Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stop the genocide of the Palestinians: Breaking the silence in Belize

By George and Candy Gonzalez

The editorial entitled Israel, Palestine; Guatemala, Belize (Amandala, 20 July 2014) covered many important issues.  It highlighted the fact that the subject has not been given the attention it needs but failed to point out that most of the information we, in Belize, receive about Palestine and Israel comes from the United States propaganda machine that takes it cue from Israel which has been pumping out lies for so long that many people assume it is true.

As you read this, be assured that we are not anti-Semitic but we are anti-Zionists; Palestinians and Jews are both Semitic people.  We are against Zionism because it is a racist ideology and is the only accepted apartheid system in the world, due to the US (which has become the United States of Israel).

Our support of the struggle of the Palestinian people is not new; we have had this position since the 1960s.  In the early 1980s, we started the Maine Palestine Solidarity Committee.  We spoke out and wrote articles to inform people about the truth as to what was happening in Palestine and Israel’s involvement in Guatemala and El Salvador and opposing the invasion of Lebanon.

Candy was in Egypt during the 6-day war in 1967 when Israel claimed that President Nasser started the war and they, the Israelis, only attacked military targets.  She saw, first hand, the sneak attack by the Israeli air force and the bombing of neighborhoods in Cairo.  She can attest to the lies the western press fed the world as we can attest to the lies being told now.

For instance, the country of Palestine was not an empty, barren land.  The Zionists would have you believe that Palestine was a land without a people for a people without land.  It was inhabited with a developed cultured society.  The Jews and Muslims have not been fighting each other for thousands of years.  In fact, Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived and worshipped in peace until the Zionists moved in with the goal of “jewifying” Palestine or, in other words, “ethnic cleansing”.  

In 1937, Jews were 17% of the population. David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, said, “the Arabs have to go.”  The Zionists stepped up their campaign to bring Jews to Palestine and drive the Palestinians out.  When the U.N. partitioned Palestine, in 1947 the Palestinians owned 92% of the land and the Jews owned less than 8% of the land yet they gave the Jewish state 57% of the land and the Palestinians 43%, though, by then, they were 2/3 of the population.  The systematic expulsion of the Palestinians continued. 

Ariel Sharon, who directed the invasion of Lebanon, stood by as the right wing Lebanese slaughtered women and children in the Palestinian refugee camps.  International outcry forced Israel to remove him as head of the military yet later he became Prime Minister.  When he became ill, he was replaced by Netanyahu who says that the bombing, death and destruction in Gaza will not stop until Hamas is destroyed but what he really means is that it will not stop until all Palestinians are dead or gone.

Whenever Israeli atrocities are criticized, they try to excuse themselves as victims of the holocaust.  How many people realize that 13 million died in the Nazi concentration camps? But we are only told about the 6 million Jews.  The rest were Gypsies, union organizers, political activists and others that Hitler didn’t like but their deaths don’t seem to matter.

The strongest support, in Belize, for Israel comes from the U.S. Evangelicals who call themselves “Christian Zionists”.  Zionism is based on a vindictive, racist ideology; those victimized in Nazi Germany are now the victimizers in Israel.  They have assumed the position, the vocabulary and the actions of the Nazis.  Instead of hearing, “the only good Jew is a dead Jew” we now hear “the only good Arab is a dead Arab”. 

This is too short a space to write everything we want to say.  So we offer to be available to anyone who wants to hear what we have to say or who wants to challenge us.  We would be happy to debate, discuss, speak on radio, television, at groups. 

George and Candy Gonzalez, Cayo

George and Candy Gonzalez have made Belize their homeland. They have been struggling for global justice for over 50 years.

Contact: geocanbz[at]

For another article on this topic, consider: The Unholy Alliance between Belize and Israel: A Commentary for Freedom

Friday, July 18, 2014

Belize: A Nation of God or A Nation of Laws?

We find ourselves in a dilemma in Belize today: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws? The answer is not as easy as some would believe. Belize is in a transitional time warp that can be better understood if we saw our collective consciousness in two parts: pre-independence and post-independence.

