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Palestinians in South America Criticize Government Reactions to Israel-hamas Violence

Living in countries whose presidents have expressed pro-Palestinian views, Palestinian communities in Chile, Brazil and Argentina have expressed disappointment with statements issued by these countries’ governments concerning the fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Most Latin American nations released statements condemning Saturday’s attack on Israel by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

The exceptions were Venezuela, which demanded that Israel immediately halt the occupation of Palestinian territories, and Bolivia, which said it is following developments with concern and accused the UN of inaction.

In Colombia, the Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning violence against civilians and asking both parties to hold dialogue on a two-state solution.

But President Gustavo Petro has written several times on his X account about the historical violations of the Palestinians’ rights, and shared posts accusing Israel of “apartheid.”

Israeli Ambassador to Colombia Gali Dagan said he expected that a “friendly country” would strongly condemn “the terrorist attack against civilians in the State of Israel.”

Petro answered on X that “terrorism is to kill innocent children, either in Colombia or in Palestine,” and said both sides should negotiate peace.

In Chile, where an estimated 500,000 Palestinians and their descendants live — making up the largest community in the diaspora outside the Middle East — many community leaders were dissatisfied with the statement released by Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren on X.

“We are following with great concern the terrorist attack against Israel and express solidarity with the victims and their relatives,” van Klaveren said.

“We condemn the use of violence and demand its immediate stop. We keep our commitment to the peace process between Israel and Palestine.”

Palestinian-born Nicola Hadwa, a prominent Middle East analyst, told Arab News that Palestinians in Chile feel “betrayed,” adding: “That kind of declaration comes from political leaders who are subordinated to the US and Israel.”

Hadwa, who also worked as a football manager and was the first professional coach of the Palestinian national team in 2002, said: “Every day, the Israelis kill two or three young Palestinians and nobody talks about it in the media. When Palestine reacts, suddenly everybody is concerned.”

Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s administration seems to be coming under pressure from both sides.

While Palestinian Chileans criticized van Klaveren’s statement, Israelis — alongside the nation’s Jewish community — were offended by another of his posts.

“The use of force against civilians is never acceptable in armed conflicts, even in the exercise of legitimate defense,” he said.

“This is valid for Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the State of Israel, and any other actor that intervenes in the conflict.”

Israeli Ambassador to Chile Gil Artzyeli described as “unfortunate” the idea that Israel cannot defend itself from such an attack.

Since his electoral campaign, Boric has manifested his support for the Palestinian cause on several occasions.

In September 2022, he refused to receive Artzyeli’s credentials on the day they were scheduled to meet because a Palestinian child had been killed by Israeli forces. Last December, Boric announced that he would establish an embassy in Palestine.

A similar pro-Palestinian record is held by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who in his second tenure as Brazil’s president officially recognized the State of Palestine, leading other countries in Latin America to do the same.

In his speeches at the UN General Assembly, he always mentions Palestinian hardships, most recently on Sept. 19.

But his X post concerning the Hamas attack disappointed Palestinian Brazilians. “I was shocked by the terrorist attacks today against civilians in Israel, which caused numerous victims,” he said.

“I send my condolences to the victims’ relatives. I reaffirm my repudiation of terrorism in any of its forms.”

Sayid Tenorio, vice president of the Brazil-Palestine Institute, told Arab News: “I was surprised with the use of the term ‘terrorist.’ I don’t think he wrote it. His assistants did, and they seem to be people who are influenced by … pressure from the media.”

Tenorio emphasized that Lula has a “historic commitment to the Palestinian cause,” but in his team there are people who “at the same time defend the Palestinians’ rights and hesitate when it comes to the Palestinian resistance.”

Tenorio added: “I was disappointed but I don’t condemn Lula. I think it was a mistake, maybe an excess of precaution now that Brazil assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council.”

Ualid Rabah, who heads the Arab Palestinian Federation of Brazil, considered Lula’s statement to be “balanced” but also criticized the use of the term “terrorist.”

Rabah said: “In order to please the Zionists, he used that term for us, comparing us with the terrorists who attempted to stage a coup against him on Jan. 8.”

Rabah attributed such an error to the “Zionist gang which is part of the Brazilian left wing,” adding: “We know that word didn’t come from Lula’s mouth nor his heart. He has always been our friend, and we know how to forgive someone who makes a mistake. But we’d like him to apologize for such an injustice.”

Rabah accused the media of trying to make Palestinians “invisible,” adding: “We’re facing a media massacre. How can we be accused of terrorism by people who only want to defend the Israeli regime, run by a handful of fascists?”

In Argentina, where significant Jewish and Palestinian communities live, President Alberto Fernandez condemned “the brutal terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas.”

He said he talked to Israeli President Isaac Herzog and repeated a couple of times that it was a “terrorist” act.

Argentinian Finance Minister Sergio Massa, who is running for president, also expressed solidarity with Israel and repudiated the “terrorist” aggression waged by Hamas.

During a presidential debate aired on Saturday night, Massa said he would include Hamas on Argentina’s list of terrorist organizations if he is elected.

Fernandez and his party have a record of expressing pro-Palestinian sentiment. In 2021, for instance, Argentina issued a statement condemning the “disproportionate use of force by Israeli security units to face protests against potential displacements of Palestinian families from their homes in the (Jerusalem) neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.” The statement was criticized by Israel and its ambassador to Argentina.

Despite that, many Palestinian Argentinians consider Fernandez and his colleagues to be hesitant when it comes to defending Palestinians’ rights.

“The Palestinian community in Argentina, and the Arabs as a whole, have always expressed how apathetic Fernandez and his government are when it comes to that issue,” said activist Fernando Isas. “Unfortunately, our criticism doesn’t reverberate in society as much as we wish.”

He said there is a “media blockage” in the country impeding people from knowing more about the Palestinian reality.

“Newspapers only talk about attacks ‘suffered’ by the Israelis,” he added. “We need to boost pictures and content on social media. That’s the only way to inform the people.”

Source: Arab News