Che Guevara's 54th Martyrdom Commemoration: The Revolution Continues
54 years after his martyrdom, Guevara's historic visit to the Palestinian Gaza in 1959 continues to stand as a token of resilience for liberation and resistance movements in Palestine and the world.
Mohammed was 13 years old when Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara paid his first visit to the Gaza Strip that was, at the time, administered by Egypt.
Little did he know that he will become a resistance icon and nicknamed "Gaza's Guevara" for his tremendous role in the resistance against the Israeli occupation in Gaza and his continuous revolt against injustice and colonialism, as well as his ability to hide and confuse the enemy.
Originally, Mohammed al-Aswad, or "Gaza's Guevara" was born in the coastal city of Haifa in 1946. Later, the boy and his family sought refuge after they were displaced from their city as a result of the 1948 Nakba and eventually ended up in a refugee camp in Gaza.
Al-Aswad grew up to become a resistance activist against "Israel," and was jailed for two years. After his release in 1970, he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and gradually got promoted to commander of the PFLP military wing in the Gaza Strip.
During that time, he focused on training and educating resistance forces, as well as organizing demonstrations and strikes against the occupation, applying Martyr Bassel al-Araj's doctrine: "If you don't want to be engaged (in fighting oppression), your intellect is pointless.”
His integrity made Moshe Dayan, former Israeli occupation Minister of Security, say, "We run Gaza by day, and Guevara and his comrades run it at night."
Three years later, "Gaza's Guevara" was martyred during a heroic battle in the Strip.
Ernesto Che Guevara's visit to Gaza
Martyr Mohammed al-Aswad's story is vivid proof of the significant and strong relationship between Che Guevara and the Palestinian cause, which Gaza has become the symbol of.
In fact, Che Guevara's visit to the Strip on June 18, 1959, at the invitation of the late Egyptian President and leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser, came to establish a state of solidarity and harmony between Cuba and the Palestinian cause.
His visit to Gaza transformed the cause from regional to global and reflected his famous phrase: "Solidarity is a condition that must always be practiced."
The Israeli occupation of Palestine and the systematic ethnic cleansing against its population triggered the establishment of Palestinian Resistance forces and the emergence of freedom fighters, legitimized by Abdel-Nasser, who was considered a leader against colonialism and imperialism.
To break the determination and resilience of the Resistance, Israeli occupation forces, led by Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister from 2001 till 2006, continuously attacked the Gaza Strip and its refugee camps, committing horrible massacres against many Palestinians and Egyptian soldiers, with no reaction from the international community that simply turned a blind eye to the Israeli atrocities.
A historic visit by all means
Che's visit came in support of Palestinian national liberation and revolutionary movements against imperialism and colonization.
It was an exceptional visit that was met enthusiastically by resistance leaders and Palestinians.
He was accompanied to al-Bureij Camp, where Israelis committed some of the most horrible massacres, and saw the poverty and hardship that Palestinians were living in, advised Palestinian leaders to pursue the path of resistance, which they tread through their people's resilience and steadfastness.
During the visit, he addressed the camp leader Mustafa Abu Midyan, saying, “You should show me what you have done to liberate your country. Where are the training camps? Where are the arms manufacturing factories? Where are the people’s mobilization centers?” With these words, Guevara was trying to lay out the foundations necessary for any resistance movement.
At the same time, he urged Palestinian refugees to continue their struggle in order to liberate their land from the occupation, offering to supply the Palestinian resistance with arms and training.
In an interview for Al Mayadeen, his daughter, Dr. Aleida Guevara, quoted her father as saying, “The Middle East is considered, with all of its contradictions, a region that is boiling, and it is not possible to predict how far the war between Israel – which is supported by imperialists – and progressive countries in the region will go."
And the impact still echoes
Following the historic visit, Cuba offered scholarships, granted citizenships, and organized many conferences all in support of Palestine and the Palestinian people.
In addition, the island of Cuba was one of the first countries to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization when it was founded in 1964.
Soon after his visit, the Marxist doctor became an icon for the Palestinian resistance and fighters and a symbol of revolution, especially for leftist movements.
On this occasion, on the 54th anniversary of his martyrdom, it goes without saying that Che's resistance, integrity, and solidarity is what we are in need of to liberate the oppressed nations, such as Palestine, Yemen, and any country in the world from Western imperialism, colonialism, and military occupation. His memory still brings forth devoted revolutionary resistance figures such "Gaza's Guevara", Mohammed al-Aswad.
Armed with his forwardness and valor, he would have been on the frontlines in Gaza fighting the Israeli siege. He would have been digging, using a tool as simple as a spoon, alongside the other six, the freedom tunnel that liberates the whole of Palestine from the operators of the Gilboa Prison.