If the same question was posed fifty years ago the answer would be resound: we are a nation of God! While we were never a theocracy by any means, the Christian religious values which underpinned our collective value system made it no question that the majority of us acknowledged the supremacy of God in our personal and collective lives. Thus, it is not surprising that that God consciousness forms a part of the first principle in the preamble of our constitution. During those days none would have dared challenge the constitutionality of that fundamental principle, out of reverence, or out of fear of being ostracized by this powerful collective consciousness. Questioning God was evidence of blasphemy.

Ask the same question today, however, and the answer is less convicted. Post independent Belize has evolved a new set of values that challenges some of the old values that were taken for granted in pre-independent Belize. One such conflict is in the answer to this simple, yet complex question: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws?

Clearly the politically correct answer is we are a nation of laws governed by the principles of our constitution and all the conventions and declarations we have signed. So while the acknowledgement of God remains the first principle of the document the definition of supremacy is intrinsically challenged by other principles contained in the body of the document itself, especially those which says that every citizen has equal human rights under the law.

The reason there was no challenge to the legal definition of supremacy in pre-independent Belize was because supremacy meant that God’s moral code, as outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible, underpinned all our laws and the preservation of public morality was based on those religious principles. While the principle of privacy was respected in pre-independent Belize, if there was evidence of any display of public immorality there was an immediate reaction from the public and the law.

This is not the case in post-independent Belize. Our social rules are no longer governed by strict adherence to the old definition of public morality as defined in Judo-Christian ethics. In an era where soft and sometimes hard core pornography can be seen by 24 hours cable channels; where graphic dancehall lyrics coupled with hard-core sexually suggestive videos can be consumed on public media without censorship; where women and children continue to be victims of sexual assault, Belize, as far as public morality, now find itself at a place where the question again arises: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws?

The gauge for public display of immorality has been so totally blurred today that the definition of what is morally right or wrong is now reduced to personal opinion and protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of conscience. And if you want to extend your peculiar definition of morality to a group of like minds, you are protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of association.

While these constitutional protections are enshrined within our constitution our exercise of those freedoms was different in pre independent Belize. There would have never been a UNIBAM challenge in a Supreme Court of pre independent Belize. Same people, same country, but different times. While there were the cross-dressing “Carmen Mirandas and Shirleys” in pre-independent Belize there was no perceived threat from their lifestyle as there now appears to be in post-independent Belize with the mob attack on “Vanessa Champagne Paris”.

This mob attack was indicative of this underlying clash of old values versus new values. The mob, and the spectators who did nothing to intervene, felt the victim deserved his ‘punishment’ for breaking “God’s law” which condemns men wearing women’s attire. The mob’s attack was spontaneous and irrational but fueled by an innate sense of rightness and justice in their action. So despite church leaders later distancing themselves from the actions of the mob it was clear that the root justification for this mob attack was religious.

The law on the other hand takes the view that there is never justification for assault on a person regardless to your personal or collective disagreement with them. So despite the moral indignation of the mob and onlookers at the behavior of ‘Vanessa’ and their Old Testament instinct to punish him, the law protects ‘Vanessa’ and condemns the actions of the mob.

It was said by one esteemed Jurist that you cannot legislate morality. By this I think he meant you cannot set out laws governing how individuals will choose to act or not act on a particular moral question since moral conscience is the preview of the individual and no one has a right to direct a persons’ conscience – each is personally responsible; this is a principle in law.

Following this reasoning then, the proponents for repealing S53 say that, “to legislate that a certain kind of moral behavior is illegal, based on “God’s law”, is unconstitutional. The state cannot legislate a person's moral behavior or prevent a person from behaving in a certain way as long as those ways do not affect the rights of others or disrupt the public good”.

While the proponents for keeping S53 as is say, “But isn’t it equally true that if you can’t legislate morality, you also cannot legislate the acceptance of a behavior that a sizeable part of the population finds repugnant and therefore, immoral? Can the state legislate that my child be taught certain material I find immoral; does the state have the right to legislate a morally offensive agenda? Isn’t this the same principle in reverse?”

