It is clear that Israel, the occupying power, does not care about the international condemnation of its actions in the occupied Territories, nor of its constant violations of international law. When Israel re-entered Gaza and committed several war crimes and collective punishment towards the civilian population, a group of Chilean legislators called for a stronger action by the Chilean foreign policy: to recall the Chilean ambassador to Tel Aviv.
The petition was not made by individuals but by a Chilean-Palestinian inter-parliamentarian friendship group formed by seven Palestinian-Chilean parliamentarians, and dozens of Chileans who openly expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian people. They represent a wide range of MPs, from the rightist UDI party to the left-wing Socialist Party, and supported also by the Communist Party. Among them is Isabel Allende (Socialist Party), the daughter of the former Chilean President Salvador Allende. Many still remember her words at the death of President Yasser Arafat when, with tears in her eyes, she said to the media, “A good friend of our family passed away. We will never forget his solidarity and the solidarity of the PLO in our difficult moment, during the dictatorship.” On the Gaza issue she said, “More than ever we have to work.”
The relationship between the Chilean Socialist Party and the PLO (especially with the Fatah Movement) has been close for almost 40 years. When President Michelle Bachelet (then a candidate) had dinner with the Palestinian community prior to her election, she said “a Palestinian in Germany, while I was in the exile, taught me how to say ‘refugee’ in German, because his family were refugees. He told me about his history, about the massacres and your suffering… also, I could not deny, as President, that I have sympathy for the Palestinian people, and for their right to have a free state.”
Senator Alejandro Navarro, the chief of the socialist block in parliament, went as far as to say that “the international community has to stop the massacres, the terrorism made by Israel… they are violating everything and we have to stop it… it is a brutal and unfair aggression against civilians.” He presented a motion in parliament to recall the Chilean ambassador in Tel Aviv, with the support of right-wing politicians from his own party. He went to one of Santiago de Chile’s busy streets to sign a petition, getting more than 2,000 signatures in just one day of campaigning.
Lawmaker Ivan Moreira is well known on the Chilean political arena as a right-winger. But when the issue comes to Palestine, he is able to sit at the same table with members of the government coalition: “Chile, that has been working as a champion of human rights causes, now has the obligation to take an active role in the Middle East, supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.”
In a press conference, the vice-president of the Palestinian-Chilean inter-parliamentarian group, Carla Rubilar, made a call to the Chilean community to send medicine to Palestine. A doctor, she is the youngest member of parliament (29 years old) and one of its most active pro-Palestinian members. She stated, “There is an emergency, a humanitarian one, and we have to help now for there are Palestinian children dying.”
The president of the group is Eugenio Tuma, whose parents hail from Beit Jala (his wife was born in Palestine). He was censured in the past by Zionist organizations for being a ‘Palestinian activist in the Chilean parliament.’ The same fate befell Francisco Chahuan, one of the younger and most prominent Chilean parliamentarians. He is a lawyer whose family also came from Beit Jala, and he does not have a problem to name the Israeli actions as “state terrorism.”
As in the UN, where Israel argues that it loses resolutions because of the 57 Arab and Islamic states), in Chile it says that Palestinians are wealthy and many are members of parliament. However, contrary to what people might think, to have a Palestinian in government does not always help the Palestinian cause. El Salvador is a case in point. Its President is also from a Palestinian family (Anton Saca). However, together with Costa Rica, they are the only two countries with embassies in Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv.
Chilean politicians of all colours are planning to visit Palestine “to give the Palestinian people our solidarity.” There is something in Chile that is able to unite politicians from all sectors, and it is a people who are 20,000 kilometres away. From the far south of America, Chilean politicians send their solidarity and respect for Palestinian national rights.
Xavier Abu Eid is a student of political science and media advisor to the Palestinian Embassy in Santiago de Chile. He can be reached at email@example.com.