Why Israel is not Punished but Cuba is

By Marc Vanderpitte on April 22, 2024

Sources: Rebelion

Some believe and others like to proclaim that international politics is based on values and good intentions. The treatment of Israel and Cuba completely destroys that belief.

Where is the logic? Cuba, a country that harms no one and sends more doctors around the world than the World Health Organization, has been harshly sanctioned for over 60 years.

In contrast, the apartheid state of Israel is perpetrating genocide before our eyes and yet no economic sanctions are imposed on it. On the contrary, it receives billions of dollars in aid and a great deal of heavy weaponry to carry out these massacres.

What are the reasons for this double scandal?

Punishing examples

Despite its illegal nature, the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba has been the centerpiece of U.S. policy toward the island since the victory of the revolution in 1959. This policy is what Chomsky describes as “Washington’s hysterical obsession with crushing Cuba”.

There are several reasons for this obsession. At the end of the 19th century Cuba was incorporated as a neo-colony of the United States, which from then on controlled important parts of the Cuban economy and did not want to lose that control.

But, above all, it was unacceptable for a country located barely 180 km from the United States to take a progressive course. Moreover, this could encourage other countries to follow suit. Therefore, this revolution had to be nipped in the bud.

According to a 1960 Foreign Ministry memorandum, “all possible means were to be used immediately to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” The objective was to “reduce wages, bring about starvation, despair and the overthrow of the government.”

Shortly thereafter, the Eisenhower administration imposed an embargo that would later become an economic blockade (in addition to pressuring third countries to cease economic relations with Cuba). The first objective of the economic sanctions was to put an end to the revolution and, if that failed, to damage the country as much as possible so that Cuban socialism would not be an example for other countries.

And that example applies not only to Latin America, but also to the United States itself. A quarter of U.S. citizens say that they or a member of their family postpones treatment for a serious illness because of the cost. Studying is reserved only for the very wealthy or for students willing to take on a lot of debt.

In Cuba such situations are unthinkable; there, being sick or studying is not a luxury. Purchasing power is much lower than in the United States, but health care and education are free. A black resident in the United States dies on average six years earlier than a Cuban  and infant mortality in Cuba is lower than in the “land of freedom”.

By trial and error, Cuba has managed to build a different kind of society that does not focus on profit, but on the social, intellectual and cultural development of its people. Despite severe economic sanctions, Cuba ranks around the average of the OECD, the club of rich countries, in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, education levels, etc.

Cuba achieves this high social score with a per capita income eight times lower than that of the United States. If Cuba is capable of achieving so much with so few resources and in spite of the blockade, what would the United States not be capable of?

Currently 30,000 Cuban health workers are working in 66 countries, including Italy. In the last 60 years, Cuban doctors have treated two billion people around the world. If the United States and Europe made the same effort as Cuba, together they would send more than two million doctors to the world and the shortage of health personnel in the South would be solved overnight.

The longest and most extensive economic blockade in history

Is that also why Cuba is so much in the spotlight? In any case, the U.S. government itself declares that the blockade against Cuba is “one of the most comprehensive U.S. sanctions against any country”. The objective is to economically isolate the island as much as possible from the rest of the world and thus harm it as much as possible.

Under Trump that isolation intensified to unprecedented levels with 243 tough new sanctions, and the inclusion of Cuba on the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT), which excludes Cuba from international banking transactions and makes it increasingly difficult to purchase basic necessities such as fuel, food, medicine and hygiene products.

Biden has kept these tightened sanctions fairly intact, with disastrous consequences. As a result there are now shortages of food, medicine and energy. During the pandemic the U.S. even prevented respirators from being supplied to Cuba at a time when the country urgently needed them, resulting in many deaths. According to the UN convention (Article II, b and c), the blockade can be qualified as genocide.

The extraterritorial nature of the blockade makes it impossible or risky for European companies or financial institutions to establish economic relations with Cuba. This is a flagrant violation of International Law and an attack on European sovereignty. But the European Union submits to this slavery and thus becomes an accomplice of the U.S. sanctions regime.