This is an example of the conundrum that Caribbean Jurist faces today. The legal traditions of the West are based on Judo-Christian ethical foundations and have always had moral and ethical excellence as the goals of good governance. However, as western societies have evolved over the last century they have moved drastically away from a God centered society to a man centered paradigm with a result that “God”, as perceived in the traditional Judo-Christian ethical frame, is no longer the source of law: this has been replaced by a UN system of declarations and conventions called ‘human rights’ which are enshrined in the constitutions of most former colonial states in the region.

What does this all mean for us in Belize, in 2014, and how do we answer the question: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws today? Clearly our recent history shows that we lean more to the latter definition, but are the two mutually exclusive or is it possible to be both? The dynamics surrounding the UNIBAM case brings that question into sharp focus. The battle lines are drawn and the long awaited decision of the Chief Justice will be interpreted as an affirmation of one or the other.

  By Nuri Muhammad

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Unholy Alliance between Belize and Israel: A Commentary for Freedom

The unholy alliance between the Belizean governments both past and present with the occupiers of Palestinian land, the so-called State of Israel, is one of the biggest failures in Belize's foreign policy. It will surely go down as the disgraceful use of elitist power which defies our socio-historical experience, morality, and diplomacy strategies.

Most Belizeans both at home and abroad are likely not aware that before the land of the Palestinians was considered by the imperialist’s powers of Britain and the United States as a 'Homeland' for the so-called Jews of Europe, Belize was also on the top of their list. 

Indeed, this was acknowledged by an Israeli Ambassador in a recent visit to Belize:

“In the beginning of the century there were a few ideas about where to build the new Jewish state. We were talking about Uganda in Africa, we were talking about Belize and other places” - Mattanya Cohen, Israel Ambassador (2009)

It was known that the region of Central America was far too hot for these Europeans.  It was the mild Mediterranean climate of Palestine which became the selected location of the unjust invasion and establishment of an Israeli state. The people of Palestine were driven from their land, pushed behind the barb wires in concentration camps which are now the bombarded Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Guat-Israeli Alliance
Belizeans must realize that the Israeli apartheid regime, which holds our brothers and sisters hostage in their own lands, has been the greatest supporter of the genocidal military oligarchy in Guatemala. And Guatemala, as we are well aware, is a sworn enemy to the Belizean people with an unfounded territorial claim over Belize.

When Belize campaigned for the international support from the United Nations (UN) to achieve self-independence, Israel was not Belize’s ally. In fact, Israel was one of the main suppliers of arms and ammunitions to Guatemala. This created a mood of war during the 1970s (see Shoman 2010, pp. 107, 137, 146).

Israel consistently abstained from voting in the resolutions that were introduced to secure Belize’s independence (see Shoman, 2010). This was done in order for Israel to remain an ally of Guatemala. The power elites of Israel would have benefited if Belize and Guatemala had entered a war because they were going to be the main suppliers of arms and ammunitions. 

In the past, the George Price PUP government did recognize the legality of the state of Israel (perhaps they were compelled to do so). But when the Esquivel UDP administration came to power in 1984, Belize's became a pronounced supporter of Israel. The Esquivel UDP administration declared its Pro-United States Pro-Liberalism policy to the international community. And concern Belizeans, like members from BREDDA and the UBAD Foundation, knew that the Belizean people were heading towards greater international dependency.

Then during the Musa PUP administration in 1998, there was a slight turn away from diplomatic support of Israel. But since gaining power in 2004, the Barrow UDP administration's with its diehard Pro-West Foreign Minister, Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington, has gone to great lengths to accommodate Israel within Belize's body politic. As noted by 7 News:

Israel and Belize have long had an uneasy relationship... But today [November, 16, 2009] in a surprise diplomatic move – Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington boldly cemented relations with Israel allowing a visa waiver and a technical assistance programme. We suspect that it is the kind of thing that could not have happened during the last government when Said Musa who is of Palestinian descent was the Prime Minister. But things change and Elrington today said the new pact will help Belize with knowledge.

Belize now has official diplomatic relations with one of the most loyal military ally of Guatemala. This is despite the fact that Israel refused to vote in our favor during the independence campaign. We are now showing affection to the state which provided arms and ammunitions that could have led to our dissolution as nation. As Evan X Hyde said the “This makes no sense. The friend of my enemy cannot possibly be my friend” (The Publisher, 2014).

