Editorial — 18 July 2014

No one in the Belizean media has been reporting about the latest conflict between Israel and Palestine, in which more than two hundred Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and many more hundreds wounded by Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza, all this before one Israeli casualty was recorded. Since many experts think that if a third world war were ever to break out, such a war would begin because of the raging hostility between the Israelis, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, on the other, the question is why the Belizean media is so silent.

It is clear that the present conflict is a one-sided affair, although the Israelis, possessed of the most military firepower in the region, have always succeeded in portraying themselves to the rest of the world as overwhelming underdogs. Israel receives $3 billion annually in military assistance from the United States – planet earth’s superpower, and Israel is itself a full-fledged nuclear power, capable of delivering nuclear warheads anywhere in the region.

Because of their Christian religions, which are originally derived from the Jewish writings of the Old Testament, and because Israel has also succeeded in portraying itself as fulfilling Old Testament prophecies in the Holy Land, Belizean scholars, writers, and journalists are unable to assess developments in the Middle East correctly and comment on them from a nationalistic Belizean standpoint.

Anything Israel does should be of interest to Belizeans because Israel is an extremely close ally of the Guatemalan ruling classes, and this has been so from the time Israel was established in May of 1948. Why this affinity between Israel and Guatemala has existed and continues to exist requires analysis by Belizeans, but the pro-Israel lobby in Belize is extremely powerful. Attempts by this newspaper to examine this alliance, which included apartheid South Africa until the early 1990s, have been met with a stony silence in Belize.

In this essay we want to look at how Guatemala has succeeded, in recent years, in portraying itself as a victim of Belizean military aggression. Such a portrayal is eminently laughable, a preposterous proposition in the opinion of Belizeans, but it has gained traction inside Guatemala itself and no doubt within the rest of Central America. The Guatemalan oligarchy and military have sent in the most destitute of their impoverished and oppressed Petén population to rampage illegally in pristine Belizean rain forests and watersheds. When these desperate Guatemalans take casualties from time to time in confrontations with the Belizean army on Belizean territory, the Guatemalan press in Guatemala City, owned by their wealthy oligarchy and military, raise a propaganda outcry to accuse Belize of aggression and atrocities. This is somewhat similar to what Israel does, in portraying itself as a victim of the Palestinians. How in hell can Guatemala possibly be a victim of Belize?

On a tangential note, we think it will be difficult for Belize to replace the late Ambassador Fred Martinez in Guatemala City. Last week, Belize’s Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington, indulging his insatiable appetite for hyperbole, credited Ambassador Martinez with having been the one to keep the peace between Guatemala and Belize. Ambassador Fred was good, but not that good. He was a cool man in a spot which can get warm at times.

Again tangentially, whenever Belize has to send its soldiers to patrol in the streets of the old capital, it brings up the question of exactly what purpose our army is supposed to serve. Perhaps it was always a reach to think that our army could serve a militarily deterrent purpose when the enemy was forty times larger than we were. It was Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) Leader, Philip Goldson, who first called for a Belizean army, back in the 1960s. The ruling People’s United Party (PUP) established the Belize Defence Force (BDF) in 1978 when it brought together the Police Special Forces (paramilitary) and the Belize Volunteer Guard. The then Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. C. L. B. Rogers, said privately that what he wanted out of the army was the ability to hold the international airport for 24 hours minimum in order to give friendly forces time to reach Belize.

Perhaps the time has come to re-establish a small paramilitary force, which is to say, a special police detachment, to supplement the patrols of the regular police in the four or five real hotspots on Belize City’s Southside. Our soldiers should not be used, and we say this categorically, to patrol in urban settings unless martial law is declared or there is an absolute natural disaster.

A new, small paramilitary will, of course, cost some money. The political leaders of Belize will ignore the call, because ruling politicians here cannot stand for any civilian to come up with an idea outside of their Cabinet circles. We’re not looking for fame. Ideas, after all, are a dime a dozen.

The real answer on the Southside is jobs. Twenty years ago, Belizean semi-pro basketball created more than a hundred jobs out of virtually nothing and sparked weekend business activity in the old capital/population center. It was this same United Democratic Party (UDP) which destroyed semi-pro basketball. With the credibility of national government behind them, the UDP began their anti-semi pro campaign by claiming in their People’s Pulse in 1994 and 1995, on a weekly basis, that the semi-pro champions, owned by Kremandala, were “violent.” How many people did we kill?

We close with a question which may seem like a puzzle. Why did the People’s Pulse become the Guardian after a change of UDP leadership in 1998? We won’t keep you in suspense. This was a lawyer’s trick designed to avoid paying the bills their newspaper rag had incurred. Everything is legal in Belize when the attorney/area representatives do it. We’re just saying.

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