Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cuban Ballplayers Still Punished by the Embargo

Yoan Moncada, the 19-year-old Cuban baseball phenom, agreed on Monday to sign with the Boston Red Sox. He is the latest talent from the baseball-crazy nation to join the Major Leagues. Moncada will receive a $31.5 million signing bonus, which should make him financially secure for life. But because of the U.S. government's continued economic war on the Cuban people, in the form of the 54-year-old embargo, Moncada - unlike MLB prospects from any other country on the planet - will be forced to surrender residency in his native land to realize his professional dreams.

Since September 2013, the Cuban government has allowed its athletes to sign contracts in foreign sports leagues. The year before, President Raúl Castro announced that the government would drop the requirement for Cubans to obtain an exit visa before leaving the country. So, the only restrictions on Cuban athletes are from the U.S. government.

Earlier this month, Moncada became a free agent when MLB changed its policy regarding Cuban players. Previously, prospective ballplayers had to spend at least a year in a third country to establish permanent residency, and receive an unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), before they would be granted a work visa. Since at least the fall, Moncada has been living in Guatemala, where he showed up legally with his Cuban passport.

With recent changes to the Cuban Asset Control regulations spurred by Obama's intention to normalize relations with the revolutionary nation, the strict licensing requirements have been eliminated. Similarly, American travelers do not need specific licenses for traveling to Cuba if they meet one of 12 categories eligible to travel to Cuba.

This is good news for Moncada, who does not have to spend more time in a foreign country away from his family and unable to pursue his professional career to satisfy an arbitrary bureaucratic requirement, possibly to detox from Communism or obtain a satisfactory physical distance from Fidel.

The OFAC regulations are issued pursuant to the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA) of 1917. As I have written previously, the TWEA is only applicable to nations at war with the United States, and since the U.S. has never declared war on Cuba, the application of regulations pursuant to it the archaic law is illegitimate. So, there is no legal basis to prevent the transfer of U.S. dollars to Cuban nationals. Yet, the U.S. government continues the senseless and cruel embargo, as it has for more than half a century.

When any Cuban decides to play in MLB, they must leave the country. This can be utilized for maximum propaganda value. "Another one of Cuba's best players has left the island, the latest in a wave of defections that isn't expected to slow down," Baseball America wrote in 2013, omitting the reason why the player "defected."

The tales of defection from Communism are an old trick of the U.S. government and media. In 1980, a handful of refugees sought asylum in the Peruvian embassy and were granted refugee status in Costa Rica. When the planes landed in Costa Rica, they were met with hordes of international press, who milked the "escape" from Castro and Communist Cuba. This spurred more asylum seekers and attempts by people with families in the U.S. to reunite.

When Castro saw how the U.S. used Cubans who left the island as propaganda, he allowed anyone who wanted to leave to go - to the United States. If the U.S. was going to pretend to care about people leaving Cuba, let them take responsibility for the "refugees" themselves, instead of using them to score political points with a sensationalist headline. The result was the infamous Mariel boatlift.

When the U.S. government implemented the embargo in 1962, they knew it would produce economic suffering that would drive many people to leave and seek financial improvement elsewhere. Then they could turn around and criticize the Cuban government for it. This was an intended consequence of the policy.

The economic costs of the embargo are devastating and well-documented. Last year, Cuba lost more than $3.9 billion in trade from the embargo, bringing the inflation-adjusted total since 1962 to $1.1 trillion, according to the Cuban government.

The Cuban government has fiercely and consistently denounced the "genocidal blockade policy" that was instituted "to bring about 'hunger, desperation and overthrow of [the Cuban] Government'," they write, citing a memorandum from a former State Department official.

Many products Cuba imports from third countries must be purchased at many times the price it would cost to by from the United States, as the Cuban Ministry of Education is forced to do with Braille machines.

