An organization of Chilean-Israelis has filed a legal action against the municipal council of the Chilean city of Valdivia and its mayor, which recently approved the first municipal BDS motion in Latin America. BDS refers to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel.
The Chilean Community of Israel (CCHIL) organization sent a letter on July 30 to the Chilean state comptroller arguing that the motion contravenes Chilean law, that a municipal council has no jurisdiction to take such actions and that the mayor has overstepped his legal authority by advancing and signing the motion.
In Spain, dozens of municipal authorities have adopted BDS motions against Israel prompted by the pro-Palestinian advocacy of the left-wing populist Podemos Party.
Anti-BDS activists are now concerned that this phenomenon could spread to Latin America, and the legal motion to the Chilean state comptroller is an effort to try and stop it in its tracks.
The ACOM organization in Spain has successfully sued 33 local municipal authorities out of at least 100 that approved BDS motions. It is hoped that the widespread adoption of such measures can be avoided in Chile and the broader region.
Indeed, the Valdivia municipal decree itself, passed in June, references the BDS motions in Spanish cities, saying that its own measure was following in those footsteps.
“We join this initiative declaring the city of Valdivia the first municipality in Latin America free of Israeli apartheid, where we refrain from contracting with any company that profits from and is linked to Israeli apartheid,” reads the decree, until Israel “ends the occupation of Palestinian lands,” and “respects” the Palestinian right of return.
According to Jewish activist Gabriel Colodro, Valdivia’s motion violates Chile’s business laws by seeking to limit contracts and commercial ventures in accordance with an individual or company’s nationality.
Colodro says the state comptroller has the authority to strike down Valdivia’s BDS municipal decree, and says that CCHIL is also requesting that Valdivia Mayor Omar Sabat Guzman be investigated for having introduced the BDS decree to the municipal council agenda.
CCHIL described the decree as “an act of pure antisemitism” and said it “demonized Israel” and was effectively “a boycott by the municipal authority of economic agreements or any kind of interaction with any company linked to Israel.”
The state comptroller’s office is yet to respond to CCHIL’s legal motion.
According to Colodro, two other Chilean municipal councils, in Recoleta and San Felipe, have considered adopting similar BDS motions but have so far not approved them.
Recoleta Mayor Daniel Jadue of the Communist Party of Chile, who is of Palestinian descent, is an ardent pro-Palestinian activist, and the council did issue a statement in April last year calling on the government of Chile to “ensure the rights of the Palestinian People, their self-determination and the end to the illegal occupation carried out by Israel in the Palestinian territory.”
The statement also accused Israel of policies of “physical extermination” against Palestinians and expressed kinship with them.
“We are in solidarity with the Palestinian people throughout the world and especially with the Chileans of Palestinian origin, who daily see Israel, the occupying power, continuing to develop a policy of physical and political extermination against its brothers, relatives and friends with the sole objective of concluding the process of ethnic cleansing that began in 1948 during the Nakba,” read the 2017 Recoleta council statement, referring to the establishment of the State of Israel with the Arabic word for “catastrophe.”