As the bombs fall on innocent Palestinians, it becomes obvious that our previous and current governments have wedded an unholy alliance with the occupiers of Palestine. By failing to break our current diplomatic relations with Israel, we are signaling our acceptance to the actions of Israel in our struggle for independence and in the genocide that is unfolding before the eyes of the world.

We must not remain silent while Israel unleashes hell on unarmed civilians. Due to our historical experience we should be the most sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. We could have been the ones to experience the present state of terrorism of the Palestinian people. This is a call for civil society organizations, civil servants, educators, and academics to insist that Belize breaks its diplomatic relations with Israel.

By Bilal Morris* and Rolando Cocom

*Bilal Morris is a Belizean Journalist residing in Los Angeles. He has authored many articles on Islam in the Caribbean and Central America and on Belize.

Recommended readings:

Perspectives on the Belizean Status Quo: A commentary on “Stasis in Belize”

During my study of Belizean history at the University of Belize, we often talked about “why are things the way they are? And how can we make a change?

In our history sessions, Professor Iyo would often make reference to “stasis” as a way of understanding the Belizean status quo (i.e. the existing state of affairs). As his students, he would recommend that we read his co-authored paper with Michael Rosberg entitled: “Theoretical Perspectives on the Stasis of Class Relations in the Caribbean: the Belize Case Study”.

I recall that Prof. Iyo would employ two analogies to introduce us to the concept of stasis. He once drew a spiral on the board. A spiral he would remark is a gradually progressing curve which emanates from a central point. For the spiral to take shape, it encircles the path of its previous inscription. Therefore, the spiral has a directional flow but it is non-linear, gradual and apparently redundant.

The second analogy, he often used, was comparing stasis to the movement of the earth. The earth sits on an axis. It gradually spins, completing its axial rotation and revolution, only to do so again and again. 

Like the earth and the spiral, the Belizean society has been moving (changing) but has been constrained by an axial positioning which is theorized as the economic mode/relations of production (e.g. slavery; relationship between ‘master and slave’ or capitalism; relationship between employer and employees).

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, stasis is “a state of static balance or equilibrium; a state or period of stability during which little or no evolutionary change in a lineage occurs”.

As a theoretical construct, stasis is an approach to understanding why there has been little or no change to benefit the masses. It allows us to conceptualize “why the more things change – the more they remain the same”. 

Stasis then is both a description of a complex and changing social formation (society) and also a specific approach of analyzing the formation (by analyzing historical periods, party politics, education system, etc.).  

The thesis put forth is that both social structures (e.g. legal, educational, religious, political, economic institutions) and social actors (e.g. Belizeans participation in ‘Wednesday Clinic’, support of the PUP/UDP, participation in PUP/UDP rhetoric) contribute to stasis, where the mode of production (e.g. slavery, capitalism) plays a crucial role.

‘Stasis’ is informed by the theoretical perspectives of functionalism (E. Durkheim) and conflict theory (K. Marx). The functionalist perspective holds that each social sphere (religious, education, symbolic, cultural, etc.) exists in a formation  (society) to contribute to social cohesion and stability. Durkheim is said to have made the analogy that society is an organism. In this line of reasoning, society is the creation of something that is beyond the individual. Indeed, religion, language, party politics, and cultural forms, all exist prior to our individual existence. We enter (i.e. are born or migrate in) a society where the division of party politics, ethnic stereotypes, religious denominationalism, political victimization, clientelism, etc., exists as ‘social facts’ (taken for granted norms). It is suggested that through the process of ‘socialization’ we come to accept and re-enact these social facts.  

In the conflict perspective, there is the belief that a social formation (society) is fundamentally structured by the mode of production (e.g. enslavement, wage-labor, service-labor). In this scenario, the previously listed ‘social facts’ are treated as ideologies which facilitate a notion of ‘false consciousness’ that limits the masses from openly observing their economic oppression (e.g. education limits critical thinking, party politics discourages unity, religion discourages political activism). It is hypothesized that not until the masses become conscious of their exploitation will there be the possibility of change. The masses must gain control of the means of production (land and industries) to alter the mode of production which would lead to changes in the superstructure. (Note: This is a classical interpretation of Marxism, which does not reflect the depth of Marx’s writings. Additionally, religion, education, like other ideologies/philosophical domains can become forces of resistance). 