In November last year the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned the US blockade against Cuba for the thirtieth consecutive year. The only country that together with the United States refused to condemn the blockade was … Israel.

It is therefore interesting to examine that country and its relationship with the United States.

One of the most destructive military campaigns in history

While Cuba has been in the U.S. crosshairs for more than 60 years and suffers the longest economic blockade in history, the Jewish state can afford almost anything.

According to experts, the military campaign in Gaza is “one of the deadliest and most destructive in recent history”. Civilians are being killed and entire neighborhoods are being razed to the ground on a scale that could be described as industrial, and it is being done with the help of cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence.

In little more than four months, more children have died in Gaza than in four years of wars around the world. Similar figures have been recorded for the number of journalists killed.

In addition to these destructive “saturation bombings”, Israel is deliberately starving the Palestinian civilian population, according to a senior UN expert. Officially, the goal is to eliminate Hamas. But the ferocity and cruelty of the operation betrays that it is an excuse to make the area uninhabitable and completely deport the population.

Without Egyptian resistance and international pressure, the population of the Gaza Strip could have been expelled to the Sinai desert.

In January the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled that, in any case, there is sufficient evidence to investigate Israel on charges of genocide. For Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied territories, “the threshold indicating the commission of the crime of genocide has been crossed.”

Racism and militarism

This mass slaughter is not an excess, but the offspring and perhaps the culmination of the ancient Zionist dream of ruling the region from “the sea to the Jordan”, as stated in Netanyahu’s party charter. This Zionist dream can only be realized on the basis of racism and militarism.

Israel has rightly been described as “the most racist state in the world”. The creation of the Jewish state in 1948 was accompanied by a mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing of about half of the Palestinian population. Thereafter, the Israeli state strove to have as few Palestinian people as possible in as much annexed territory as possible.

With the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel quadrupled its territory and thereafter began the active colonization of the West Bank, where the Palestinian population suffers humiliation, humiliation and deprivation. Thousands of Palestinians, including children, have been abducted and held for years without trial in Israeli prisons.

But that is nothing compared to Gaza. Its population has been under a total blockade there since 2007. The Gaza Strip has become nothing less than a concentration camp. It is not for nothing that Amnesty International called Israel an apartheid state.

Israeli tank instructors

Israel is also probably the most militaristic state in the world. After Qatar, Israel is the country that spends the most per capita on war production. Civil society is completely permeated by soldiers and military installations. With full military service for all men and women, and reserve service for the entire Jewish population until they turn 40, Israeli Jews constantly alternate between the role of civilian and soldier, and the line between the two is blurring.

The military industry is one of the most advanced in the world. Its success is based on two things. Firstly, on compulsory military service,which selects the best scientific and technological minds for defense research and development units.

Secondly, in the policy of colonization and regular military wars against Gaza. The Palestinian population is an excellent training ground for the security industry. The latest security gadgets or attack techniques are tested on them. In other words, it is ‘battle-tested’ weaponry. The wars in Gaza are excellent ‘practical exercises’ for the latest weapons and drones of the Israeli military industrial complex.

Israel currently has some 600 companies exporting security technologies and services. Annually they export over $12 billion worth of weapons (equivalent to 2.6% of GDP). The track record of these arms deliveries makes one’s blood run cold.

Israel sold arms to the South African apartheid government in 1975 and even agreed to supply nuclear warheads. Napalm and other weapons were supplied to El Salvador during the 1980-1992 counterinsurgency wars, which killed more than 75,000 civilians (out of a population of 5 million).

Israeli bullets, rifles and grenades were used during the Rwandan genocide that killed at least 800,000 people. And in September 2023 Israel delivered drones, rockets and mortars to Azerbaijan for its campaign to retake Nagorno-Karabakh and displace 100,000 Armenians.

It is not just a matter of arms exports. Since its inception Israel has supported a whole series of right-wing regimes and military dictatorships. The Israeli military put its accumulated experience and expertise at the disposal of the most brutal regimes of the time: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

The bloodiest participation took place in Guatemala. Israel participated behind the scenes in one of the most violent counterrevolutionary campaigns that the Western Hemisphere has experienced since the conquest. More than 200,000 people, mostly Indians, died in the process.

