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Colombia cutting relations with Israel is brave in a cowardly world, says expert

May 8, 2024 at 2:16 pm

President of Colombia Gustavo Petro speaks to crowd during the International Workers Day in Bogota, Colombia on May 1, 2024. [ Juancho Torres – Anadolu Agency]

A week ago, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the severing of diplomatic relations with Israel over the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Colombia thus became the third Latin American country to break diplomatic relations with the occupation state after Bolivia and Venezuela. The breakdown of relations with Israel — which, predictably, responded by calling President Gustavo Petro a “hate-filled anti-Semite” — comes after seven months of Israeli genocide against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“Colombia cannot be indifferent to the enormous and indescribable human suffering that this causes, which is why President Petro has announced the decision to break diplomatic relations with Israel as of 2 May,” said the ministry in Bogota.

The decision was actually announced by Petro during a May Day speech in front of thousands of supporters in the Colombian capital. “One word sums up the need for life, rebellion, the raised flag and resistance,” said the country’s president. “That word is Gaza. It’s Palestine. The girls, the boys, the babies who have died dismembered by the bombs… If Palestine dies, humanity dies and we are not going to let it die.”

Petro threatened to sever relations with Israel in October in response to the genocidal crimes that the occupation state was (and still is) committing against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. “If we have to suspend foreign relations with Israel, we suspend them. We do not support genocides. The President of Colombia is not insulted.”

He also pointed out that, “Israelis will someday ask us for forgiveness for what their men did in our land,” said Petro. “They will cry for the murder of Gaza and the Colombian Auschwitz.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz took to X for his response, which repeated some of the debunked lies about 7 October. “History will remember that Gustavo Petro decided to side with the most despicable monsters known to humanity who burned babies, murdered children, raped women, and kidnapped innocent civilians.” Nevertheless, he pointed to the historically warm relations between Israel and Colombia, warning that “no hate-filled, anti-Semitic president” can change that bond.

According to at least one Colombian expert on Middle East affairs, President Petro’s decision to cut off relations with Israel is “brave” in a “cowardly” world.

“We salute the decision of President Petro,” Victor de Currea-Lugo told me. “It is our duty toward the genocide that Israel commits in Gaza. What the president did is a political framework of non-support for genocide and respect for international and humanitarian laws.”

Unfortunately, he added, the decision by Petro is not going to stop the genocide nor end the Israeli occupation. “However, it will be a supportive step in the international context, which Bolivia has already made.”

Since the outbreak of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, Colombia has voiced its concern increasingly over the genocidal policies being carried out in the enclave. The country’s president adopted a united policy of condemning Israel´s action on Gaza, calling for an end to the massacres and for civilians to be protected.

Petro recalled the Colombian ambassador from Israel hours after an Israeli air strike levelled much of the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in October, killing dozens of Palestinians. Days later, Colombia expelled Israeli Ambassador Gali Dagan from Bogota after he criticised President Petro’s comparison of Israeli attacks on Gaza with the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

At the UN, Colombia’s president called on Latin American countries to show real solidarity with the Palestinians. He had already made a global invitation at the UN to break diplomatic relations with Israel in the event that a UN ceasefire resolution was not complied with.

President Petro previously suspended arms sales to the occupation state. Moreover, Colombia has also submitted a request to join the case alongside South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice. The settler-colonial state stands accused of genocide at the ICJ, which it denies. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza. South Africa, which took the apartheid state to the ICJ, has since claimed that Israel is ignoring the court’s ruling.

“We hope that President Petro takes more notable steps to stop this genocide, deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza or join with South Africa in its case at the ICJ,” said de Currea-Lugo. “The wave of the solidarity with Palestine in Colombia is increasing day after day, including the government and people. The student movement is already active and there have been massive marches behind the Palestinian with people from all walks of life, not just students.”

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.