Among the many areas of Cuban life impacted by the embargo, the greatest suffering is felt in the public health sector. The Cuban government describes the "permanent lead-weight" that causes "severe adverse effects on the health and wellbeing of the Cuban people. This basically includes the need of acquiring medicines, reagents, spare parts for diagnostic and treatment equipment, instruments and other supplies in distant markets." They describe many medications and specialized medical equipment the country cannot obtain because of restrictions imposed by the U.S. blockade.

Aside from Cubans suffering specific health conditions such as cancers and tumors that cannot be adequately treated because medications and equipment cannot be obtained, there are the tremendous mental health impacts caused by forcing people to leave their country, their families and their friends.

Imagine that an American baseball college star was not selected in the Major League Baseball draft, but decided he would like to pursue a career in the Japanese League because he still wanted to play professionally. But say the Japanese government - punishing American citizens out of spite because the Truman government dropped two atomic bombs on the country - refused to give him a visa. The American player would have to establish residency in a third country, say South Korea, and sign an affidavit with the Japanese baseball league that he is no longer a resident of the United States and will not return there. Such is the situation for Moncada.

Several years ago, as a rookie preparing to play for the Cienfuegos team in the Cuban baseball league, Moncada discussed his expectations with OnCuba: "I hope to have a good result from the work of my coaches and the support of my colleagues who have helped me, and I wish to give a good show to the people of Cuba."

Now he will have to leave behind those same coaches and colleagues, as well as the people of Cuba. Of course, he will also have to leave behind his family. And he will not be able to come back. Presumably his close family will be able to obtain visas to come visit him in the United States, but they will not be able to live there year round. And Moncada will not be able to live in Cuba during the offseason, as most Dominican or Japanese players do. This will undoubtedly take a toll on the 19-year-old prospect.

Many Cubans already populate Major League rosters: Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, José Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, Yoenis Cespedes of the Detroit Tigers, and Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds are a few of the biggest starts. And more are likely on the way.

"Major League Baseball is smack in the middle of a Cuban revolution, one that's ushered in more elite talent from the island than ever before," wrote Jonah Keri on Grantland last summer.

For the sake of Moncada and all the Cuban players who have sacrificed their former lives in their native country for the riches and prestige of Major League Baseball, let's hope that the U.S. government will recognize one more punitive and heartless effect of their destructive, illegal embargo, and end it as soon as possible.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fidel Castro and the Cuban Role in Defeating Apartheid

Until the fall of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974, apartheid in South Africa was secure. There was no substantial resistance anywhere in southern Africa. Pretoria’s neighbors comprised a buffer zone that protected the racist regime: Namibia, their immediate neighbor which they had occupied for 60 years; white-ruled Rhodesia; and the Portuguese-ruled colonies of Angola and Mozambique. The rebels who fought against minority rule in each of these countries, operating without any safe haven to organize and train, were powerless to challenge the status quo. South Africa’s buffer would have remained intact for the foreseeable future, solidifying apartheid and preventing any significant opposition, but for one man: Fidel Castro.

In October of 1975, South Africa invaded Angola at the behest of the U.S. government to overthrow the left-wing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the soon-to-be independent country. Without Cuban assistance, the apartheid army would have easily cruised into Luanda, crushed the MPLA, and installed a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime.  

Cuba’s intervention in Angola managed to change the course of that country and reverberate throughout Africa. By ensuring independence from the white supremacists, Angola was able to preserve its own revolution and maintain its role as a base for armed resistance groups fighting for liberation in nearby countries.

In the American version of Cold War history, Cuba was carrying out aggression and acting as proxies of the Soviet Union. Were it not for one persistent and meticulous scholar, we might never have known that these are nothing more than dishonest fabrications. In his monumental books Conflicting Missions and Visions of Freedom, historian Piero Gleijeses uses thousands of documents from Cuban military archives, as well as U.S. and South African archives, to recount a dramatic, historical confrontation between tiny Cuba and Washington and its ally apartheid South Africa. Gleijeses is the only foreign scholar to have gained access to the closed Cuban archives. He obtained thousands of pages of documents, and made them available to the Wilson Center Digital Archive, which has posted the invaluable collection online. 

