Middle East Monitor / September 24, 2022
Chilean President Gabriel Boric may currently be the most outspoken leader in Latin America on Palestinian rights and Israeli violations. However, his rhetoric leaves much to be desired. It, in turn, raises questions about how Chile – the country with the largest Palestinian community in the region – can differentiate itself from other countries to become a model to follow, rather than following international consensus over the two-state compromise and Israel’s security narrative.
In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Boric spoke about Palestine’s right to freedom and sovereignty while mangling his message by including a false equivalence with Israel that eliminates the colonial context. “[Palestinian people] should yield to their inalienable right to establish their own free and sovereign state. In the same way, [let’s] guarantee Israel’s legitimate right to live within secure and internationally recognized borders,” Boric asserted.
Boric’s speech was pronounced “politically correct”, while noting that Chile’s stance has always advocated for the recognition of Palestinian people’s rights and Israel’s rights while promoting the two-state compromise, like the rest of the international community. In which case, Boric’s activist stances as president are unlikely to leave any impact on Chilean diplomacy. Under Boric, the Chilean government is advocating for the same stance that his predecessor Sebastian Pinera adhered to, which is a bonus for Israel, despite the grievances Israeli media aired upon Boric’s electoral victory.
Days before his UNGA speech, Boric postponed accepting the credentials of the new Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, in response to the Israeli forces’ killing of 17-year-old Palestinian Odai Trad Salah in Kufr Dan near Jenin. However, his stance, which made headline news in major media outlets worldwide, was diminished by the UNGA speech that attempted equivalence between the colonizer and the colonized while simplifying, to the point of obliteration, the reason why Palestinians are deprived of a state, possibly permanently.
Boric is not unaware of the Palestinian plight as a result of Zionist colonization. Neither is he oblivious to the fact that Palestinians and the indigenous people of Chile – the Mapuche – have suffered similar forms of aggression because of governments criminalizing their struggle for land reclamation and political autonomy. Yet, it is possible that, as president, Boric’s activist stances will be mellowed by diplomatic requirements, such as abiding by the two-state compromise, which has failed Palestinians and become defunct in all but international rhetoric.
Prior to the presidency, Boric stood out as one of the most vocal activists in Chile. As president, Boric is navigating a complex reality that includes the legacy of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and ties to Israel during that period, as well as the country’s reliance on securing military and surveillance equipment from Palestine’s oppressors.
To cast Israel and legitimacy together is an aberration, particularly when using such descriptions to balance advocating for Palestinian rights. Boric wasted an opportunity at his first UNGA speech to call out Israel’s colonial violence and how it invalidates legitimacy. It is not up to the international community to guarantee Israel’s existence, but Boric knows that Chile can play a pivotal role in ensuring that the international community gravitates towards the legitimacy of the Palestinian people’s political demands.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America