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March for Palestine: Belizeans defiant as they take over downtown area

Posted: Wednesday, November 22, 2023. 9:45 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: This morning a few hundred Belizeans marched from Memorial Park to Battlefield Park, replicating much larger marches in the last few weeks worldwide in support of the beleaguered residents of the Gaza Strip and of the Palestinian Territories now under siege by Israel following a deadly raid by Hamas on October 7.

Prime Minister John Briceño, at the head of the grouping, succinctly summarized the national position as advocated by the Government: “We condemn Hamas, Israel has a right to defend themselves, but Israel does not have the right to commit genocide against the Palestinian people.” He added that Palestinians have the same right of self-determination as Belize did during its fight for Independence.

Commenting on the plans for a brief ceasefire to allow the exchange of hostages and Israeli-held prisoners and bringing more aid to the Strip, the Prime Minister said he hoped it would become permanent and the talk turned to rebuilding the area and negotiating a permanent piece, including stopping Israelis taking Palestine-held land for their own citizens.

For some in Belize, even within the national leadership, the issue is a bit more personal. Minister for Home Affairs Kareem Musa is a descendant of Palestinian heritage from his father Right Honorable Said Musa and grandfather and former Mayor of San Ignacio Town Hamid Musa, who he said emigrated to Belize at the age of 16.

He told reporters: “He came to a free country called Belize, and that for me means a lot, but that doesn’t mean I must forget where my family came from, and stand up with them for what they are going through at this time. The world is up in arms; the world is saying it is time for a ceasefire, it is time for a cease occupation, and it is time for a cease genocide, cease apartheid – there can be no peace if you do not cease, Israel. And so it is important for us as Belizeans to stand here in solidarity with all those families on both sides of the divide – not just Palestinians, but Israeli lives have been lost as well. There are no winners in this war.”

Minister of State for Education Dr Louis Zabaneh cited the breadth of representation – at least one Catholic priest along with members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim organization, and members of both major political parties – and reiterated that this issue should not divide us: “For example, my own Christian brothers and sisters – I’ve heard that some statements might be made that this is a march against Israel, against the principles of the Bible and all these things when in fact that is not the case. You have many people out here who are genuinely marching because we feel that what has occurred in Gaza is a travesty, and we want to stand together to say that we want peace in the region.

Lebanese national Hamed Yassin says his home country supports Palestine consistently (its southern area has also been attacked) and to see what is going on there is “heartbreaking” as many there are innocent. He called for more to raise their voices even if they cannot contribute militarily or to a humanitarian cause.

Ambassador Assad Shoman says that if Belize continues to feel pressure from the United States for its stances, we have to stand firm given our own issues: “Think about it. What is unfurling in Gaza right now, take a look at the bigger picture. We are all horrified at the babies but look beyond the babies. This is a test for a new world order almost. If Israel can get away with it – if Israel can blatantly tell the world, laugh at the world, and say yes, we’re killing babies, so what? If they can get away with it with the support of the United States, then the whole international system that we have known will fall apart. And it is that system, weak as it is, that we have depended on for so long to defend us against any threats – against the United Kingdom that wanted to give away our land, against the Guatemalan generals at the time that wanted to invade our land. So if that system falls, then we are in trouble.”

Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith was heard leading chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The first half of that statement is controversial as Israel views it as a call for its destruction. Belize, as do many other countries, advocates a so-called “two-state solution” – Palestine within boundaries established in 1967, with its capital in East Jerusalem, and Israel holding the rest.

Members of the church community are reported to be planning their own march next week in Belmopan.


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