Cuba’s longstanding support for Palestinian liberation

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Fidel Castro with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Cuba in December 1974 [image: The Arafat Foundation]

by Diane Zack

Cuba’s support for Palestine goes back to the time before the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
When the vote took place in the UN in 1947 to partition Mandatory Palestine according to the provisions of the Balfour Declaration, Cuba was one of the 13 countries that voted NO, even though they were pressured to vote Yes. The Cuban representative to the UN said at that time, “The Balfour Declaration in our opinion is not legally valid because in it the British Government was offering something which did not belong to it and which it had no right to give.”

Since that time, 77 years ago, Cuba has taken a consistent principled position in support of the rights of the Palestinian people and against the crimes committed by the state of Israel.

Six months after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the new Cuban government sent Che Guevara and Raul Castro to Gaza in June 1959 to meet with leaders of the Palestinian national movement and to tour Palestinian refugee camps. One of Che’s goals was to support Arab and Palestinian national liberation and revolutionary movements against western imperialism and colonization. At that time, all Latin American countries, with the exception of Cuba, supported Israel.

Cuba’s support for Palestine only stepped up in subsequent years. They welcomed the founding of the PLO in Jerusalem in 1964 and had many contacts with it over the years. When Yasser Arafat visited Cuba, he was welcomed as a head of state. Cuba publicly condemned Israel at the United Nations for the first time in 1967 after the Six-Day War. Cuba provided direct assistance to the Palestinian fedayeen in the 1960s and 1970s, severed all diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973, following the Arab-Israeli war and worked for international efforts to get Palestine recognized as an independent state, an effort which continues to grow substantially with the latest 3 European nations – Ireland, Spain and Norway — joining on last week. In 1975, Cuba co-sponsored the resolution at the UN equating Zionism with racism. And in 1991, when the UN repealed the resolution, Cuba stood in opposition.

President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, spoke many times about the Palestinian people’s struggle and his support was unwavering. When he was president of the Non-Aligned Movement, he said at the UN in 1979, words that still echo today,

“We are not fanatics. The revolutionary movement has been brought up in the hatred of racial discrimination and pogroms of any kind, and from the depths of our souls, we repudiate with all our strength the ruthless persecution and genocide which, in its time, Nazism unleashed against the Jewish people. But I can find nothing more similar to that in our contemporary history than the eviction, persecution and genocide that is being carried out today against the Palestinian people by imperialism and Zionism. Stripped of their lands, driven out of their own homeland, dispersed throughout the world, they are an impressive example of abnegation and heroism, and they are the living symbol of the greatest crime of our times.” That was 45 years ago.

When Fidel died in 2016, it was pointed out that he and Nelson Mandela were the world leaders most vigorously supporting the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice.

Cuba also provided education to Palestinians, both at ELAM – to become doctors – and other professions. They provide full scholarships, even to this day, in spite of their difficult economic crisis, caused by the ongoing U.S. Blockade of their country.

I’ve been to Cuba twice in the past year, and the support for Palestine is very evident throughout the society, from the top – President Miguel Diaz Canel — to the people in the streets. There have been numerous demonstrations across Cuba with hundreds of thousands of people since October 7, and when I attended May Day and the international solidarity conference in Havana on May 1st and 2nd, support for Palestine was front and centre of people’s attention. The Palestinian students living in Havana were involved in all events and their representatives spoke many times.

Two weeks ago, President Diaz Canel said on X “As long as the Palestinian land continues to be martyred, bled, destroyed to its foundations by the hatred of the Israeli occupier, we cannot tire of denouncing the crime and summoning the international community “.

Cuba has been an ally of Palestine since before the Nakba and their friendship and solidarity will continue until Palestine is free!


The preceding is the text of a speech delivered by Diane Zack on behalf of Manitoba-Cuba Solidarity Committee to the Palestinian Rally on Saturday, June 1 “All Eyes on Rafah”

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