Chile Must Reciprocate Israel’s Travel Ban says Barred Activist
Anuar Majluf, head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, during a visit last year to Jerusalem. Nov. 2016 | Foto: Facebook
On Tuesday activists throughout Latin America called on Chile to reciprocate after Israel denied entry to a Chilean citizen leading an annual Easter pilgrimage to Palestine.
The head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, Anuar Majluf, said Israeli officials denied him entry to the occupied West Bank on Monday based on a controversial new law which bans anyone publicly supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against the illegal occupation of Palestine.
“I feel terrible pain because I’m now unable to visit my family’s homeland, as a Chilean citizen with a Palestinian lineage,” Majluf said in a statement.
“On the other hand, I know that what I suffer is nothing compared to the suffering of the many Palestinians who, if they dare to defy Israel’s policies, often end up dead, tortured or in the prisons of the occupation,” Majluf added.
“The Chilean government should act reciprocally and refuse entry to Israeli citizens who come as tourists to Chile. If Israel knew that its repressive actions and laws have consequences, it would be much less likely to enact them,” he continued.
“The international community, and the Chilean government specifically, should at least demand an explanation from the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and demand that Israel stop illegitimately denying entry to international supporters of Palestinian rights,” Majluf concluded.
Majluf’s call for a firm response was echoed by Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, in a letter to Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.
“I respectfully ask that you take concrete measures to protect the right of your citizens to visit, work, invest and live in Palestine,” wrote Erekat on Tuesday.
Erekat warned that if Chileans traveling to Palestine continue to be “threatened and treated like criminals” it would be “a tragedy not only for the community but for the future potential of relations between both countries.”
The PLO letter came one day after 16 organizations representing the Palestinian diaspora throughout Latin America and the Caribbean called on Chile to “repair this affront against a Chilean citizen and exercise the principle of reciprocity against a country that breaks all the rules and places itself above the law of all nations.”
Several prominent Chilean politicians echoed the call, asking Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to respond in kind.
“As Chile allows the free entry and passage of Israeli citizens, it is unacceptable that Israel openly violates the rights of Chilean citizens,” said Chilean Senator Eugenio Tuma Zedán on Tuesday.
Chile has one of the largest and oldest Palestinian diaspora populations outside of the Middle East, and in November of this year the nation’s capital, Santiago, will host the first ever Latin American Palestinian diaspora conference
Majluf is the fourth person denied entry into Israel or occupied Palestine in the past week based on the 6-month old anti-BDS law.
Over the weekend, three Swedish citizens and members of a World Congress of Churches delegation were turned back upon arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, and on Friday Israel refused entry to a U.K. citizen and member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
However, the Palestinian BDS National Committee noted that the timing of Israel’s banning of Majluf was particularly egregious.
Denying entry to “a Christian who was on a delegation to visit the Holy Land this Easter, is another low for Israel,” said Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the committee.