Gleijeses’s research made possible a look behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable acts of internationalism of the century. “Internationalism – the duty to help others – was at the core of the Cuban revolution,” Gleijeses writes. “For Castro’s followers, and they were legion, this was not rhetoric… By 1975, approximately 1,000 Cuban aid workers had gone to a dozen African countries, South Yemen, and North Vietnam. In 1976-77, technical assistance was extended to Jamaica and Guyana in the Western Hemisphere; to Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia in Africa; and to Laos in Asia. The CIA noted: ‘The Cuban technicians are primarily involved in rural development and educational and public health projects - areas in which Cuba has accumulated expertise and has experienced success at home.’” [1]

The fight against apartheid, for the liberation of people who suffered for centuries under colonialism and racial subjugation, was truly a David versus Goliath conflict. In addition to having a strong military itself and being armed with nuclear weapons, South Africa enjoyed the diplomatic support of the United States, the world’s largest superpower. In this context, Cuba’s intervention – a poor Caribbean island under relentless attack from an unrivaled hegemon against a racist juggernaut backed by the world’s leading imperial powers - is even more remarkable.

Explaining how the significance of Cuba’s role in Angola is “without precedent,” Gleijeses writes: “No other Third World country has projected its military power beyond its immediate neighborhood.” He notes that while the Soviet Union later sent aid and weapons, they never would have become involved unless Castro had taken the lead (which he did in spite of Russian opposition). “The engine was Cuba. It was the Cubans who pushed the Soviets to help Angola. It was they who stood guard in Angola for many long years, thousands of miles from home, to prevent the South Africans from overthrowing the MPLA government.” [2]

White Elitism Has Suffered an Irreversible Blow

It had become clear that the left-wing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the largest and most widely-supported of three warring groups, would prevail and gain control of the country. Afraid of having a government staunchly opposed to white domination so close to home, South Africa rushed to prevent self-determination for the Angolans. They were aided by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who believed the threat of black liberation in Africa, which would lead to local control of their own resources at the expense of foreign investors, could still be contained.

South Africa launched an invasion to topple the MPLA and install the guerilla Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the smallest and least popular of the three groups, as a puppet dictator in Angola. Savimbi, a collaborator with the Portuguese dictatorship before Angolan independence, was known for his ruthlessness, terrorism, and hunger for power. An avowed anti-communist who had already aligned with South Africa, Savimbi would have made the perfect Angolan facade for apartheid control.

Agostinho Neto, the President of Angola, appealed to Cuba to send troops to ward of the apartheid army’s invasion. On November 4, Castro agreed. Several days later the first Cuban special forces troops boarded planes for Angola, where they would launch Operation Carlota.

As the South African troops advanced inside Angola, they made remarkably easy gains through scarcely defended villages that put up little – if any – resistance. But by November 9, Cuban Special Forces had arrived and went immediately to the battlefield. In the Battle of Quifangondo, the Angolans, supported by Cuban troops, made a decisive stand. They turned back the apartheid army and prevented their easy march to Luanda, where that same day the Portuguese military left Angola and Neto declared independence.

Throughout November, the Cubans prevented further South African advances towards the Angolan capital. On November 25, the Cuban troops laid a trap for the racist army in the Battle of Ebo. As the South African Defence Force (SADF) tried to cross a bridge, Cubans hidden along the banks of the river attacked. They destroyed seven armored cars and killed upwards of 90 enemy soldiers.

Cuban troops kept pouring into Angola throughout the rest of the year. As many as 4,000 had arrived by the end of 1975, roughly the same number as South African invaders. Unable to penetrate deeper into Angolan territory, and facing a barrage of negative criticism after international media discovered SADF troops, rather than mercenaries, were behind the invasion, the South African advance ended.

The impact of the Cuban victory resonated far beyond the battlefield. More important than the strategic gain, the victory of black Cuban and Angolan troops against the whites of the South African racist army shattered the illusion of white invincibility.

