The Israel-Hamas war has sparked a ferocious diplomatic spat between Israel and Colombia, with Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, likening Israel’s actions to those of Adolf Hitler’s Nazis and Israel accusing Petro of putting Jewish lives in danger and encouraging “the horrific acts of Hamas terrorists” with his “hostile and antisemitic statements”.
The row began one day after Hamas’s unprecedented 7 October attacks when Petro used his official X account to denounce what he called “neo-Nazi” efforts to destroy the Palestinian people, freedom and culture.
The World Jewish Congress accused Colombia’s leftwing president of completely ignoring the hundreds of Israeli civilian victims and called Petro’s statement “an insult to the six million victims of the Holocaust and to the Jewish people”.
The next day Petro returned to social media to comment on claims by Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Galant, that his troops were fighting “human animals” in Gaza. “This is what the Nazis said about the Jews,” tweeted Petro. “All this hate speech will do, if it continues, is lead to a Holocaust.”
Over the coming days, Petro – who has declined to strongly condemn the atrocities committed by Hamas – repeatedly used social media to criticize Israel’s military response.
“I’ve been to the Auschwitz concentration camp and now I see it being copied in Gaza,” Petro said in one post, drawing a polite rebuke from Israel’s ambassador in Bogotá, Gali Dagan, who offered to take him to the kibbutzim in southern Israel that Hamas attacked “and where many Latinos live”.
In an interview with the Colombian magazine Semana, Dagan said he had never heard anyone “from the democratic … human world”, compare Israelis to the Nazis.
The row escalated further on Sunday as Israel publicly scolded Petro for what it called his “hostile and antisemitic statements”, announcing that it would halt security exports to the South American country and had summoned Colombia’s ambassador, Margarita Manjarrez, for an official reprimand. “It was made clear to the ambassador that her president’s statements were received in Israel with shock given Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attack, in which more than 1,300 Israelis were murdered and over 150 innocent civilians were kidnapped,” Israel added.
The statement said Israel condemned Petro’s interventions, “which constitute support for the horrific acts of Hamas terrorists, inflame antisemitism, harm representatives of the State of Israel and threaten the safety of the Jewish community in Colombia”.
Minutes later Colombia’s leader hit back, declaring: “You do not insult the president of Colombia.”
“If foreign relations with Israel must be suspended, let’s suspend them. We do not support genocides,” Petro added, again comparing Gaza to Auschwitz.
“Hitler will be defeated for the good of humanity, democracy, peace and world freedom,” Petro wrote.
On Monday morning, Colombia’s foreign minister, Álvaro Leyva Durán, joined the quarrel, condemning the Israeli ambassador’s “mindless boorishness” towards Petro and hinting that he should leave his post. “No sensible person can applaud the scorched earth policy, no matter where it comes from. It violates human dignity. It kills innocent people,” Leyva added.
The foreign minister subsequently denied ordering the expulsion of Ambassador Dagan but pointed out that treating Colombia’s president with respect and “sensibly chosen words” was compulsory.
Petro is not the only Latin American leader whose response to the conflict has irked Israel. Last week Israel’s ambassador in Mexico voiced disappointment that the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador had not taken “a more energetic stance” towards the crisis and been more forceful in its condemnation of Hamas by using the word terrorism.
López Obrador said he respected Israel’s position: “But we do not want war. We do not want violence. We are pacifists.”
The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has condemned the “terrorist attacks” suffered by Israel and called for an end to “the insanity of war”. In recent days Lula has spoken with both Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and Isaac Herzog, the president of Israel.
“Brazil is at hand to try and find a path towards peace,” he tweeted.
Source : The Guardian