Headline — 27 June 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Israel’s training of Belize police causes uproar

Remember that Israel supplied arms to Guatemala against Belize, says NTUCB, who says no to the Israelis training our police department

BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 25, 2018– Tomorrow, Tuesday, a protest is scheduled to take place at a most unlikely place, when members from Belize’s artistic and literary community descend on the space in front of the National Police Training Academy in Belmopan to register their rejection of the “community police training” that is being offered to the Belize Police Department by the state of Israel in commemoration of Israel’s 70th anniversary of independence.

A permit to hold the protest from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. was issued last Thursday from the police headquarters in Belmopan.

Tonight, Amandala spoke with artist and educator Yasser Musa, who is one of the organizers of tomorrow’s protest. We asked Musa why Belizeans should care about the training that Israel wants to conduct with our Police Department.

“First, let us look at this thing as a big picture. Our media is under attack and is being suppressed. Our streets are flowing with blood; our politicians are absent—so a growing vacuum is enveloping the nation. And on top of all this, we are less than one year away from our most existential decision since our independence in 1981, when we will have to decide on a yes or no vote in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) referendum,” Musa said.

Musa added, “Now comes this moment of ‘police training’ from  Israel—a nation known across the world for its human rights violations, and its countless violations of United Nations resolutions in its apartheid treatment of the Palestinians.”

“Tomorrow’s protest is important for two reasons — one, that as artists and writers we feel that our voices are important and valuable. We see the world in a tenderness kind of way. We approach things with our shared humanity at the forefront. The safety and security of our people is at stake because this move has dangerous implications,” Musa stated.

Musa went on to explain, “We have to be clear about what we mean when we say Israel. Like I always make clear to my students when speaking about Guatemala, we have no issue with the people of Guatemala; it is their government that is acting aggressive.

“And the same applies to the state of Israel: We have no problem with the people of Israel. What we have a problem with is the record of brutality against the Palestinian people.”

“For decades, Israel has had strong military collaboration with Guatemala, and yes, the strategies being employed by the Guatemalans in the Chiquibul and on the Sarstoon River is textbook Gaza and West Bank approaches,” Musa explained.

Last month, the United States and Guatemala were the only two countries to relocate their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and in the wake of that single event dozens of Palestinians were killed and hundreds were injured by bullets fired into their bodies from Israeli soldiers. When Israel became a state in 1948, over 700,000 Palestinians had to flee their homeland and they remain stateless up to today.

Among the other protesters are Katie Usher, Gilvano Swasey, Perry Smith (Days of Healing), and a number of other artists, writers and organizations who are strongly against the training of our police officers by the Israelis.

Memories of Israel’s military support for Guatemala against Belize still rankle in the minds of many Belizeans.

The National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), one of the nation’s most powerful bodies, through a press release sent today, said that it was “astounded to learn that the Government of Belize has authorized the Government of Israel to carry out a course called ‘Police and Community’”.

“We register our strong objections to this abhorrent act, likely to endanger the human rights record of the nation state Belize,” it said.

“For perspective, recall that back in 1975, United States of America president Jimmy Carter banned the sale of arms to Guatemala, whereupon Israel stepped up to supply armament, including heavy weapons, aircraft and even a munitions factory to Guatemala.

“Were it not for the intervention of Great Britain, who immediately mobilized troops and a flight of Harriers to defend Belize, Guatemala would surely have invaded Belize,” said the NTUCB..

“In the USA, despite the federal government’s slavish support for Israel and the atrocities it commits, the Durham City Council of the State of North Carolina, voted on April 16, 2018 to ban training and exchanges between Durham’s Police Department and the Israeli Military, stating ‘We know that racial profiling and its subsequent harm to communities of color have plagued policing in our nation and in our community. Israel’s Defense Force brutalizes and terrorizes the people of Palestine, and the Durham Police brutalize and terrorize black and brown communities,’” said the NTUCB.

The NTUCB summarized its position by saying, “As a responsible trade union, we cannot sit back and allow this kind of travesty to happen. Training our police with that kind of abusive mentality is abhorrent.”

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