A South African military analyst described the meaning of his country’s defeat: “The reality is that they have won, are winning, and are not White; and that psychological edge, that advantage the White man has enjoyed and exploited over 300 years of colonialism and empire, is slipping away. White elitism has suffered an irreversible blow in Angola, and Whites who have been there know it.” [3]

American officials claimed that the Soviets masterminded the operation with Cubans acting as their proxies. They couldn’t fathom Castro acting on its own, rather than as Moscow’s puppet. Such claims were repeated for years. American politicians went as far as falsely accusing Cuban troops of being mercenaries. But the record makes clear that these were in reality nothing more than slanderous lies.

The Americans were furious. “Kissinger’s response to Castro’s intervention was to throw mercenaries and weapons at the problem,” Gleijeses writes. [4] The Secretary of State was afraid that after their successful intervention in Angola, Cuba would put the rest of the racist regimes in the region in jeopardy. “We can’t say Rhodesia is not a danger because it is a bad case. If the Cubans are involved there, Namibia is next and after that South Africa, itself… If the Cubans move, I recommend we act vigorously. We can’t permit another move without suffering a great loss.” [5]

Support and Solidarity with Revolutionary Movements

Though South Africa had lost the battle, it by no means had surrendered the war. The apartheid regime still had designs on toppling the Angolan revolution and using it for its own ends. “It would be the centerpiece of the Constellation of Southern African States that they sought to create,” writes Gleijeses. “The concept had first emerged under Prime Minister Vorster, but it was PW Botha who had given it ‘a substance previously lacking.’ The constellation, the generals hoped, would stretch beyond South Africa, its Bantustans, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, and Swaziland, to embrace Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire, and a nominally independent Namibia. The black members of the constellation would be anticommunist, tolerant of apartheid, and eager to persecute the ANC (the African National Congress in South Africa) and SWAPO (the South West Africa People’s Organization in Namibia).” [6]

Cuba was aware of this. “In Southern Africa Angola today, more so than a year ago, is the bastion of the fight against the racists and the unquestionable revolutionary vanguard. Imperialism knows this,” wrote Jorge Risquet, head of the Cuban Civilian Mission in Angola to President Neto. “Imperialism has to know what Angola does for Zimbabwe, what Angola does for Namibia, what Angola does for South Africa. Angola, bravely, lends real support to the movements of Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa. In concrete terms, nothing less than training in its territory 20,000 combatants from those three countries oppressed by the racists.” [7]

With the omnipresent threat against Angola, Cuba maintained a large contingent of around 30,000 troops at the behest of the MPLA to prevent another invasion. In a letter to the political bureau of the MPLA after Neto’s death, Fidel wrote of the sacrifice Cuba was willing to make.

“Cuba cannot keep indefinitely carrying out a military cooperation effort of the magnitude it currently is in Angola, which limits our possibilities of support and solidarity with the revolutionary movement in other parts of the world and defense of our own country,” Fidel wrote. But he made clear that Cuba had no plans to abandon Angola: “I want to assure you, above all, that in these bitter and difficult circumstances, Cuba will be unconditionally at your side.” [8]

Meanwhile, South African aggression was relentless. In 1983, the SADF bombed Angolan towns and pushed nearly 90 miles into Angolan territory. When the UN moved to condemn the invasion, the United States made sure the censure would not include sanctions, as they had done for more than a decade.

The apartheid regime used Washington’s diplomatic shield to keep its dreams of a Constellation of Southern African States alive. The International Court of Justice had decisively rejected the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia in a 1971 Advisory Opinion as “illegal.” The court declared that “South Africa is under obligation to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately and thus put an end to its occupation of the territory.” Seven years later, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 435 reiterating its objective of “the withdrawal of South Africa’s illegal administration from Namibia and the transfer of power to the people of Namibia.”

