Cuba and Palestine do not have a great deal in common, other than that their citizens are innocent targets of Trump Washington’s spiteful malevolence. In the case of Cuba this has been exercised with varying degrees of effectiveness for sixty years, and the fandangos of the military-industrial complex have included an attempt to invade the country and several efforts to assassinate its leader. Palestine, on the other hand, is regarded as an Israeli colony, and in American politics any criticism of Israel is extremely risky, because there is then likely to be a well-funded drive against re-election of the principled individual concerned. Consequently, there are few members of the US Congress who try to advocate justice for Palestinians.
In the anti-Cuba campaign of sanctions the latest piece of vicious nastiness involves banning flights from the US to nine airports in Cuba, beginning in December. As the New York Times observed, “the timing will force airlines to cut flights to the island shortly before Christmas and New Year’s, when many Cuban Americans usually fly home for the holiday season.” This malicious prohibition is complemented by another slice of meanness, which, as reported by the Washington Post, involves painful limitation of the amount of money that US citizens of Cuban origin may send their relatives back home.
In 2014 Trump’s predecessor, President Obama, tried hard to normalise relations with the Havana government after so many years of persecution, and ruled that there should be no limit on the amount of remittances sent to Cuba, but “the latest change sets a $1,000 cap on the money any one person can send to a Cuban family member every three months, and prohibits all remittances to relatives who are Cuban officials or members of the Cuban Communist Party. Nonfamily remittances are prohibited.” The targets of restrictions imposed by Trump are the ordinary citizens of Cuba, with the objective of causing them so much pain that they will revolt against their government.
Half-way round the world from the beautiful island of Cuba lies sandy Palestine whose Arab people are not subjected to US sanctions but are victims of US-supported Israeli settlers on their land which has been seized from them with increasing frequency over the past thirty years. According to the US agency USAID, Israel, with a population of eight million, received 3.2 billion dollars from Washington in 2018 and is getting 3.8 billion in 2019. None of this goes anywhere near Palestinians, but, as detailed by the Congressional Research Service, is almost all directed to military purposes.
It appears, however, that no US monies have been specifically allocated to the construction of the enormous wall cutting off Palestinians from their lands. Israel “stretches 424 km from north to south, and its width ranges from 114 km to, at its narrowest point, 15 km” but the Great Wall is 670 km long and, according to the Israeli Defence Force, has for almost all its length “three fences, pyramid-shaped stacks of barbed wire on the two outer fences, a lighter-weight fence with intrusion detection equipment in the middle, an anti-vehicle ditch, patrol roads on both sides, and a smooth strip of sand for ‘intrusion tracking’.” It beats Trump’s southern anti-immigrant wall, although its intent is similar in that it is specifically directed against people who have done America no harm.
In 2014 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated that the Palestine wall was illegal in terms of international law, but Washington pays no heed whatever to that Court, any more than it does to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which it is convinced “unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and US national security interests.”
There must be no misunderstanding about the fact that neither Cuba nor Palestine presents any sort of threat to the people or interests of the United States of America. The citizens of both nations simply wish to get on with their lives, but on one hand, in Cuba, the government is not of democratic persuasion (to put it mildly) and Washington considers it must be overthrown, while in Palestine the threat is considered to be by Arabs to Israel, which country must — in Washington’s eyes — be supported by every possible means.
The latest Washington aberration about Palestine was the declaration on November 19 by Secretary of State Pompeo that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law. The European Union’s Security Council Members, Germany, France, Poland, Belgium and Britain, observed tactfully that “All settlement activity is illegal under international law and erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace.”
But the Trump administration continues its hard and unrelenting line in furthering what it sees as its international interests.
One explanation for Trump’s malevolent attitude to Cuba and Palestine is that both were regarded with equanimity by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, who is hated by Trump in what can be described only as a psychotic fashion. To what passes as Trump’s mind, everything that Obama achieved in his presidency was entirely wrong and must be wiped out.
Obama had considerable success in fostering normal relations with Cuba and, the New York Times reported that in December 2014 he “used his executive powers to dial down the decades of antagonism between Washington and Havana by moving to exchange prisoners and normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries, a deal worked out with the help of Pope Francis and after 18 months of secret talks between representatives of both governments.” This was a most creditable diplomatic and humane achievement. But everything has collapsed — or, more accurately, been destroyed — in the course of the venomous anti-Cuba campaign by Trump and his erratic minions.
In September US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin declared that “We are taking additional steps to financially isolate the Cuban regime. The United States holds the Cuban regime accountable for its oppression of the Cuban people and support of other dictatorships throughout the region, such as the illegitimate Maduro regime. Through these regulatory amendments, Treasury is denying Cuba access to hard currency, and we are curbing the Cuban government’s bad behaviour while continuing to support the long-suffering people of Cuba.” But what Washington is doing is viciously penalising the entirely innocent people of Cuba, just as it is doing in Palestine.
As recorded by the United Nations, at the General Assembly on November 7 “For the 28th consecutive year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.” 187 countries voted for the resolution, with only Brazil and Israel (of course) supporting Washington’s policy of sanctioning the Cuban people.
In similar fashion, Washington has treated international revulsion to Israel’s illegal settlements with contempt.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council on November 20 that Israeli settlement activities continue to be “a flagrant violation under international law.”
But international law does not matter to Trump’s Washington. He regards his policies and actions as being above and not subject to any international legal restriction. He will continue to penalise innocent people in Cuba and Palestine because he knows no other way in which to act when presented with what he regards as a problem. If he re-established normal relations with Cuba and assisted Palestinians in establishing their national home, even Trump could be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, his nature is to prefer and pursue poisonous confrontation. And countless millions of innocents continue to suffer.