What appears to be a swastika spray-painted on a wall of the University of Chile in downtown Santiago [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Federation of Chile warned the Jewish community on Monday not to “play with fire” in a statement regarding Israel’s decision to bar the federation’s executive director, Anwar Makhlouf, from entering the country last week.
After the Chilean Foreign Ministry condemned Israel’s move, Chile’s Jewish community released a statement last week defending Israel and expressing its surprise at the Chilean response. A statement released by the Palestinian Federation on Monday was a direct response to the Jewish community, denying allegations that Makhlouf incites hatred against Israel. “Makhlouf has only exercised his right to legitimate political criticism of Israel and BDS, which he supports, is an essentially peaceful movement, framed in political activity,” the statement said.
The decision to deny Makhlouf entry to Israel followed the recent passage in the Knesset of a law empowering the Interior Ministry to refuse entry and residency visas to non-Israelis if they have issued a public call to boycott Israel – including settlements – or have stated their intention to participate in a boycott.
The Palestinian Federation slammed the Jewish community’s comparison between Israel’s barring of Makhlouf and Chile’s decision to deny entry to Bolivian Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira for referring to the Chilean government and president in “injurious” terms and calling for a boycott of Chilean products.
The federation noted that Makhlouf had wanted to enter the Palestinian territories and not Israel.
Makhlouf tried to enter at the Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan, which is operated by the Israel Airports Authority.
Chile, with some 500,000 citizens of Palestinian descent, has the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East. Arabs from Ottoman Palestine – mostly Christian – began arriving in Chile at the end of the 19th century.
The Palestinian Federation’s statement was released the same day as the Chilean community in Israel sent a letter to Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz Valenzuela, ahead of a meeting he was scheduled to hold with a group of senators, politicians and representatives of the Palestinian Federation. The group is calling on Chile to summon its ambassador to Israel – a proposal backed unanimously by the Senate – and to suspend an agreement that allows for visa-free travel between the two countries.
Noting the size of the Chilean community in Israel – an estimated 10,000 first- and second-generation Chilean citizens – its letter stated that they must not be harmed by the “calculation and political interests of certain parties and/or institutions.”
The community reiterated its view of Makhlouf as someone who “promotes hatred, justifying attacks by the Hamas terrorist organization against the Israeli civilian population,” and backed Israel’s decision to “exercise its sovereign right to deny entry to a persona non grata.”
It also noted that canceling free-visa travel between Israel and Chile would harm the interests of both countries, particularly in light of the thousands of Israeli tourists that visit Chile every year as well as the large number of pilgrims who visit Israel’s holy sites from Chile.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.