From Mexico to Palestine: Resisting militarisation through transnational solidarity

From Mexico to Palestine: Resisting militarisation through transnational solidarity
7 min read
21 Oct, 2022
As movements in Mexico make links with the Palestinian struggle in the fight against militarisation, Erick Viramontes explains that given its violent global impacts, a broader transnational mobilisation is urgently needed.
A Palestinian flag painted under the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City to demonstrate against Israel's attacks on Gaza in 2021. [GETTY]

On September 21, 2022, as part of the numerous mobilisations that have been organised in Mexico in search for truth and justice since the forced disappearance of 43 students during the abominable night of Iguala eight years ago, there was also a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Mexico City.

After the demonstration, which demanded justice for the 43 students and their families and denounced Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, one of the embassy’s external walls was full of messages that emphasised those same demands and denunciations. Speaking in front of one of the messages, which read as “death to Israel”, the Israeli ambassador, Zvi Tal, while expressing his condolences to the night of Iguala victims, decried the demonstrations and denied any relation between them and the case of Ayotzinapa. This paved the ground for the eventual emergence of other voices that might attribute such protests to ignorance or as it is often the case when someone dares to criticise the Jewish state’s policies- antisemitism.

''Placing processes of militarisation within a global context links together different forms of resistance worldwide, in a transnational movement of solidarity. It makes possible the conception of Palestinian resistance against colonialism as part of the popular struggles, especially those led by indigenous peoples, against longstanding dispossession through militarisation in Mexico, which has continued under the left-wing government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.''

Although the ambassador spoke in very general terms about the subject, the reason for the demonstrations was Israel’s reluctance to cooperate with the current investigations on the disappearance of the 43 students.

In September 2021, the Mexican government sent a letter to Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennet, requesting the extradition of Tomás Zerón de Lucio, who was the head of the Criminal Investigation Agency during the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, and moved to Israel after he left office. Mr. Zerón, who was a key element of the government’s investigations after the forced disappearance of Ayotzinapa students, currently faces several accusations by the Mexican prosecutor, some of which point towards his participation in the manufacturing of the “historic truth” that aimed to cover up what really happened during the night of Iguala, and in the illegal purchase of the Israeli spyware Pegasus.

In what is seen as a move to protect a criminal, the Israeli government has not responded to Mexico’s extradition pleas after more than a year.

While the immediate reason for the protests is Israel’s obstruction of justice in the case of Ayotzinapa, public anger towards Israel has been historically mounting in Mexico. This is due to a well-informed reading by political organisations of the role of colonialism in Palestine in the production of those repressive regimes and the military technologies, such as Pegasus spyware, that sustain an ongoing capitalist offensive against humanity.

Moreover, placing processes of militarisation within a global context, links together different forms of resistance worldwide, in a transnational movement of solidarity. It makes possible the conception of Palestinian resistance against colonialism as part of the popular struggles, especially those led by indigenous peoples, against longstanding dispossession through militarisation in Mexico, which has continued under the left-wing government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The solidarity between struggles for resistance in Latin America and the Middle East is not exclusive to Mexico, however. In 2015, Washington University students organised ‘Ferguson to Ayotzinapa to Palestine: Solidarity and Collaborative Action’ an event set to be held at Missouri History Museum. This had allegedly provoked anger from the Jewish Community Relations Council that pressured the museum’s management to remove Palestine from the discussion. The organisers were subsequently asked to do so, or find another location. It ended with the event’s cancellation.

Four years later, the solidarity that underlined the cancelled event in Missouri manifested again across the US southern border. Thus, in June 2019, several political organisations in Mexico started mobilising against the increasing militarisation of the Zapatista territories in the southern state of Chiapas and against threats to political dissidence represented by an alliance between drug-dealers and the army in the state of Guerrero. A roundtable entitled ‘From Guerrero to Palestine: conversations about militarisation’ took place at Café Zapata Vive in Mexico City. Using a space provided by the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN, in Spanish), representatives of several organisations took part, including the parents of Ayotzinapa’s missing students, The Collective Decolonize This Place (DTP), and the Female members of Colonia Roma’s Otomí community.

One of the most recurrent ideas that emerged during those conversations was that militarisation is global in its ambition because it is part of capital’s strategic interests, and that some of its most notorious consequences include forced disappearance, displacement, assassinations, and grave human rights violations.

One of the speakers was Melitón Ortega, also known as 'Don Melitón', who is a spokesperson for the parents of Ayotzinapa’s missing students. Identifying himself as part of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, he began by stressing how militarisation, which is propelled by the imperialism implied in the expansion of bourgeois power, knows no borders. He also focused on the case of Mexico and its long history of using military force to repress popular movements, such as rural teachers’ schools (normales rurales) and peasants who are defending their territories, way of living, and culture.

Don Melitón also emphasised that such repression has been carried out in complicity with other countries, which have provided the Mexican army with repressive technologies and equipment, as well as training and support. Accordingly, militarisation in Mexico should be understood as part of the preservation and expansion of imperial power, and the only way out of such a destructive logic is a concerted resistance from below among peoples of the world.

A representative from DTP – a movement based in New York that fights, especially, in favour of Palestinian self-determination, indigenous rights, black liberation, and de-gentrification –pointed out that colonialism in Palestine is sustained by the $7 billion in aid that the US government gives to Israel. Accordingly, the appropriation of Palestinian lands by force should be understood as part of a wider effort that involves strategic interests of expansive states, alliances between transnational elites, and transfer of military and repressive technologies. Rather than solely a national struggle, the Palestinian struggle for liberation constitutes, therefore, an unavoidable path for most people of the world.

The fighting companion from Palestine, linked resistance against Israeli colonialism with resistance against militarisation, especially in southern Mexico. He asserted that “Palestine is our future here in Mexico too, because it combines neoliberalism, colonialism, apartheid, corruption, war, crime, all in the name of law and order for some people against others.”

He emphasised common trends in both cases, such as the divisive policies that underlined violence against compatriots, genocide, land appropriation, dispossession, advancement of mega-projects that bring crime, drugs and prostitution, and the instalment of fear among the population to sustain militarisation.

For the receiving end in the process of global militarisation, the search for justice in the forced disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa is also a key part of a global resistance struggle.

Indeed, the longstanding process of dispossession through colonialism in Palestine has produced military and repressive technologies, with the help of the US government at the expense of its own taxpayers. Such repressive technologies constitute a profitable business as they are transferred to other countries in the form of contracts and military assistance. Hence, while Israel’s reluctance to cooperate with Mexican justice in the case of Ayotzinapa rightly evokes anger, the protests outside its embassy in Mexico City are also a manifestation of a transnational movement for solidarity and resistance. And that movement regards Palestinian liberation and indigenous struggle in Mexico as local struggles connected by a common global trend in which renewed Arab regimes are also participants.

Erick Viramontes is assistant professor of international relations at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Querétaro, Mexico. His research looks at transregional relations between Middle East and Latin America and the contributions of decolonial thinking to international relations theory. His publications include Questioning the quest for pluralism: how decolonial is non-western IR? in the journal Alternatives: Global, Local, Political and Competing narratives of modernization: the subject of the knowledge-economy and its national duties in the journal Subjectivity.

Follow him on Twitter: @e_viramontes

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Opinions expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer, or of The New Arab and its editorial board or staff.