Letter from Colombian Grassroots Groups to Palestinian Organizations: South-South Solidarity

Bogota, Colombia

To: BDS National Committee (BNC)
Ramallah, Occupied Palestine

Warm greetings from Colombia.

The undersigned individuals and social and political organizations are writing to you to convey our message of solidarity with the Palestinian people. We understand your struggle for the end of the apartheid that has been imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories and on the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens within the State of Israel. We have closely followed your struggle for the right of return for the millions of Palestinian refugees, as well as the campaigns to free the thousands of prisoners who are now in Israeli prisons, including hundreds of children.

We have been outraged by the 50-year military occupation of Palestine, and by Israel’s failure to fulfill its 1994 commitment to withdraw its forces. We have learned that in addition to its army, Israel now has approximately 700,000 settlers on Palestinian land. This military occupation has entailed the demolition of numerous homes (1,113 from 2006 to 2016) and has allowed the occupying army to control water supplies, leaving Palestinians a tiny portion — about 15% — to live on. According to 2015 data, the land stolen by Israeli settlements comprises 8.5% of the West Bank, plus an additional 28% where the Israeli army has built 210 military bases and confiscated land for “security” reasons. This means that Palestinians have been robbed of 36.5% of their land in the West Bank, which along with Gaza makes up present-day Palestine. Even so, Palestinians have continued to resist, leading Israel to attempt to stop them by detaining more than 6,200 Palestinians, of whom around 300 are children (May 2017 figures). Israel has created are two sets of rights, one for Israelis and another for Palestinians. While Israelis have full legal guarantees, Palestinians face restrictions to their freedom of movement, access to housing, access to education, freedom of expression, and in general are kept in a constant state of oppression.

For these reasons, we support the call made by Palestinian civil society to promote boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the State of Israel and against Israeli and multinational companies that support or profit from the crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

From thousands of kilometers away, we have seen how your people’s human rights have been violated, and we have recognized that we have shared histories. As part of our support and solidarity, we would like to share our own struggles with you. Israel’s military exports to Colombia and the business dealings between agricultural companies from the two countries has reinforced the structural violence in both of our nations. Because we know that military products are brought to our country after being tested in the occupied Palestinian territories, we believe that opposing this form of commercial and military relations between the two States is an ethical imperative.

This is why we would like to tell you about recent, troubling developments in Colombia. The peace agreement signed by the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group is now being implemented, with major difficulties along the way, and negotiations are underway with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group. However, despite these efforts to achieve peace in Colombia, we are facing a critical situation in efforts to protect community leaders’ lives and freedom of association across the country. There have been systematic attacks on individuals defending their community initiatives, their territories, their natural resources, and human rights. These attacks have taken the form of threats, forced disappearances, sexual assaults, and murders — primarily carried out by paramilitary groups — and unfounded criminal prosecutions by the Colombian State.

Given this distressing situation that jeopardizes peace in our country, we have decided to invite you to unite our countries’ struggles. Just as here, we support the BDS movement, we ask you to call on organizations promoting BDS in the world to condemn the attacks committed against us. We believe that if you call on the movements supporting you to bring attention to these attacks and to pressure the Colombian government, Colombia will face international pressure to fulfill its duty to protect the life and physical integrity of the civilian population. So far, in response to our calls for action against these attacks, the Colombian government has simply stated that the attacks are not systematic and that the paramilitary groups do not exist. Yet attacks on community leaders have been committed every four days on average, and these attacks remain in absolute impunity.

Together, Palestinian and Colombian civil society can express our mutual solidarity to confront the death and inequality that have been imposed on us. Our shared struggles are the best way to promote social equality and respect for human rights around the world. Let this be our opportunity to tell the world that our mutual support can defeat inequality.

Signatories:

• Colombian Workers’ Federation (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia, CUT) – Bogota/Cundinamarca Region
• Marcha Patriotica — Bogota Region
• People’s Congress
• Communist Party of Colombia – Secretary General Jaime Caicedo Turriago
• Tremenda Revoltosa Batucada Feminista
• Nicolas Neira Foundation
• Senda Political Movement
• Bachue Women’s House
• Via Libre Libertarian Group

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