The world situation looks different from the vantage point of Piedra Negras, Mexico, than it does from Eagle Point, Texas, though they sit only one mile apart. Regarding Palestine, the US and Mexico occupy vastly different positions in the global hierarchy, and that affects how they see the brutal war destroying Gaza.

An Eagle Pass resident knows the US is the number one global superpower and takes it for granted that it shapes the entire world to its own benefit. A Mexican citizen knows that, for two centuries, Mexico has bowed to the will of its dominant neighbor to the north. For most Mexicans, the enemy is the US empire; through that lens, they analyze much of the world.

To carve out leverage in negotiations with the world’s most powerful country, Mexico has adhered to a policy of non-alignment and neutrality for decades. It maintains relationships with every country, including Cuba, Venezuela, Russia and China. This posture undergirds AMLO’s stance on the Gaza conflict.

In December 2021, we interviewed Aracely Cortés-Galán, a long-time Palestine solidarity activist, and we reprint an updated version of that interview today. October 7, 2023 marked a new and deadly phase of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. In consequence, the Mexican pro-Palestinian movement has expanded exponentially.

But since the war began, AMLO has continued to insist on Mexico’s neutrality. Mexico has a formal state-to-state relationship with Israel, and AMLO refused to sever diplomatic ties.

AMLO has also maintained a formal relationship with Palestine. Palestine has an Embassy in Mexico City, and Mexico supports its becoming a full member of the UN. Mexico has also joined South Africa in filing a case with the International Court of Justice charging the Israeli government with genocide in Gaza.

At the same time, AMLO has refused to define Israel’s actions as genocidal. His stance has not pleased Palestine supporters. Does he carry neutrality too far? Given that his term of office ends in three months, his position is unlikely to change. It will be up to Claudia Sheinbaum to take a firmer and clearer stand.

The Mexico City-born activist and scholar Aracely Cortés-Galán has been organizing support in Mexico for the people of Palestine for some 20 years now. As a feminist, she’s been particularly interested in the role of women in resistance movements. In a 2019 book, Aracely explores how Israel’s involvement in the militarization of Mexico has contributed to deaths in her own country. We first talked with Aracely in December 2021 and here we update that interview.

What does the Palestinian solidarity movement in Mexico look like, and how did it get started?

Support for Palestine has been centered around the Coordinadora de Solidaridad con Palestina, CORSOPAL, a group working to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine and help Palestine become an independent state.

I became a student activist in 1985 after the government in Mexico gave a horribly inadequate response to a major earthquake. The only silver lining: The government’s poor response sparked all sorts of militant action. From the student movement, I graduated to socialism and internationalism. I worked on solidarity with Cuba and in opposition to the Gulf War and learned that Israel was intervening on the wrong side of struggles in South Africa, Argentina, and many other parts of the world. And that road led me, and many others, to Palestine. CORSOPAL started up in 2000.

After the events of October 7 and the ensuing decimation of the Palestinian people and the leveling of Gaza, the movement caught fire. The Palestinian cause has generated empathy because what happens in Palestine in one way or another reflects the different forms of oppression that exist in the world.

“Long live Zapata, hero of the Mexican revolution, 1915. Long live Abd al Kader al Husseini, hero of the Palestinian revolution, 1948.” Artist, Burhan Karkoutly, The Palestine Poster Project Archives

In the United States, a powerful pro-Israel lobby has kept US government policy totally in Israels corner. Who is supporting Israel in Mexico?

Three kinds of groups. First, those with direct connections to the Israeli Embassy. These include private companies doing business in Israel, but also, for the last 40 years, the previous PRI and PAN governments that bought arms from Israel and received military training and support to deal with narco-trafficking and security issues.

Second, the right-wing media. And third, the ultra-conservative PAN party. In the legislature, both Morena and PRI deputies are taking a neutral stance. They’re not explicitly pro-Palestine independence, but they’re also not justifying Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Photo: Jay Watts

In the US, many Jewish Americans have joined the Palestine solidarity movement. Is that true in Mexico too?

After World War II, Mexico saw an influx of Jewish refugees. Jewish politics have changed, though; few of their grandchildren’s generation tend to be progressive. But the mayor of Mexico City and now our next president, Claudia Scheinbaum, rates as one of them. She issued a strong solidarity statement several years before the current conflict.

Mexico has only a tiny Muslim population. Because Indigenous people have also suffered repression, violence, and the theft of their land, the Coordinadora has supporters in Oaxaca and among the Zapatistas. Our main base of support has come from the big cities and some labor organizations, like the electrical workers union. Today, students have especially stepped forward.

Photo: Jay Watts

Already back in October 2021, the Mexican government issued a strong statement before the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in Gaza and human rights violations against Palestinians. What more should the Mexican government do?

The AMLO government has issued a public condemnation, but its basic relationship with Israel hasn’t changed. Since he took office, we have called for the government to stop buying its arms and military technology and to end military training by Israel. And we want Mexican companies like Cemex — the multinational Cemento de Mexico that expresses tacit support for the settlements — out of the occupied territories.

Today, besides those points, activists demand that the government break relations with the occupying state. That hasn’t been done yet. We also speak out for a ceasefire. We want Mexico to join other nations in recognizing Palestine as a free, sovereign, independent state. That also has not been done, although there is a Palestinian Embassy in Mexico City.

Pro-Palestine activists demanded that rather than “observer status,” which they have now, Palestine should be admitted as a full member of the UN. It’s confusing — even though AMLO doesn’t recognized the sovereign state of Palestine yet, he does support full UN membership — which would be tantamount to recognizing Palestine as a state!

Photo: Jay Watts

What next?

Before, it wasn’t easy to get people to pay attention to international issues. We did lots of educational events and waged media campaigns.

But now, thousands are on the streets, joining horrified people across the world. The participation of new and diverse actors in social change and the conditions of the genocide have set a new course. We demand a ceasefire in the short term and justice and an end to the occupation in the medium term.

At its core, we see this as a moral issue — an ongoing battle between the power of money and the power of the people.

Solidarity Photos