Settlement boycott efforts gathering pace in Chile

The Chilean Senate approved a resolution calling on Chilean President Sebastián Piñera Echenique to adopt a law boycotting settlement goods.

A supporter wears a T-shirt reading 'Boycott Israel' (photo credit: AFP/ MOHD RASFAN)
A supporter wears a T-shirt reading 'Boycott Israel'
(photo credit: AFP/ MOHD RASFAN)
Momentum is gathering in Chile to enact measures in the national parliament to boycott Israeli settlements.
It comes as result of long-term efforts by pro-Palestinian groups to ramp up diplomatic pressure on Israel as well as opposition to the possible annexation of settlements by Israel.
Last week, the Chilean Senate approved a resolution calling on Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to adopt a law boycotting settlement goods and banning commercial activity with companies that operate there.
The resolution also sought to ban any commercial access to Chile for companies “involved in the violation of humanitarian international law,” a clause that could be broadly interpreted and could possibly include companies involved in commercial activity beyond the settlements, activists have warned.
Another clause calls for the prohibition of “any form of cooperation, including financial support, to Israeli colonization,” another stipulation that could be broadly interpreted.
The final clause of the resolution calls for the revocation of tax benefits to Chilean organizations and NGOs “if it is any way involved in the occupation of Palestine.”
Activists are concerned this stipulation could target Jewish organizations that have even loose ties to settlements or organizations with chapters or branches in settlements.
The president, who is head of government and head of state, is required to respond to such resolutions as to whether or not he will back them, and such resolutions regularly lead to legislation on other issues.
Following passage of the resolution, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, sent a letter to Chilean Senator Iván Moreira of the right-wing, conservative Independent Democratic Union Party (UDI) thanking him for his role in advancing the resolution.
Moreira is of Palestinian descent and is president of the Senate’s Chilean-Palestinian committee, which lobbied for the adoption of the resolution.
The Chamber of Deputies, the Chilean parliament’s lower house, also has a Chilean-Palestinian committee, which is itself advancing settlement boycott legislation.
In May this year, several leaders of the Chamber’s Chilean-Palestinian committee, including its chairman and chamber deputy Sergio Gahona of UDI, spoke in an online conference about the need for settlement boycott legislation.
Gahona noted that a draft bill has already been drawn up and is now awaiting advancement in the Chamber of Deputies where he said there is a solid “pro-Palestine majority” for such a law.
He added that his committee had in 2019 brought to Chile Irish Senator Frances Black, who was the chief proponent of a settlements boycott law in Ireland.
Chile is home to what is believed to the be the largest Palestinian community outside of the Arab world, with some 500,000 citizens of Palestinian origin, descendant of Palestinian immigrants who left the region during the First World War.
The community, the majority of which is Christian, has flourished, established deep roots and built up financial and political success and influence. It was formerly less hostile to Israel but has in recent years become increasingly antagonistic, adopted tactics such as BDS.
In recent months, pro-Palestinian campaign groups have markedly stepped up their boycott activities, and have taken out full-page ads in major newspapers, and in once incident projected a huge image of a Palestinian keffiyeh on to a skyscraper in the capital Santiago.
This campaigning has reportedly led to a rise in online antisemitic abuse, including one incident in which the mayor of the Recoleta district of Greater Santaiago Daniel Jadue alleged that media outlets in Chile were being "bought by the Zionist community in Chile,” an antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish influence in the media.
He also alleged that "the Zionist community” was “ousting” center-left and pro-Palestinian journalists from media companies, adding “International Zionism is beginning to have a significantly important influence on them. Indeed, it is a transnational power."
As well as getting the backing of the PLO, several prominent Israeli figures wrote to Chilean senators to express support for the settlement boycott resolution.
Signatory to the letter was former Israeli attorney-general Michael Ben-Yair, several former MKs, including former Meretz chair Zehava Gal-On, former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg and former Israeli ambassador to South Africa Ilan Baruch, among others.
“We write to express our support to the approval of Resolution S 2. 117-12 by the Chilean Senate, which condemns the annexation, calls for the prohibition of imports from the settlements, and proposes a series of additional measures to make a clear distinction between the State of Israel over the 1967 borders and the settlements located in Occupied Territories,” wrote the public figures.
Saying Israeli control of the West Bank has led to “legal discrimination” against Palestinians in the territory, they said “annexation will turn that discrimination into institutionalized discrimination, thus establishing an apartheid regime,” adding that the resolution “will contribute to reverse this trend by making clear to the Israeli government that it shall suffer the consequences of its illegal and immoral conduct.”
The Chilean Community of Israel activist group condemned the resolution however, writing to senators to protest what it described as the imbalanced approach to the conflict.
“Taking a position on one side is a mistake that puts us out of the possibility of positively influencing the future and stability of the region,” wrote the organization.
“It is powerfully striking and disappointing, that the numerous Israeli initiatives to peacefully resolve the conflict are not taken into account, as well as the countless refusals by the Palestinian authorities to enter into peaceful coexistence.”
The Chilean Community of Israel also argued that the resolution endorses the broader Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, which it noted has been alleged to be an antisemitic movement.
“Chile enters the list of antisemitic countries in the world, which will have direct diplomatic, commercial and cultural consequences for our nation, generating irreversible damage in terms of reputation and respect in an international level.”