While the APPO marches on the US Consulate in Oaxaca, Subcomandante Marcos declares from Chiapas, “to the Zapatistas it looks like there's a professional army murdering a defenseless population” in Palestine
Your silence hurts me. –Mahumud Darwish, Palestinian poet
When the Zapatistas rose up in arms on January 1, 1994, most of them thought they were going to die. Many did. Their rag-tag Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) set out to reverse 500 years of conquest, and it had a formidable enemy: the US-equipped Mexican military. Indigenous communities were under a constant state of siege and occupation for the next two years. However, the EZLN’s rifles and sticks weren’t its only defense: Mexicans and the international community mobilized to demand peace in Chiapas.
Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of their uprising, the EZLN is calling for the same solidarity for Palestinians in Gaza. In a speech during the Festival of Dignified Rage in Chiapas, Subcomandante Marcos told the crowd gathered there, “We don't know about you, but we Zapatistas from the EZLN, we know how important it is, in the middle of destruction and death, to hear some words of encouragement…. [W]ords from afar might not stop a bomb, but it's as if a crack were opened in the black room of death and a tiny ray of light slips in.” So, said Marcos, even though global protests “won't turn into an armored shield so that a 5.56 mm or 9 mm caliber bullet with the letters ‘IMI’ or ‘Israeli Military Industry’ etched into the base of the cartridge won't hit the chest of a girl or boy, but perhaps our word can manage to join forces with others in Mexico and the world, and perhaps first it's heard as a murmur, then out loud, and then a scream that they hear in Gaza.”
Marcos condemned the Israeli attack on Gaza as a “classic military war of conquest,” with one exception: Israel’s target is not an opposing military force; its targets are civilians. Speaking on behalf of the EZLN, he said, “According to the news photos, the ‘strategic’ points destroyed by the Israeli government's air force are houses, shacks, civilian buildings. We haven't seen a single bunker, nor a barracks, nor a military airport, nor cannons, amongst the rubble. So—and please excuse our ignorance—we think that either the planes' guns have bad aim, or in Gaza such ‘strategic’ military points don't exist.”
Marcos lamented the deaths of “men, women, children, and the elderly” in the attacks and commented sarcastically, “surely the hail of bullets that fell on Gaza this morning were in order to protect the Israeli infantry's advance from those men, women, children, and elderly people.”
Without specifically mentioning the word “genocide,” Marco accused the Israeli government of that crime: “The assault will seek to annihilate that population. And whichever man, woman, child, or elderly person that manages to escape or hide from the predictably bloody assault will later be ‘hunted’ so that the cleansing is complete and the commanders in charge of the operation can report to their superiors: ‘We've completed the mission.’”
Rather than getting caught up in arguments “about if it's "zionism" or "antisemitism," or if Hamas' bombs started it,” the EZLN says, “Maybe our thinking is very simple, and we're lacking the nuances and annotations that are always so necessary in analyses, but to the Zapatistas it looks like there's a professional army murdering a defenseless population.”
Faced with “the Israeli government’s heavily trained and armed” military’s “march of death and destruction,” Marcos asked those gathered at the Festival of Dignified Rage, “Who from below and to the left can remain silent?”
As fellow insurgents and communities in resistance, the EZLN criticized the demonization of Palestinians and their struggle:
The Palestinian people will also resist and survive and continue struggling and will continue to have sympathy from below for their cause.
And perhaps a boy or girl from Gaza will survive, too. Perhaps they'll grow, and with them, their nerve, indignation, and rage. Perhaps they'll become soldiers or militiamen for one of the groups that struggle in Palestine. Perhaps they'll find themselves in combat with Israel. Perhaps they'll do it firing a gun. Perhaps sacrificing themselves with a belt of dynamite around their waists.
And then, from up there above, they will write about the Palestinians' violent nature and they'll make declarations condemning that violence and they'll get back to discussing if it's zionism or anti-semitism.
And no one will ask who planted that which is being harvested.
The Other Campaign Manifests its “Dignified Rage Against This Genocidal Attack”
The EZLN’s call for solidarity with Palestine was precluded by a statement issued by the Zapatista-initiated Other Campaign condemning “biggest Israeli air attack in the past 40 years.” Writing from the Festival of Dignified Rage in Mexico City (the Festival took place in two locations in Mexico), participants there wrote, “This crime represents a dangerous increase in the permanent holocaust that is committed against the Palestinian people with United States financing and the world's enabling, hypocritical, and disgraceful silence.”
The statement continues:
As always, Israel presents itself as the victim that demands the right of self-defense against terrorism, and the corporate media promotes the lie that the slaughter was in response to the Hamas party's launching of Qassam missiles. In reality these missiles are symbolic and almost never cause Israeli victims. In fact, during the recent truce from June 19 to December 19, the Palestinians in Gaza didn't kill a single Israeli civilian, while Israel killed 49 Palestinians. The argument of self-defense against terrorism is also used to justify the merciless blockade which began in January 2006 immediately after Hamas won the legislative elections.
Their goal? Punish the Palestinians in Gaza for having elected a government that is unacceptable for Israel. Thanks to this effort to starve to death Gaza inhabitants, the hospitals don't have the necessary medicine, medical supplies, electricity, potable water, or food to care for the wounded.
The Other Campaign adherents criticize the global community’s response—or lack thereof: “While the world leaders criticize Hamas' provocations, they limit themselves to criticizing Israel's ‘disproportional use of force.’”
The Festival participants “call upon the international community to resist the military offensive and exercise continual pressure on the Israeli government in order to stop the crimes against the Palestinian people.”
Solidarity in Oaxaca
When federal police invaded Oaxaca City on November 25, 2006, Mexicans compared Oaxacans’ plight to that of Palestinians: their land was under siege and later occupied by invading government forces; the invaders wanted to force an undemocratic system of governance on them (that is, the status quo); human rights had been thrown out the window long ago; and the people’s resistance wouldn’t “be drowned, not even in a pool of blood.”
Two years later, those same Oaxacans are standing with their Palestinian compañeros. Nancy Davies wrote in Narco News that various collectives and organizations that are members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO)—the coalition that drove out the corrupt state government and held Oaxaca City and many other cities and villages around the state for six months in 2006—organized a protest at the US Consulate in Oaxaca City on January 3. Police doused the protestors with tear gas. The protest, which demanded an “end to the genocide against the Palestinian people,” resulted in 19 arrests, including David Venegas, who is an APPO advisor and one of its more famous political prisoners. His legal case related to the 2006 uprising is still pending; he is out on bail for those charges.
Section 22, the democratic teachers union whose strike sparked the uprising, negotiated the prisoners’ release. Upon release, those arrested complained that they were beaten while in custody and that police had stolen their belongings.