Washington’s support enabled South Africa to ignore the ICJ and UN Security Council. The apartheid government, understanding that free elections would mean a SWAPO victory, refused to comply. “The South Africans took advantage of U.S. goodwill to further their foreign policy aims,” Gleijeses writes. [9]

In 1978, a South African massacre against a refugee camp in Cassinga killed more than 600 Namibians. The U.S. opposed sanctions in the Security Council. President Carter took the excuses of the apartheid regime at face value: “They’ve claimed to have withdrawn and have not left any South African troops in Angola. So we hope it’s just a transient strike in retaliation, and we hope it’s all over.” Even after Angolans foiled an attack by South African commandos against Gulf Oil pipelines inside Angola in 1985, which would have killed U.S. citizens, the U.S. government continued protecting their racist allies.

The Whole World is Against Apartheid

As international opinion turned, Castro sensed that apartheid in South Africa would not be able to last much longer. Despite the growing cost to Cuba of maintaining about 30,000 troops in Angola, Castro was confident that he would be able to wait out the inevitable downfall of the racist regime.

“Today they are totally on the defensive in the political arena, in the international arena, they have a very serious economic crisis,” Castro said in a conversation with Angolan President José Eduardo Dos Santos in 1985. “I can’t say how this is going to end, what the end result of it all will be; but in my opinion, South Africa won’t recover from this crisis.” Castro said that the situation facing South Africa did not occur by chance, but that it was a result of the collective action of the people in many parts of Southern Africa fighting for their independence. “All these factors, common struggles, common sacrifices, have contributed to create this crisis for apartheid, that wasn’t created in one day, it was created over many years,” Castro said. [10]

“I believe that apartheid - I sincerely believe it - is mortally wounded,” Castro said. [11]

Nevertheless, the apartheid government kept up its relentless fight for survival. Throughout the 1980s, Angola was subjected to various incursions and invasions by South Africa. At the same time, the Angolan Armed Forces (FAPLA) fought against former Portuguese collaborator Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA army, who was backed by South Africa and the United States. Savimbi sought to roll back MPLA rule and form an alliance with the apartheid regime.

The confrontations climaxed in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in late 1987. After a forward offensive to attack UNITA stalled, Angolan and Cuban troops managed to defend the town. They then turned to the Southwest where they attempted to drive the SADF out of the country once and for all. As the Cubans asserted supremacy with their air force, they were able to take the lead on the battlefield.

With the military confrontation raging, talks started between Angola, Cuba and South Africa, with the United States moderating, in London in early 1988. In instructions to the Cuban delegation, Castro reflected on the South Africans and American mindset.

“The fact they have accepted this meeting in London at such a high level shows that they are looking for a way out because they have seen our advance and are saying, ‘How is it that Cuba has converted itself into the liquidator of Apartheid and the liberator of Africa?’ That’s what is worrying the Americans, they’re going to say: ‘They’re going to defeat South Africa!” Castro said. [12]

Castro also told his delegation that the goal was not to pursue a war or military victory, but to achieve negotiations over SADF withdrawal from Angola and implementation of Resolution 435, which would grant independence to Namibia. “They should know that we are not playing games, that our position is serious and that our objective is peace,” he said. [13]

The Cuban Commander-in-Chief’s instructions to his negotiating team show that he fully understood that Cuba stood firmly on the right side of history.

“All of Africa is in favor, all of the non-aligned movement, all the United Nations, the whole world is against Apartheid,” Castro said. “This is the most beautiful cause.” [14]

The negotiations would continue throughout the year and lead to the New York agreements in December 1988, which Gleijeses says “led to the independence of Namibia and the withdrawal of the Cuban troops from Angola.” [15]

This was the beginning of the end of apartheid.

“By the time Namibia became independent, in March 1990, apartheid was in its death throes,” Gleijeses writes. “A month earlier, Frederick de Klerk, who had replaced the ailing PW Botha as South Africa’s president, legalized the ANC and the South African Communist Party, and he freed Nelson Mandela. The apartheid government engaged in protracted and difficult negotiations that led in April 1994 to the first elections in the country’s history based on universal franchise.” [16]

The Contribution of the Cuban Internationalists

No one was more grateful for Cuba’s role in the defeat of apartheid and the liberation of blacks in Africa than Nelson Mandela. In July 1991, during a visit to Cuba to mark the 38th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Mandela spoke of his gratitude for the Cuban role in Southern Africa.

