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The Friend of Your Frenemy: Belize, Guatemala, and Israel

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Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2018. 3:41 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Marie Bellini: Yesterday we saw the culmination of a “Community Policing” course being administered to Belizean police officers, by emissaries of the Israeli government. There was a significant and justified opposition to the idea of Belize taking national security advice from a country that has never supported Belize’s bid for sovereignty, and which has always been one of Guatemala’s closest allies. During the Guatemalan civil war, Israel funded and armed the oppressive right-wing regime of Efraín Ríos Montt. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, most of whom were indigenous Mayans. They crushed the leftist opposition who, had they come into power, would have wholeheartedly respected Belize’s right to sovereignty and our territorial integrity. What a different reality we would be living in, had that been allowed to happen. Ríos Montt said his takeover went without a hitch “because many of our soldiers were trained by Israelis.” An Israeli adviser to Montt, Lieutenant Colonel Amatzia Shuali, said, “I don’t care what the Gentiles do with the arms. The main thing is that [we] profit.” One cannot help but see the similarities between Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and Guatemala’s claim to over half of Belize.

Fast forward to 2018, and this interview from News 5 Live with Dr. Eran Israel, one of the instructors of the course:

“First of all, when we had the ceremony, we met a demonstration outside of the police academy. It was like fifteen people shouting. Most of the arguments were not really true, not really based on something, which means, it’s nothing. Nothing. I think that the Belizean people should have all the knowledge, openly answer questions. Nobody asked us, and it wasn’t really disturbing, because it’s a small minority. They have their own reasons to lie. Because they are lying. We are here for community policing, not anything else, and it was funny. It was funny. If you want to learn about what is happening on the other side of the globe, please learn. And open your eyes.”

One might characterize his demeanor as pompous, almost defiant, during this very telling interview. This was no surprise, as he works on behalf of a government that regularly operates with impunity as it carries out crimes against humanity. He called us liars, and seemed to believe that Belizeans couldn’t possibly know what was going on, on the other side of the world. It’s easy to see the racism that lives behind statements like these. He thought it was funny that we were protesting injustice. “Nobody asked us,” he said. We don’t have to ask because we know what your government’s narrative has been for the past 70 years. We know that they’ve continuously broken international law by building illegal settlements and brutalizing Palestinian civilians. We know that on the 70th anniversary of your occupation of Palestine, which your government formally invited ours to celebrate, your military killed at least 60 unarmed protesters and injured at least 3,000. We know that they indiscriminately fired live rounds of ammunition and teargas into the crowd. We know that some of those victims were children, and we know that your Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called it a “glorious day.” We don’t know the exact number of Palestinians who have been killed since their dispossession and displacement in 1948, but we know that number is in the tens of thousands.

It is particularly shameful when Christians, especially white Evangelicals who have emigrated to Belize, stand in their willful ignorance to defend the unlawful and unjust actions of the state of Israel. It is worrying when one considers that they have been guilty of xenophobia and racism directed toward the very Belizeans who have welcomed them with open arms. You may recall the disturbing video of a certain Baptist pastor calling a Garinagu woman a “witch lady”. These are dangerous characterizations of an entire people and culture, and ultimately seek to dehumanize us. It is the same rationale that every colonizing force, past and present, has used to justify unthinkable acts of aggression.

In April of this year, the city of Durham, North Carolina unanimously voted to ban any training of their police department by the Israeli government. The resolution said, “The council opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training since such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the City of Durham.” Even in America, Israel’s biggest and most powerful ally, local governments see the problem with this type of engagement. Even if the course turns out to be harmless and mundane, this is about principle. It is about securing a future for Belizeans, and making sure we don’t legitimize or cozy up to a government whose beliefs and actions differ fundamentally from ours. “Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done – we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head.” This is a quote from Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Defense Minister, calling for the beheading of Palestinian-Israeli citizens who showed disloyalty toward the government. Eli Ben-Dahan, the Deputy Defense Minister, once said, “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human.” Miri Regev, the Israeli Culture Minister, compared African asylum seekers to cancer, saying “The Sudanese are a cancer in our body.” She later apologized, not to the refugees but to cancer survivors, for comparing them to Africans. You just can’t make this up. They want neither the African nor the Palestinian population to “taint” their bloodlines and bring about a non-white majority. If that isn’t apartheid, I don’t know what is.

Perhaps one of their most damning and transparent statements was this one, by Ayalet Shaked, the Israeli Justice Minister: “The entire Palestinian people is the enemy. This also includes mothers of the martyrs. They should go. Otherwise more little snakes will be raised there.” Here she is advocating for the elimination of the Palestinian people by getting rid of the mothers, to prevent more births. This is ethnic cleansing. This is racism. This is genocide. This is the last thing we should be validating. It isn’t inherently bad for the Government of Belize to have diplomatic relations with Israel, but their first duty is to the Belizean people. There has to be a line in the sand, and that line should be drawn well before the training of police personnel.

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