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The violence in Palestine and Colombia is systemically linked to Western imperialism

Illustration by Natasha Phang-Lee @npl_illustration

The past month has seen protests break out around the world in a show of solidarity as the people of Colombia and Palestine fight against the injustices and violence plaguing their countries – issues that have everything to do with Western imperialism.

The introduction of a regressive tax reform bill that has now been halted, in the midst of a pandemic that is ripping through the country, pushed Colombians to take to the streets of Bogota, Cali and other major cities. President Iván Duque’s neoliberal government attempted to put in place a bill that would have sunk the population, 27% of whom already live in poverty, further into destitution. Armed police were deployed in an attempt to stifle this unrest, where more than 40 people have been killed and over 100 are missing. The people of Colombia have much to be angry about as their government endorses police brutality and their country descends into some of the worst violence it has seen in years.

Across the Atlantic, Palestinians find themselves in a similar position, protesting against the ethnic cleansing of their people as they have done for the past 73 years – this past Saturday marked the anniversary of their expulsion from their homeland with Nakba Day. The further illegal annexation of East Jerusalem has led to Hamas’ firing of rockets and Israel’s airstrikes which have (at the time of writing) killed 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, and 7 Israelis. Like the Colombians who are also protesting for overall reform, Palestinians are not only calling for the end of the illegal occupation but the most basic of human rights that they are denied, such as access to clean water and freedom of movement – the denial of which is all the more shocking as Palestinians in Gaza are forcibly sitting ducks for Israeli attacks.

Illustration by Natasha Phang-Lee @npl_illustration

Many have asked why the international community has been reluctant to address these issues, particularly leading powers including the US and the UK. It is easy to forget that the one constant causal factor that feeds on both the destabilisation of these nations is the involvement of the US and the UK. After politically meddling in the respective regions for decades, they continue to fund both Colombia and Israel with military aid in the billions.

Despite Colombia’s government signing a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), guerrilla groups, dissident groups, paramilitaries, traffickers and the police and military factions have been engaging in extreme violence. This violence has escalated dramatically during Duque’s recent time in office, sending the country into chaos as it deals with one of the highest confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in the world.

This violence and instability is deeply tied to American imperialism as America has been intervening in Central and South American politics since the Cold War in order to prevent any communist upheavals; the failed “war on drugs” is simply a continuation of their hand in these countries. The US’ involvement, by backing and training local allied militia groups in how to torture and kill during the 1980s, resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, whilst simultaneously creating a refugee crisis that to this day forces thousands to flee to its borders.

This model of stifling leftist groups by counterinsurgency and supporting the installation of right-wing leaders with pro-US attitudes has continued. Drugs and arms trafficking is what makes the Colombian economy thrive and the US has used this to achieve bureaucratic, bordering on autocratic, control. Alongside the UK, the US has sold millions of dollars’ worth of arms to the military. US exports make up approximately 25% of Colombia’s military equipment combined with a total $88 million in aid, whilst UK arms exports to Colombia have totalled to over $32 million within the past 13 years. With this money and arms to back the Colombian government, Colombia’s people have fallen prey to human rights abuses through police brutality and the corruption in their judicial systems which allows these crimes to go unpunished.

Similarly, Palestinians have been kept under occupation by Israel with the help of the selling of arms and military aid by the US and the UK. The Trump Administration alone sent $3.3 billion to Israel, a figure that is only a fraction of the $38 billion promised in military aid over the signing of the US and Israel’s third 10-year agreement. The UK has also funnelled £400 million worth of arms to Israel since 2015.

As the colonial transitions into the neo-colonial, Western powers continue to fuel authoritarianism in these regions in order to geo-politically sustain control, be it of resources or monetary assets. When we discuss Palestine, it is of utmost importance to mention that British imperialism is at the root of the occupation as a consequence of the Balfour Declaration where the British government in 1917 declared that Palestine would be the new home for displaced Jews, giving legitimacy to the Zionist cause. This has enabled 73 years of settler-colonialism and a slow genocide, where Palestinians now find themselves being used as disposable bait for Western imperialists to make money and manage the Middle East.

From Cali to Gaza, the voices of the oppressed are intertwined by their bravery to call out those that dare to suppress them and abuse their human rights, and these voices do not forget the hypocrites that stand in their parliaments in faux solidarity whilst sending arms to their oppressors in the same breath. The US and the UK are in the business of war and conflict, and it is a disgustingly bloody and lucrative business at that.

Illustration by Natasha Phang-Lee @npl_illustration
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