AUSTIN, Texas — Despite its apartheid policies toward Palestinians and other minorities, Israel is often cited as the Middle East’s only democracy and a preserver of human rights within the region.
Not only does this public image sharply contrast with the reality of Israel’s brutal treatment of Occupied Palestine and the country’s institutional racism, but its government also has a history of supporting repressive regimes and human rights violations worldwide.
South of our border, Israel has used its experience in suppressing indigenous uprisings to aid Mexico with the Zapatistas, an ongoing Mayan uprising based in the Chiapas region. Writing in 2013 for Electronic Intifada, a news and activism site focused on Palestinian liberation, Jimmy Johnson and Linda Quiquivix reported that the freshly appointed security chief for Chiapas region, Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca, was working closely with officials of Israel’s defense ministry to train his forces.
“This may be the first time the Mexican government has gone public about military coordination with Israelis in Chiapas,” Johnson and Quiquivix wrote. “Yet the agreement is only the latest in Israel’s longer history of military exports to the region, an industry spawned from experiences in the conquest and pacification of Palestine.”
The Zapatistas in turn have repeatedly voiced their solidarity for the Palestinian people. In 2014, after Israel’s devastating attack on Palestine that left over 2,000 dead, mostly civilians, and over 500,000 homeless, a Zapatista spokesperson condemned Israel’s “war of extermination.”
Comandante Tacho reminded Israel that “the PALESTINIAN people will resist and will rise again, that they will once again begin to walk and that they will known then that, although we are far away on the map, the Zapatista peoples embrace them today as we have before, as we always do, with our collective heart.”
Further from the U.S., Israel has been widely criticized in the international community for selling arms and military equipment to troubled African states, despite their repeated use in war crimes. An investigation by Adv. Itai Mack and Idan Landau, published in May 2015 by +972 Magazine, a blog devoted to analyzing Israel and Palestine, revealed that “[s]ince the 1960’s Israel has been fighting a secret war in South Sudan” resulting in Israeli-made arms being repeatedly used in war crimes and violations of human rights.
Mack and Landau reported:
“Despite the world’s reaction, Israel’s secret war in South Sudan continues according to reports and information provided by human rights activists who have been, or still are, in South Sudan. Since the country’s independence, Israel has continuously sent it weapons, training government forces and providing various security-related technologies. There is also a cooperation between the two countries’ secret services, and Israeli entities have established an internal control and surveillance system in South Sudan, which they continue to maintain.”
They also noted that Israeli aid for oppressive forces in South Sudan echoes the country’s aid for Rwanda’s despotic government during the 1990s.
And in August 1989, a Los Angeles Times investigation by Kenneth Freed uncovered an Israeli-produced videotape showing Israeli instructors training paramilitary forces belonging to the deadly death squads of Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel. The LA Times reported:
“The 48-minute color videotape clearly showed former Israeli army Col. Yair Klein running military and assassination training exercises for about 50 men, including one known as Vladimir. Other foreigners speaking Hebrew were shown and heard on the videotape.”
Vladimir and other members of the Medellin cartel were arrested that month in connection with the deaths of four Colombian judges and nine court workers.
In a September 2015 analysis for Electronic Intifada, “Israeli arms fuel atrocities in Africa,” Rania Khalek noted that support for oppression can be seen as part of a long Israeli tradition.
“Decades of stealing and colonizing Palestinian land and resources has qualified Israel with unique expertise in subduing resistance and maintaining colonial plunder,” she wrote.
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