Venezuela Welcomes Palestinian Students

Venezuela hails arrival of Palestinian Arab students to the country as a sign of its “condemnation of Zionism”.

Ben Ariel ,

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela is hailing the arrival of Palestinian Arab students to the country as a sign of its “condemnation of Zionism”.

According to The Associated Press (AP), Venezuela on Thursday welcomed 119 Palestinian Arab students who will study medicine on grants provided by the Latin American country's socialist government.

The students landed in Caracas on Thursday. They will study at a school of medicine about two hours outside the capital.

The plan has been in the works since the war in Gaza this past summer. This week, Venezuela sent 10 tons of humanitarian aid and medical equipment for Gaza and said that the plane carrying the aid will then bring the Palestinian students back to Caracas.

Officials on Thursday reaffirmed the Venezuelan government's support for a Palestinian state and its condemnation of Zionism, according to AP.

Over the summer, Venezuela announced plans to take in hundreds of Palestinian Arab children in need of medical care. The government released photographs of the home it had built for them, named after the late President Hugo Chavez, but it never announced their arrival.

Venezuela is not known as a friend of Israel’s. Chavez was known to be a good friend of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who travelled to Venezuela to attend Chavez’s funeral in 2013. He frequently criticized Israel and in 2009, during the counterterrorism Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, cut off Venezuela’s diplomatic ties with Israel and expelled the Israeli ambassador from Caracas.

Maduro, who took over power after Chavez’s death, was one of several Latin American leaders who slammed the Israeli self-defense Operation Protective Edge last summer.

At the same time, he has denied being anti-Semitic and claimed that he is of Sephardic Jewish descent. Maduro has insisted that his country has differences with Israel, which he described as “repressive”, but added those differences have nothing to do with the Jewish people.