It is argued that the formation of modern Belize has been the result of various socio-political hegemonic impositions, resistances, and changes which have occurred in the periods of slavery, post-slavery colonialism, and post-colonialism. This includes the introduction, resistance, and abolition of slavery; population growth; migratory movements; establishment and resistance to colonial governance; wage labor resistances; the formation of self-government; the institutionalization of education; and the expansion of capitalist practices and institutions, among many others. 

The dominant political parties in Belize (the PUP &UDP) both enunciate that their respective parties are the solution to Belizean status quo (i.e. the solution to stasis). They persuasively propagate that the current status quo is due to the mismanagement of either the previous or current government in power, depending on which casts the blame on the other.

In the past decades, there has been increased poverty, unemployment, and limited opportunities to land, higher education, and health-care for most of the population. This has contributed to consequential effects such as the high rates of crime, low economic productivity, and an increasingly higher cost of living. And despite the fact that both parties have failed to change the status quo, there remains a high-support for these political parties. These are fundamental contradictions of contemporary Belize.

The persistence of social inequality and the lack of social change is said to be the result of an underlining mode of production which has remained concentrated in the hands of a few. In each historical period (slavery, post-colonial slavery, and post-colonialism), it is said that only the ‘names’ have changed while the has ‘game’ remained the same. Using the analogy of the earth, the axis on which Belize rotates has been the mode of production which privileged the colonial elites and the emergent upper class since independence.

But why do significant inequalities persist? It is argued that resistances have only occurred when Belizeans gained consciousness of the unequal opportunities given to them. It is asserted that the masses and the elites are currently gaining sufficient advantages which “prevent either side [from] opting for change”.

On the one hand, there is the claim that institutions in Belize are conditioning social actors (Belizeans) in such ways which prevent them from challenging the social order. This is the functionalist perspective of their approach. Religion, education, colonial legacies, party politics, and clientelism, among others, are institutions which encourage collective or normative behaviors which keep the elite in power.
On the other hand, there is the claim that social actors are purposively gaining sufficient benefits in the present state of affairs.  For example, Belizeans are said to be satisfied with the patronage (monies) given to them to support the PUP/UDP.  There are “powerful and immediate incentives and constraints which make it more logical to resist change than embrace it” both for the masses and elites. In this line of reasoning, the individual is viewed as a rational being who calculates that it is better to accept the social inequalities versus resisting or that it is better to join the elites versus fighting against them (if possible, e.g. the support of the media, civil servants, professionals of the PUDP).

Stasis is a viable and insightful socio-historical tool to conceptualize the Belizean experience. It provides an illustrative and analytic account of the role of historical factors and ongoing social actions of Belizeans in the production and reproduction of social-inequality.

However, it offered little analysis on the ways in which ‘stasis’ can be disrupted or transformed. The possibilities of change were ultimately conceived in a classical Marxist fashion: it is not until there are severe economic conditions that Belizeans will advocate for change. While the authors did recognize that harsh economic conditions do not necessarily cause a resistance, it was the common argument for future possibilities of change in Belize.

But why should we wait for economic conditions to become worst? If society is the creation of human actions, why shall we assume that things will get better in the long run? And why should we leave it to future generations to transform it? And what guarantee do we have that they will do so?

Future analysis of ‘stasis’ must involve an examination of the ‘identity’ of the Belizean elite and masses: Who are the Belizean elites? Are the elites a unified ‘class’? How does an individual become an elite? Are the masses a unified ‘underclass’ submerged in ‘false consciousness’? Are there any current ideologies (nationalism, multiculturalism, communism, human rights), which can be re-articulated to mobilize Belizeans? What alliances can be made between academics and activists? These are some of the questions we may begin to ask to further the perspective of ‘stasis’ and stimulate a project of political re-thinking and activism in Belize.

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. – Karl Marx. 