“The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character,” Mandela said. “We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defence of one of us.”

Many years later, after the passing of Nelson Mandela, Castro would wonder why after so many years the enablers of apartheid still could not admit the truth.

“Why try to hide the fact that the apartheid regime, which made the people of Africa suffer so much and incensed the vast majority of all the nations in the world,” Castro wrote, “was the fruit of European colonialism and was converted into a nuclear power by the United States and Israel, which Cuba, a country who supported the Portuguese colonies in Africa that fought for their independence, condemned openly?”

Since the success of the Cuban revolution of 1959, American policy has always been reflexive opposition to anything Cuba did. Shortly after Mandela’s funeral, Gleijeses wrote an open letter to President Obama that described the actual course of events in Africa during the Cold War: “While Cubans were fighting for the liberation of the people of South Africa, successive American governments did everything they could to stop them.”

Gleijeses wrote that Obama must have noticed the reception of Cuban President Raúl Castro in South Africa, and implored him to reconsider the disconnect between the two countries. “Perhaps, Mr. President, what you saw in South Africa may inspire you to bridge the chasm and understand that in the quarrel between Cuba and the United States the United States is not the victim,” he wrote.

But Obama has not been able to learn this lesson. On December 17, when he announced a change in the U.S.’s Cuban policy, Obama claimed that the current policy “has been rooted in the best of intentions.”  This is a gross misrepresentation that suppresses the policy of unrelenting economic war, which has caused unimaginable pain and suffering to millions of Cubans; a covert terrorist campaign against the island carried out first directly by the U.S. government then later sanctioned and outsourced to reactionary terrorists provided safe haven in the United States; and collaboration with the apartheid regime to punish Cuba for helping fight for the liberation of black Africa.

American officials would, no doubt, prefer that Cuba’s heroic role in defeating apartheid and the U.S.’s shameful role in enabling it be relegated to the ash heap of history. But the historical and documentary record speaks for itself, despite Washington’s attempts to bury it. Like Castro, one has to wonder: why keep hiding the truth?

Works Cited

[1] Gleijeses, Piero. Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991. The University of North Carolina Press, 2013. http://www.amazon.com/Visions-Freedom-Washington-Pretoria-1976-1991-ebook/dp/B00GJQHOJ4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420320673&sr=8-1&keywords=visions+of+freedom

[2] Ibid.

[3] as cited in Gleijeses, 2013

[4] Gleijeses, Piero. Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 (Envisioning Cuba). The University of North Carolina Press, 2002. http://www.amazon.com/Conflicting-Missions-Washington-1959-1976-Envisioning-ebook/dp/B004P1JTGG/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423430995&sr=8-1&keywords=conflicting+missions

[5] “NSC Meeting, 4/7/1976” of the National Security Adviser’s NSC Meeting File at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. (pg. 21) http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/document/0312/1552402.pdf

[6] Gleijeses, 2013

[7] Jorge Risquet to Agostinho Neto," February, 1978, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archives of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117933 (pg. 8-9)

[8] "Fidel Castro to Political Bureau of the MPLA," September 15, 1979, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Cuban Armed Forces. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117946 (pg. 2-3)

[9] Gleijeses, 2013

[10] Memorandum of Conversation between Fidel Castro and José Eduardo dos Santos," October 25, 1985, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archives of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118021 (pg. 31-33)

[11] Ibid. (pg. 32)

[12] Instructions to the Cuban Delegation for the London Meeting, 'Indicaciones concretas del Comandante en Jefe que guiarán la actuación de la delegación cubana a las conversaciones de Luanda y las negociaciones de Londres (22-4-88)'

[13] Ibid. (pg. 13)

