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SAO PAULO: New Chilean President Gabriel Boric took office on Friday amid high expectations for change in the South American country.

Not only do the working masses hope that he can reshape the economy and reduce inequality, but also particular segments of the population are eagerly awaiting to see political transformation under his administration.

This is the case of the Palestinian community in Chile, the largest in the world outside the Middle East with around 500,000 people.

Although Palestinian Chileans are politically diverse, many are enthusiastic about Boric’s promised new attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As an activist and congressman, Boric had been a harsh critic of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

A student leader since his years at the University of Chile, he rose to prominence during the massive student protests for public education in 2011-2012.

In 2013, he was elected a member of Congress for the first time. Over the years, he has built close relationships with Palestinian organizers and even traveled to Palestine with other members of Congress in 2018.

“He knows the Palestinian tragedy and has had the opportunity to see for himself the living conditions of Palestinians in the occupied territories,” Jaime Abedrapo, a Chilean Palestinian political analyst, told Arab News, adding that Boric expressed on several occasions that he was a fervent defender. human rights defender.

Maher Pichara Abueid, youth director of the Palestinian community in Chile, said Boric is “committed to the right of all nations to self-determination” and repudiates “all forms of illegal occupation and colonialism”.

Boric sometimes took his pro-Palestinian stance further. In 2019, when the Jewish community in Chile sent him and other members of Congress a pot of honey to celebrate the Jewish New Year with a message reaffirming their commitment to a “more inclusive, supportive and respectful,” he tweeted: “I thank them for such a gesture, but they could start by asking Israel to return the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.”

In late 2021, a video went viral of Boric telling an interviewer that he considered Israel a “murderous and genocidal state”.

During his presidential campaign, he attended a meeting with the Palestinian community and signed a pledge to support a bill to ban all Israeli products made in occupied Palestinian land from Chile. All the other candidates, except one, signed the same pledge.

“Passing the bill would put Chile and President Boric at the forefront of defending international law by banning imports of products made in the settlements,” Abueid said.

Abedrapo said Boric’s election was a consequence of the profound political transformation that has taken place in Chile since the 2011 protests, and more recently, the 2019 social explosion that led hundreds of thousands of people to demonstrate against the country’s political class, demanding various reforms, including of the pension, education and health systems.

The social convulsion led to the convocation of a new constitutional assembly which began its work in July 2021.

These protesters had several social and political goals regarding living conditions in Chile, but most of them had sympathy for the Palestinian cause, said Camilo, a 26-year-old political science student of Palestinian origin who asked to remain anonymous for confidentiality reasons.

“My candidate in the primary election was Daniel Jadue, who is of Palestinian origin and showed a much clearer position in condemning Israel,” he told Arab News.

“Boric has a moderate and ambiguous profile. I don’t think he will create an indisposition with Israel.

Camilo expressed hope that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement can be strengthened locally.

The city of Valdivia, for example, approved a resolution in 2018 banning Israeli products.

Although the law was eventually suspended by the comptroller general of the republic, Camilo said he believed the movement could grow nationwide.

“I doubt Boric would implement a BDS bill, but I don’t think he would prevent municipalities from doing so,” he added.

Patricio Navia, a professor at New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, said that under Boric Chile’s foreign policy toward Israel and Palestine will not change significantly.

“As president of Chile, he will defend the interests of Chile. Chile has commercial and even military relations with Israel,” he told Arab News, adding that the harsh terms used by Boric to refer to Israel in the past will now be replaced by moderation.

“Boric has big issues to deal with now, like the constitutional assembly and the economy,” Navia said. “I don’t think he’ll meddle in another problem, especially one he’s not capable of solving.”

Abedrapo said: “We just don’t want to have higher expectations than we should. We have to be careful.


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