Iyo, Joseph and Rosberg, Michel. (2002). Theoretical Perspectives on the stasis of class relations in the Caribbean: the Belizean case study. The Belize Country Conference. UWI. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from

Stasis. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2014, from

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Scare of Mother's Day Cheer (Amandala)

The following is a letter to the Editor (Amandala) in which I sought to summarize and publicize the issues pointed out in my previous post called "The Scare of Mother’s Day Cheer: Media, Politics, and Hegemony in Belize": 

*Please note that I had inaccurately stated "Hours after..." in paragraph five. The conference at which the UDP ministers were interviewed actually took place in the morning. It was the PUP press conference that took place in the afternoon. Therefore, it was not 'hours after' but hours earlier. I assumed that the UDP ministers were interviewed after the PUP conference because that was the order it was presented in most news media. It was not until recently when I found Patrick Jones report that I realized this. 

Dear Editor:

Last week, I noted that many of The Publisher’s (Evan X Hyde) past writings on media politics and civil society were reflected in the coverage of the “Mother’s Day cheer.” Politicians and journalists all struggled to define what meanings and values were to be associated with the “cheer.” In so doing, one observes the continued normalization of party politics (PUDP) and the role of the media therein.

Anthony "Boots" Martinez
Several observations are worth recounting here: The first is the question of “objectivity” in the media. It is said that media should be the watchdog of democracy. But who is feeding the dog? (Hon?) Anthony “Boots” Martinez accused Channel 5 of “not [being] objective at all”. Of course, Martinez was merely struggling to articulate a positive image of himself and the UDP.

But this reminded me of Amandala’s past attribution of the power-interest that Ashcroft and the PUP have in Channel 5. This perhaps also rationalizes why Channel 5 did not include the question and response segment by Jules Vasquez in which he questioned the PUP’s “moral authority” to call upon civil society.

Whereas News7 sought to “balance” the perspective by stating that the PUP was guilty of similar practices, they also displayed some power-interests. They did not include (Hon?) Francis Fonseca’s full response to the question posed by Jules. In his response, Fonseca mentioned that the Barrow administration came to power “saying to the Belizean people that he would blaze a new trail, that he would do things differently.” In a classic PUDP rhetoric, Fonseca also wanted us to believe that when they come to power that they will do things differently. In the end, News7’s segment concluded on a note of reminding us of how unsuccessful the PUP was in their 2008 “cheer” program.

Image from 7News
 The Guardian and Belize Times also contributed in keeping the “cheer program” within the domain of the PUDP. Each claims that it is the other political party that is disenfranchising the Belizean people. These outlets provide much of the “common-sense” rhetoric that sustains the PUDP. The Guardian presented the “cheer” program as something noble of Government. They boldly declared: “PUP Has No Love for Mothers”. As for The Belize Times, they provided no independent analysis of the “cheer.” They simply reprinted the speeches given by the PUP members at the conference. Regrettably, to their loyal readers, these newspapers make perfect sense.

Another issue to bring up is the use of the word “political” by politicians and the media. (Hon?) Balderamos said that the cheer program was “partisan” and “political”. Hours after, (Hon?) Martinez was claiming that the media was making the “cheer” a “political thing”. The term “political” is used by the media and politicians to undermine any critique and resistance to the PUDP. This translates into the fact that when a resistance (such as this letter, a speech, or demonstration) is branded as “political” it is viewed as nothing less than a biased, self-serving, and unfounded action. It is branded as pro-PUP (or pro-UDP, depending on which is power and who is saying it). It is time that journalists take issue with the use of this word and begin to unmask the rhetoric of the PUDP.

On a final note, the power of the PUDP continues to re-establish itself by way of politician’s rhetoric and the lack of active civil society organizations. When the UDP ministers were interviewed, they all claimed that the “cheer” was a “transparent” program and that it was legitimate because it was a “decision by Cabinet.”

However, all media houses gave us different estimates of the “cheer”: Amandala $750,000, Plus TV $800,000, 7News $850,000, Channel 5 $1,000,000. Party politics continues to affect us but as (Hon?) Godwin Hulse would have it: that is just the “nature of the political beast”.

Well, the beast must be taken down. Where are the civil society organizations in this country? Where are the feminist/womanist organizations that ought to be outraged by this injustice? If we are to move forward, there must be a serious interrogation and dismantling of the “common-sense” logic and divisive practice of party politics in Belize. This is political.

Keep strong Belizeans,
Rolando Cocom