[14] Instructions to the Cuban Delegation for the London Meeting, 'Indicaciones concretas del Comandante en Jefe que guiarán la actuación de la delegación cubana a las conversaciones de Luanda y las negociaciones de Londres (23-4-88)'," April 23, 1988, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Cuban Armed Forces. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118134 (pg. 5)

[15] Gleijeses, 2013

[16] Gleijeses, 2013



Saturday, February 14, 2015

American Officials Silent on Israeli Abuse of Palestinian Children

Six weeks after being abducted on her way home from school in the occupied West Bank, 14-year-old Malak al-Khatib was released on Friday from the jail where she was being imprisoned by Israeli occupation forces. The youngest Palestinian girl ever to be incarcerated, Malak is one of hundreds of children to be prosecuted through the Israeli military court system each year. As of December 2014, there were 156 Palestinian child prisoners, 17 of which were under 16 years old, according to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. As the benefactor of the illegal Israeli occupation, the United States government is complicit in Israel's disgraceful persecution and abuse of Palestinian children. While American officials refrain from criticizing such abuses, they forcefully condemn any resistance to the violent Israeli occupation that is responsible for innumerable human rights violations against Palestinian children.

During Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last August, the Obama administration expressed its strongest indignation regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict throughout President Obama's six years in office. After the apparent capture of Israeli Occupation soldier Hadar Goldin by the Palestinian resistance, administration officials said the action was "barbaric" and "outrageous."

That morning a cease-fire was set to take effect after nearly two weeks of fighting in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians had already been slaughtered. A few hours before the designated cease-fire time, Israeli occupation troops continued operations to destroy tunnels inside Gaza that were used to smuggle food and goods denied to the Palestinian territory as part of the eight-year-long blockade imposed by Israel in violation of international law. When the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) reached a tunnel they encountered resistance from Palestinian fighters from the Qassam Brigades. Several Israeli troops were killed. It appeared Goldin had been captured and led away into the tunnel.

The IOF then reportedly employed the savage Hannibal Directive, a repulsive military procedure developed nearly 30 years ago in which the Israeli army uses massive amounts of firepower in an attempt to kill their own soldier rather than allow him to be captured. Journalist Max Blumenthal says that Israeli troops employed an "indiscriminate assault on the entire circumference of the area where ... Goldin was allegedly taken." According to Blumenthal, this was one of three possible instance of the Hannibal Directive during Israel's murderous summer rampage in Gaza. 

So while Israel carried out a military operation inside Palestinian territory, shortly before or at the time Israel had agreed to cease fire, Palestinian militants - defending themselves from the savage onslaught against homes, hospitals, mosques, parks, sports clubs, cafés, high-rises, ambulances, disability centers, power plants, and UN schools - captured an enemy combatant consistent with the laws of war. Israel then ordered indiscriminate fire to kill him rather then let him be taken alive. This is the situation American officials found to be "barbaric" - by the Palestinians, not the Israelis.

A month later, when Israel finally agreed to a cease-fire (which it has continued to violate nearly every day since with impunity) more than 2,100 Palestinians had been killed, including 578 children.

Among the children whose lives Israel snuffed out were four-year-old Sahir Abu Namous, whose head was blown open by shrapnel; five-month-old Faris Juma al-Mahmoum, whose mother and 18 others were injured in shelling; five-day-old Shayma Sheikh Khalil, born prematurely after her mother was killed by an Israeli airstrike; and four cousins from the Bakir family, Ismail Mahmoud (9), Ahed Atef (10), Zakariya Ahed (10), and Mohammad Ramiz (11), who were playing soccer on a beach. At least one of the cousins was killed when an Israeli warship gunner who had failed to kill him with an original shell explosion re-aimed and fired again. 

In his strongest language against the Israeli operation, Obama told Netanyahu that he was "deeply concerned" about further escalation. Yet he did not call any Israeli actions - which numerous human rights groups have since decried as war crimes that must be referred to the International Criminal Court - "barbaric" or "outrageous." He was apparently not concerned enough to stop the delivery of weapons to resupply Israel, which would use them to massacre more Palestinian children. And he was not concerned enough to direct his administration to join 29 other nations on the UN Human Rights Council in voting just to investigate potential war crimes.

