Chile relations

Foreign Ministry defends decision to bar Chilean citizen

Santiago vexed, but Israel says Mauricio Abu-Ghosh incites the public against Jews and justifies terrorism against Israeli civilians

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera speaks with Israeli President Shimon Peres last year in Jerusalem (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Chile's President Sebastian Pinera speaks with Israeli President Shimon Peres last year in Jerusalem (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry has defended an Interior Ministry decision to bar a Chilean citizen from entering the country, saying the man is a racist and supporter of terrorism.

Last week, the Chilean foreign minister criticized Israel for its refusal to to allow Mauricio Abu-Ghosh Parham, the president of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, to enter Israel. In a statement, the Chilean ministry said it “profoundly regrets that access to Israel was denied to this Chilean citizen,” adding that it didn’t know of any history that would “justify the adoption of a measure of this nature.”

But the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem countered: “Mr. Abu Ghosh has systematically incited the Chilean public against Israel by disseminating demonizing libels based on racial slurs against the Jewish people and by justifying terrorism against Israeli civilians.

“Israel reiterates its long-standing tradition of welcoming everyone who wishes to visit the country in good faith,” the statement continued, but then stated that, “in accordance with accepted state practice under international law, the Israeli Minister of Interior has the authority to deny non-citizens entrance into national territory.”

Abu-Ghosh had reportedly visited Israel in 2009 at the head of a delegation of Chileans of Palestinian origin.

The Israeli Embassy in Santiago said last week that Abu-Ghosh was denied entry out of “security concerns” and for fear that he might “disturb public order.”

But Chile’s Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of any reason why that would justify Israel’s measures.

Earlier this week, senior PLO leader Saeb Erekat called Israel’s decision to bar Abu-Ghosh as an “insult to the Palestinian people and the Chilean government.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s decision set off a war of words in Chile, with the Jewish community protesting “false, xenophobic accusations” by Senator Eugenio Tuma, an outspoken critic of Israel.

Members of the community staged a march Tuesday in Santiago before delivering a letter to the head of Tuma’s Party for Democracy requesting that his statements be reviewed and that the senator be dismissed. The letter singled out Tuma’s recent accusation that the Jewish community was responsible for the failure of an anti-discrimination bill “because they want a special law for the Jews.”

With some 400,000 citizens of Palestinian origin, Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East. The government in Santiago was among the first to recognize a Palestinian state. Last month, Chile was among the countries that voted in favor of a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation into Israel’s settlement enterprise.

Officially, Jerusalem and Santiago maintain friendly diplomatic relations. Last February, the Israeli Tourism Ministry hosted 31 of the 33 miners who were rescued after spending 68 days trapped underground in the mine in Chile. Accompanied by their spouses, the miners visited holy sites in Israel and met with President Shimon Peres.

“Today, we all say thank you to the people of Israel and we are hopeful that God will bless Chile and Israel. The connection between our peoples will benefit from God’s blessing,” one of the miners told Peres.


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