Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far. The plants shutdown was bound to lead to further serious disruptions of the flow of electricity and water to Gazas 1.7 million people. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
With Israeli military calling up an additional 16,000 reservists for its current conflict in the Gaza Strip, Latin American nations continued to be the most vocal players on the international stage denouncing Israel’s bombardment on the region.
Bolivian President Evo Morales’ heated words on Wednesday - labeling Israel a “terrorist state” - were just the latest in a series of moves, including recalling ambassadors for consultations and harsh condemnations, made by countries throughout Latin America in response to the violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
“Latin America is leading the way,” Larry Birns, the director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) in Washington, D.C., told Fox News Latino. “There is now a tidal drift toward a policy of not supporting Israel.”
Along with Bolivia, other major Latin American powers have spoken out against Israel and in favor of ending the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
During a meeting on Tuesday of the regional trade bloc Mercosur, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela – four of the bloc’s five members – condemned “the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which in the majority affects civilians, including children and women.” This comes a week after Brazil and Chile called out the use of force by Israel in Gaza, marking a sharp contrast from previous battles between Israeli and pro-Palestinian forces.
“As a non-permanent member of the [U.N.] Security Council for the 2014-2015 period, Chile expresses its condemnation and regret toward the violence which has cost the life of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians,” a statement from Chile’s Foreign Ministry read, following the announcement of aid for Palestinian victims in the Gaza Strip, the Santiago Times reported.
Chile, El Salvador and Peru have all called home their ambassadors following similar moves earlier in July by both Brazil and Ecuador.
Those countries “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 demilitarization of Gaza,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, according to the Jerusalem Post, adding that the country was “deeply disappointed” in the news from Latin America.
The response from the Latin American nations comes as the rest of the world has either voiced support of Israel’s rights or kept quiet about the conflict.
Egypt, traditionally a mediator between Hamas and Israel in talks, has led a strong collation of countries, including oil rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in effectively lining up behind Israel. The Arab nations’ support of Israel – particularly in the case of Egypt, which is still experiencing civil unrest after the military ouster of the Islamist government under Mohamed Morsi – could be seen as a way to curb political Islam throughout the region, analysts say.
Both the United States and the individual European powers have called on Israel to lessen its assault behind the scenes, but have continued strong public expressions of support. The European Union's executive body last week criticized Israel for "unconscionable" attacks on hospitals and schools where women, children and the elderly have sought shelter.
"I am horrified by the loss of lives and injuries caused to civilians in Gaza," said European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva, according to the Wall Street Journal. "It is unconscionable that hospitals and schools, where there are terrified children, women, the sick and the elderly taking shelter, have become military targets."
The Latin American response to Israeli action may be the first and, so far, the loudest, but some analysts say that the Latin American countries may be speaking out against Israel more for political reasons than out of a concern for human rights.
“The Latin Americans may be taken more seriously of they were a little more equal in their condemnations,” Peter Hakim, president emeritus of the Washington, D.C.,-based Inter-American Dialogue told FNL. “How can they not condemn Syria, and condemn Israel?”
In both the ongoing civil war in Syria and the conflict in the Ukraine, Latin American nations have let the U.S. and the European Union take the lead in sanctioning and criticizing the governments of Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
With Israel being one of the U.S.’s most important allies, condemnation of the situation in Gaza is to a degree painted with an anti-U.S. sentiment and solidarity with other developing countries.
“There are ulterior motives at work here,” Hakim suggested. “There’s the ideological conflict here. It’s the Third World versus the First here – or, better, the Third World versus the U.S.”
While left-leaning, anti-U.S. regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua have had strained relations with Israel for years, this recent distancing is occurring also with more centrist governments such as Brazil and Chile.
But whatever the ideological concerns of the Latin American nations, their first steps of criticizing Israel have, if not galvanized, at least started the movement of more countries voicing their opposition to the violence in the Gaza Strip.
“These small slights indicate the erosion of Israel’s status in the region,” COHA’s Birns said. “This can’t last much longer without a change in the quality, and quantity, of the relationship between Israel and Latin America.”
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