The U.S. government will not even oppose Israeli child abuse carried out against the U.S.'s own citizens. Several weeks before the bloodbath in Gaza, 15-year-old Tarek Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian-American from Tampa, was savagely beaten by Israeli police. The teen from Tampa was visiting Jerusalem with his family shortly after his cousin had been abducted, doused with gasoline and burned alive by Israeli settlers. Tarek and his family claimed he was ambushed while on his family's property. After the assault by Israeli police that left the teenager with head wounds, Tarek was jailed. This was deemed by the U.S. administration to be "profoundly troubling," but again not "barbaric" or even "outrageous."

For teenagers who do not hold American citizenship, their mistreatment by the U.S.-funded occupation does not elicit as much as a shrug from American officials. As the Electronic Intifada reported, Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem have recently demanded that the Israeli forces stop harassing schoolchildren and provoking confrontations with them.

Human rights groups have claimed that Palestinian children are often accused of stone-throwing. Such was the case for Malak al-Khatib. She was also accused of having a knife, which would not be a problem if she were an Israeli settler, many of whom carry and use guns with impunity. 

Malak was convicted after an alleged confession obtained after hours of questioning by Israeli soldiers. Like many Palestinian children interrogated by Israeli authorities, Malak was unaccompanied by an adult. Her father dismissed the veracity of her alleged confession, telling the Israeli paper Haaretz: "How can you question her without her parents and without a lawyer? Interrogate a little girl like this and she'll admit to being in possession of an M16 rifle, too." Malak maintains her innocence, saying she was neither throwing stones nor carrying a knife. 

Regardless, throwing stones is a legitimate act of resistance in accordance with international law. A 1987 UN General Assembly resolution validates the right to resist occupation, explicitly differentiating terrorism from the "struggle of peoples for national liberation." The resolution grants "peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation ... the right .. to struggle to this end." The measure was approved with 153 votes in favor. Only the United States and Israel voted against it.

Even militant resistance against occupying troops is protected as part of struggle against occupation. Clearly, stone-throwing unquestionably falls within the protections explicitly stated by the UN resolution. In fact, some people have even said that Palestinians have a "duty to throw stones." 

"Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule," wrote Israeli journalist Amira Hass. "Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part - though it's not always spelled out - of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources." 

The Israeli occupation uses stone-throwing to punish and abuse children like Malak whose land they have illegally occupied for 47 years. 

The human rights group Defence for Children International Palestine found that "Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank last year fell victim to a pattern of abuse designed to coerce confessions." 

They reported that Israeli occupiers ordered solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and torture against children. "Impunity for violations was a significant obstacle in 2014 as DCIP filed nine complaints with Israeli authorities concerning the ill-treatment and torture of five children while in Israeli military detention. Not a single indictment has been issued against a perpetrator," the group wrote.

Another human rights group reported that 240 children detained in Jerusalem over one year suffered sexual abuse by Israeli authorities. 

Yet the only thing that the United States government will declare as "barbaric" is the capture of an adult Israeli combatant by the Palestinian resistance in a defensive military operation. To American officials, Palestinian life - even that of children - does not matter. When Israeli teens are killed, President Obama and American officials express their condolences and lament the "terror against innocent youth." This is never reciprocated for Palestinian children, who are killed by Israelis at more than 15 times the rate of Israeli children being killed by Palestinians. 2,060 Palestinian children have been killed since September 2000 compared to 133 Israelis. 

The United States government has long held as policy that its strategic relationship with Israel matters more than any concerns for justice and human rights. Not even the lives of Palestinian children matter enough to force American officials to show any semblance of humanity by demanding accountability for the crimes and injustices they aid and abet in Palestine. The only real outrage the U.S. government is capable of showing is when Palestinians dare to resist the violent colonial oppression that Israel subjects them to, under approving American sponsorship.