when activists, local community members and tenants’ union Acorn went into action in defence of Gaza.
Acorn is active in towns and cities across Britain fighting on issues such as tenants’ rights, public transport and the cost-of-profits crisis.
Activists targeted weapons manufacturers in Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds today.
In Birmingham, the entrances to aerospace and defence manufacturer Meggitt were blocked; in Bristol, protesters turned away workers at defence and security manufacturer Leonardo; and in Leeds, the offices of BAE System were blockaded.
All three firms manufacture or provide components and systems for military aircraft being used in the bombardment of Gaza.
Acorn chairwoman Chelsea Phillips said: “Acorn will not stand by while entire communities are obliterated while ordinary people just like us are murdered in their tens of thousands by the Israeli government with the support of our government and using horrific weapons of war built by British companies.