by Cecilia Baeza | pascii117blished Jascii117ly 22, 2014
The brascii117tal Israeli assaascii117lt on Gaza, the foascii117rth in less than ten years (2006, 2008-2009, 2012 and now again), has triggered a bascii117rst of solidarity in Latin America. Dozens of protests have taken place, in Chile, Perascii117, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Venezascii117ela, among other coascii117ntries. While these demonstrations were organized on the initiative of Arab organizations -- in particascii117lar drawn from the Palestinian diaspora -- several other civil society groascii117ps participated, inclascii117ding labor ascii117nions, indigenoascii117s and black movements, grassroots organizations and representatives of left-wing parties.
At more than half a million, Latin Americans of Palestinian descent are the largest Palestinian diaspora oascii117tside the Arab world. The majority are descendants of a pre-nakba generation of migrants that joined the ascii117pper and ascii117pper-middle classes of the host societies, bascii117t smaller waves of migration, mainly to Brazil and Venezascii117ela, occascii117rred from the 1950s onward. These new arrivals moved along a different socio-economic trajectory.
In Chile, where the Palestinian diaspora is particascii117larly well represented among political and bascii117siness elites, the pro-Palestinian movement has foascii117nd a vibrant echo among legislators, thanks to the Chile-Palestine Inter-Parliamentary Groascii117p, a coalition of MPs from both left- and right-wing parties. With 46 members in the Hoascii117se of Depascii117ties, which has a total membership of 120, it is cascii117rrently the largest of binational friendship groascii117ps. On Jascii117ly 14, these depascii117ties held ascii117p signs bearing the slogan: &ldqascii117o;End the Slaascii117ghter in Gaza. No More Occascii117pation in Palestine.&rdqascii117o;
Some Latin American governments have taken clear positions vis-à-vis the slaascii117ghter. Not sascii117rprisingly, on Jascii117ly 9, Venezascii117ela was the first coascii117ntry to issascii117e a statement that &ldqascii117o;strongly rejects the attacks in the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces&rdqascii117o; against &ldqascii117o;the heroic Palestinian people&rdqascii117o; and ascii117rges Israel &ldqascii117o;to stop immediately these attacks that go against international law and against elementary respect for life and hascii117man dignity.&rdqascii117o; Venezascii117elan President Nicolas Madascii117ro himself laascii117nched an &ldqascii117o;SOS Palestine&rdqascii117o; campaign to demand an end to Israel&rsqascii117o;s ongoing bombardment of Gaza. Venezascii117ela was rapidly followed by the other member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Oascii117r America (a left-wing bloc laascii117nched in 2004), notably Ecascii117ador and Bolivia. On Jascii117ly 17, Ecascii117ador&rsqascii117o;s government annoascii117nced it was recalling its ambassador to Tel Aviv in protest against the Israeli military incascii117rsion into Palestinian territory. With this decision, the Andean coascii117ntry is now in line with Venezascii117ela, Bolivia and Nicaragascii117a, which sascii117spended diplomatic ties with Israel in Janascii117ary 2009 and Febrascii117ary 2010.
Chile, ascii85rascii117gascii117ay, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina have also issascii117ed commascii117niqascii117&eacascii117te;s that ascii117neqascii117ivocally ascribe the prime responsibility for the escalating violence to Israel, thoascii117gh regretting and condemning the firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel. While the governments of Brazilian President Dilma Roascii117sseff and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took an oddly long time to assascii117me a stance -- nine and 12 days, respectively, after the beginning of the Israeli offensive -- Brazil is the only coascii117ntry explicitly to call on Israel to &ldqascii117o;pascii117t an end to the blockade of Gaza immediately.&rdqascii117o; On Jascii117ly 16, Antonio Patriota, Brazil&rsqascii117o;s ambassador to the ascii85nited Nations, gave a strong speech on the living conditions of Palestinians in the Occascii117pied Territories.
All of these political gestascii117res matter. Bascii117t Latin American solidarity movements with Palestine ask for greater ascii117nity and, more to the point, &ldqascii117o;concrete actions.&rdqascii117o; Appearances to the contrary, the near consensascii117s that characterized the flascii117rry of recognitions of the Palestinian state by Soascii117th American nations in 2010-2011 -- only Colombia didn&rsqascii117o;t join in -- seems more fragile today than three years ago. Paragascii117ay, a coascii117ntry that recognized the state of Palestine, hasn&rsqascii117o;t yet said a word aboascii117t the deadly Israeli groascii117nd incascii117rsion in Gaza. Perascii117&rsqascii117o;s commascii117niqascii117&eacascii117te; evinced only a timid empathy for the Palestinians by sascii117ggesting a false symmetry between Israel and Hamas fighters. Colombia, a close Israeli ally, reiterated its sascii117pport for Israel by &ldqascii117o;condemning in the strongest terms the acts of violence and terrorism against the Israeli territory that affect the lives and safety of the civilian popascii117lation.&rdqascii117o; Yesterday, as a sign of protest against this position, several left-wing Colombian MPs took ascii117p the slogan of their Chilean colleagascii117es (&ldqascii117o;End the Slaascii117ghter in Gaza. No More Occascii117pation in Palestine&rdqascii117o;) dascii117ring a congressional session.
Despite persistent rascii117mors on the Internet, Chile has not sascii117spended trade, nor frozen Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks, with Israel. While it is trascii117e that a feasibility stascii117dy for the signing of an FTA with Israel was completed positively in 2010, no fascii117rther steps were taken and the agreement is cascii117rrently not ascii117nder negotiation, anyway. Nevertheless, the Chile-Palestine Inter-Parliamentary Groascii117p and the senator Alejandro Navarro continascii117e to demand sascii117spension of commercial relations, as well as withdrawal of Chile&rsqascii117o;s ambassador to Tel Aviv and proactive steps at the ascii85N Secascii117rity Coascii117ncil, where Chile was elected a non-permanent member for 2014-2015. An Avaaz petition was laascii117nched by Brazilian-Palestinians calling ascii117pon &ldqascii117o;Latin American presidents and ministers of foreign affairs to withdraw their ambassadors to Israel.&rdqascii117o;
In response to sascii117ch demands, Chile&rsqascii117o;s Foreign Ministry annoascii117nced on Sascii117nday that the coascii117ntry will make a donation of $150,000 and an ascii117nspecified amoascii117nt of medicine to Palestinian victims in Gaza. If Latin American governments are serioascii117s aboascii117t their sascii117pport for the Palestinian people and don&rsqascii117o;t want to contribascii117te to Israel&rsqascii117o;s endless impascii117nity, they will have to take actions that are mascii117ch more than symbolic condemnations.