Is Israel losing Latin America?

Since 2009, Gaza conflicts have spurred eight Latin American countries to cut or downgrade diplomatic ties with Israel.

In 2009,  Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic ties  with Israel, expressing disgust at the country’s actions during “Operation Cast Lead” – a three-week conflict that included an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip and caused heavy civilian casualties.

The following year, after Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla that killed 10 people, Nicaragua announced it would suspend ties with Israel.

Since the beginning of Israel’s current offensive on the Gaza Strip against Hamas, five Latin American countries – Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Chile and El Salvador – have withdrawn their ambassadors to Israel in protest. Meanwhile, Bolivia has dubbed Israel a “terrorist state” and rescinded its visa-free policy for Israeli travellers, and Chile has also suspended free-trade negotiations with Israel.

The recalling of diplomats comes just two months after the Israeli government announced plans to bolster its economic ties with a handful of Latin American countries.

Israel has described the countries’ decisions to withdraw their diplomats as “encouragement for Hamas”, adding that ” El Salvador, Chile and Peru would have been much better advised to promote the international move intended to assist Israel in its efforts to defend innocent civilians and instate a durable cease-fire with the demilitarisation of Gaza”.

As for Brazil, Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor dismissed  the country as a “diplomatic dwarf”. Responding to Brazilian accusations that Israel’s use of force in Gaza has been disproportionate, Palmor riffed on Brazil’s lopsided World Cup defeat: “This is not football. In football, when a game ends in a draw, you think it is proportional, but when it finishes 7-1 it’s disproportionate. Sorry to say, but not so in real life and under international law.”

The biggest Palestinian diaspora outside the Arab world is in Latin America: An estimated 500,000 Chileans are of Palestinian descent, and as many as 200,000 Hondurans.

In 1973, Cuba became the first Latin American country to cut diplomatic ties with Israel, citing support for the Palestinian cause.

Click through the slides below to see when and why selected Latin American countries  cut or downgraded ties with Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera