...reflections from a Compassionate Listener

Monday, February 25, 2013

Guatemala...Welcome to Palestine

In 1982 when I was a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, my good friend and I put ourselves at risk to research the Israeli military’s puppet Palestinian administration in the West Bank. The “Village Leagues” could be described as armed militias, staffed by Palestinian collaborators and former criminals who were appointed by the Israeli military. Not only did my friend and I get an eye-full about the Israeli occupation, but while we were interviewing one of the Israeli military leaders in the West Bank, he made it clear that they had watched our every move and knew of every one of our meetings with Palestinians. (At that time, Israelis could be arrested for speaking with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which included almost every Palestinian in the West Bank.)

Back to the Village Leagues: If you were Palestinian at that time and needed any help at all, for example a visa for your son who was accepted to attend university in Europe, or even if you needed something as simple as a driver's license, you were forced to collaborate with the Village Leagues and turn in neighbors and even family members...which in turn meant arrest, imprisonment, torture, and sometimes death.

At around the same time, for another university course, I wrote a long paper on the United States' and Israel’s unholy alliance with the dictators of Central America. I learned about Israel’s arming and counter-insurgency training of the Guatemalan military. Many sources credited Israel as the “brains” behind the Guatemalan genocide of the Mayans, which spiked significantly in 1982 with stepped up Israeli aide.

A quote from ABC News: “'The Israeli soldier is the model for our soldiers,' proclaimed the chief of staff of the Guatemalan army. In 1982, Efraín Ríos Montt—the country’s first evangelical president and a general who took power by a coup—told ABC that his success was due to the fact that 'our soldiers were trained by Israelis.'"

What I experience here in this Mayan village of 13,000, is continual evidence of the devastating loss of trust between people and families. Even now, 16 years after the Peace Accords were signed, the effects of the war are glaring. When I first heard about the “Civilian Patrol” that operated here in San Pedro and in just about every other Mayan village in Guatemala during the war, I thought it sounded strangely similar to what I witnessed in Palestine. What I finally realized and confirmed through research, is that the Israeli system of forced collaboration in Palestine through the Village Leagues, is exactly what was exported to Guatemala.

From another article: “It is no accident that the Guatemalans looked to the Israelis for assistance in organizing their campaign against the Maya, and having followed their mentors' advice, wound up with something that looked quite a bit like the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. One of the most oppressive features of Guatemala's pacification program was the 'Civilian Patrols' whose ranks were filled by coercion, with most joining out of fear of being called subversive, and thus marked for torture or execution.

“Those who did serve in the Patrols had to turn in their quota of 'subversives'. Otherwise they were forced to denounce their own neighbors and to execute them with clubs and fists in the village plaza.

“The Patrols are believed by most analysts to have been created by Israel. They had a profound effect on Mayan society, both psychologically, ‘a permanent violation of our values,’ as the country's Catholic bishops charged, and practically, as long shifts on Patrol prevented fulfillment of family and economic obligations.

“In 1983 the Guatemalan government estimated that 850 villages in the highlands had ‘Civilian Patrol’ units. The following year the U.S. embassy in Guatemala estimated that 900,000 men had been enrolled in the units, armed with Israeli assistance.

“In 1982 Israeli military advisers helped develop and carry out Guatemala's 'Plan Victoria,' the devastating scorched earth campaign that Rios Montt unleashed on the highland population. Rios Montt himself told the Washington Times that the Israeli government was giving his administration help with the counterinsurgency plan called "Techo, tortilla y trabajo" (shelter, food and work). The "three T's" followed an earlier Rios program called Fusiles y Fridoles, or beans and bullets, where wholesale slaughter was combined with the provision of life's necessities to those willing to cooperate with the military.”

Guatemala...welcome to Palestine.

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