General — 30 June 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Artists for Peace and Common Sense demonstrate against Israeli community police training

Yasser Musa, protester, says that “They [the Israeli military] have trained the Guatemalan army to commit major violations against the Guatemalan indigenous people, hundreds of thousands killed in that brutal civil war that they had.”

Police Minister Aragon said that the training “will improve relationship between the police and the community.”

BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 26, 2018– An unusual group of protesters, consisting of artists, musicians, writers, poets, historians and thinkers, went to Belmopan this afternoon and unfurled a large red banner with white lettering marked “Artists for Peace and Common Sense” in the vicinity of the National Assembly building, where they made a call to government ministers as they launched their protest against the training of a number of police officers by the Israeli state as part of a “Police and Community” course.

Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Hon. Elodio Aragon, told 7News that the training being offered by the Israelis will last two weeks and is focused on community policing. According to Hon. Aragon, 15 police officers will be trained along with 15 individuals from other agencies, including Special Constables, and members of the National Drug Abuse Council (NDAC).

Hon. Aragon was dismissive of the protesters and said the training, “…is something that will improve [the] relationship between the police and the community and that is what is important to us.”

One of the organizers of the protest, the artist and educator Yasser Musa remarked, “They are now saying this is community training. Mr. Aragon, when it was the Israelis that made the invitation. It’s not Mr. Aragon that invited the diplomats here. It’s not Mr. Aragon that said that we are going to have community policing. It is the Israelis that are saying it.”

Musa added, “Aragon is sucking up to his own foreign minister and the delusional position they have taken on this issue.”

Hon. Aragon said that Belize has a lot of issues that the artists can protest against.

The Minister of State’s response drew sharp criticism from Yasser Musa, who remarked, “Mr. Aragon could never suggest to us, the artists of Belize, what to protest. He has no moral authority. His government is bankrupt…”

From Independence Hill, the group of protesters marched to the open space in front of the National Police Training Academy, where the gate that was opened was closed and manned by police in military fatigue.

Once in front of the National Police Training Academy, the artists chanted and shouted out to those on the inside, “shame, shame, shame.”

In an interview in front of the police academy, Yasser Musa said that the Israelis have a history of collaboration with Guatemala, and they have had security collaborations and arms-sellings collaborations with the Guatemalan government, for decades.

Musa pointed to the Sarstoon River situation with Guatemala and said it is a strategy. “The Israelis have inspired the Guatemalans in that area that is for us. The Belizean citizens have to stand up for our border security,” Musa declared, “and our government is just standing back. We can see now why they are just standing back — because they have been collaborating, now they are in collusion with the state of Israel to train our security.”

Musa said this kind of training will cause major problems in Belize, and that this is a dangerous situation for the country.

Musa was asked if the Israeli training poses any kind of security risk for Belize. “Of course, by its very definition it is a security risk, by its very definition it is a human rights violation, because this country has a record, that the United Nations has passed countless resolutions, and the Israelis have ignored the United Nations in its oppression against the Palestinian people..,” he replied.

Musa added, “They have trained the Guatemalan army to commit major violations against the Guatemalan indigenous people, hundreds of thousands killed in that brutal civil war that they had. So there is a history that they need to pay attention to, but more importantly there is a present danger that we need to be aware of.”

Musa said that our foreign policy is an act of stupidity and an act of hypocrisy. “How can you say on one hand we are condemning this and that, and then let in the wolves to train our people?”, he questioned.

Musa went on to explain that the foreign minister (Hon. Elrington) had remarked that “we have no problem with the Americans training our security forces, so we should have no problems with the Israelis.” “What kind of craziness is this? With all due respect to the foreign minister, that is craziness and smack in the face of common sense that we are out here to demonstrate,” stated Musa.

Musa was asked about Minister Aragon’s remarks, and he replied saying, “Aragon does not know the history of what is going on. He is just parroting what Sedi Elrington is saying. He should open a book and check for himself what is going on, instead of listening to the insanity of his own foreign minister and the insanity of our foreign minister.”

Former foreign minister and author Assad Shoman described Israel as a terrorist state, an apartheid state. When he made that remark, Shoman noted, “I am quoting Israeli historians and authors such as Noam Chomsky who has said so publicly. They have condemned the government of Israel for establishing apartheid in Palestine.” Shoman said that Israel has been accused of ethnic cleansing in Palestine. “And we are going to take these people who we see on the television with snipers trained to kill people. Is that what we want our police to do, I don’t think so,” he said.

“I think we should listen to the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and said please stop this,” Shoman remarked.

Shoman said that the country can benefit from training — “but let’s get it from members of the Commonwealth, Canada, India and others.”

 “ Recently a resolution was passed in the United Nations saying Zionism is racism,” he went on to state.

We asked Shoman whether Israel had supported Belize in 1981 in the country’s quest for independence.

“Never,” Shoman replied, “because it was keeping the military government in Guatemala in place.”

“As a man who is watching in the streets, we don’t need this,” Shoman said.

Caribbean Shores area representative, Hon. Kareem Musa, remarked that we have to ask Israel if she supports the territorial integrity of Belize and if she would be there for Belize if Guatemala invades us. “Those are the kinds of questions we have to get an answer to before we open our front doors to Israel”, Hon. Musa said.

 

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