During the Syrian civil war Israel collaborated with jihadist fighters from both AlQaeda and IS. Among other things, they could count on medical treatment in Israel.

Why such close friends?

Based on all this disrepute, one would expect the United States and the West to treat Israel as a pariah state. But in fact it does just the opposite. Since its inception, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. In total it has received some $300 billion in economic and military aid.

In 1989 the U.S. granted Israel the status of ‘major non-NATO ally’, which gave it access to extensive weapons systems. Israel was the first country to receive U.S.-made F-35 fighter , the most advanced in the world. The U.S. also helped fund and produce Iron Dome, Israel’s missile defense system.

In any case, Washington’s extremely generous support has made Israel the strongest military power in the region, hands down. Not even genocide and one war crime after another stop the money coming in. On the contrary, after the war on Gaza the White House approved a massive $14.5 billion aid package.

If the U.S. exerts any political pressure on Israel, for example to allow more humanitarian aid, it is only for Biden’s purely electoral reasons and to save face as far as possible in the eyes of world public opinion.

Ties with Europe are also strong. Israel has an economic partnership agreement with the European Union, which is also its largest trading partner. Scientific collaboration is intense. “Horizon Europe” is the European Union’s main funding program for research and innovation in Israel, with a budget of €95.5 billion over a seven-year period.

After all, Europe is also a major supplier of arms to Israel. Nearly a quarter of all weapons imported by the Jewish state come from Germany and Italy. After the 1956 Suez War France provided nuclear assistance to Israel, enabling it to become a nuclear power.

After the murder of 224 aid workers, at least 93 journalists, more than 13,000 children and 8,400 women, and the starvation of more than two million civilians, there is still no sign of sanctions from Europe. What other atrocities will Israel have to commit before Europe takes action?

Much ado about nothing from Europe. Weapons continue to leave European ports for Israel and the Zionist state can participate in the Eurovision Song Contest without any problem.

The question then arises as to why the United States and the West continue to unconditionally support a terrorist regime. The main reason is not far to seek and has to do with the highly strategic location of the Jewish state. Israel is situated in the Middle East, a region where 48% of Israel’s oil reserves and 40% of its gas reserves are located.

This region also connects Europe with Asia and is crucial for international trade. Around 30% of all the world’s maritime containers pass through the nearby Suez Canal. The region is also crucial for China’s New Silk Roads or its counterpart, the so-called India-Middle East Europe Economic Corridor(IMEC).

Israel can be considered a U.S. forward military base with a very reliable partner, helping to keep this strategic region under control. Recently, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, nephew of President John F. Kennedy, put it sharply: “Israel […] is almost like having an aircraft carrier in the Middle East.

Israel is the policeman of the region. Since its creation, Israel has successfully fought several wars against neighboring Arab states. The Israeli army regularly carries out raids or attacks against countries or groups not sympathetic to the West: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran.

In the past Washington could rely on three other allies (Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) for its geopolitical agenda in the region. Since 1979 it has lost Iran’s support, and in recent years Saudi Arabia and also Turkey have followed an increasingly independent path. This leaves Israel as the only irreplaceable ally left in this pivotal region. It should be remembered that Israel is also the only country with nuclear weapons in the Middle East. That explains why the Jewish state can indulge in almost anything and act with almost total impunity.


If we are to believe Western leaders, their policies are based on values and good intentions. In his own words, Biden bases his foreign relations on “upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law and treating everyone with dignity.” The Treaty on European Union states that the Union is based on values such as “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

In light of how the United States and Europe treat Israel and Cuba, this is a farce. The so-called ‘rules-based international order’ is a smokescreen to hide the reality: pure economic and geostrategic interests.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim makes no bones about it: “The heartbreaking tragedy that continues to unfold in Gaza has exposed the selfish nature of the much-vaunted and vaunted rules-based order.”

The vastly different treatment of Cuba and Israel illustrates the moral bankruptcy of the Western order, an order that is being taken less and less seriously in the global South. North-South relations are tilting, not only economically, but also ideologically. A new era is beginning.

Source: Rebelion, translation Resumen Lationamericano – English