Marina Rosenberg
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Colombia’s President Petro sides with evil

The moral cowardice of Gustavo Petro's anti-Israel obsession legitimizes Hamas and imperil's citizens of the South American republic
Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech during swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed Attorney General Luz Adriana Camargo at the Presidential Palace in Bogota, Colombia, Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers a speech during swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed Attorney General Luz Adriana Camargo at the Presidential Palace in Bogota, Colombia, Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

In an appalling but unsurprising political move, after almost six months of expressing intense and distorted views against Israel, Colombian President Gustavo Petro threatened to unilaterally break diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, attempting to cast away over 65 years of warm relations. To add insult to injury, Colombia also announced that it will intervene before the International Court of Justice in the Hague in the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel, and essentially perpetuate the shameless politicization of the Genocide Convention.

Beyond the political posturing, the move is an affront to the people of Colombia. Many have benefited from years of strong bilateral relations, including the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2020 between the two countries, and a true friendship between both peoples. Petro’s decision has also brought pain to Colombians living in Israel and Colombian Jews with deep ties to their ancestral homeland.

President Petro’s disdain for Israel’s right to defend itself was evident from the beginning of the war. Since Hamas attacked Israel, murdering over 1,200 people and kidnapping over 250 individuals, Petro has tweeted over 150 times. His statements put the onus on Israel for Hamas’s heinous attack, compared Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis, and falsely accused Israel of committing genocide, all while failing to clearly condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Petro’s choice to side with evil is especially disturbing considering that Antonio Macias Montaño and Ivonne Rubio, a young Colombian couple, were among those massacred in cold blood on Oct. 7, and Elkana Bohbot, an Israeli-Colombian, is still being held hostage by Hamas. All three victims were targeted by terrorists for the “crime” of participating in the Nova music festival.

Petro also recalled the Colombian ambassador to Israel just a few weeks after the Hamas massacre, putting decades of diplomatic and commercial ties in peril. Hamas, in turn, praised President Petro for standing against Israel.

While nothing about the Hamas atrocities should come as a surprise, the support it receives among far-left leaders in Latin America might be more shocking to some.

Hamas has been able to build itself up and prepare for this horrendous massacre in part through the legitimacy and financial and military support it receives from Iran. Its propaganda has also been embraced by radical leaders friendly to Iran in Latin American countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Bolivia.

Petro has joined these leaders, many of whom have been sanctioned by the US, in obsessive “both-sidesism” since October 7, unwilling to denounce Hamas’s brutality forcefully and unequivocally.

Petro’s stance isn’t surprising. During his years as a senator in the National Assembly, he consistently presented a skewed and immoral perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including labeling Israelis as terrorists and Israel as an apartheid state.

Attempting to avoid being labeled an antisemite, Petro also falsely claimed that Zionism is not a part of Judaism, even though most Jews around the world have a connection to and affinity for the Jewish State. Furthermore, Petro has publicly promoted the chant “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free,” an antisemitic slogan that calls for the destruction of the Jewish State.

Let’s be clear: While it is legitimate to criticize certain policies of the Israeli government, it is unacceptable to use antisemitic slogans, to draw parallels with the Holocaust, and put the Jewish community at risk.

Fortunately, at the onset of the conflict, 12 former Colombian Foreign Ministers publicly denounced Petro’s statements as disconnected from Colombia’s tradition of respect for international law, multilateralism, and diplomacy. Similarly, several politicians, civic leaders and the general population expressed outrage at Petro’s diatribes. In the face of President Petro’s incendiary rhetoric and dangerous false accusations, it is encouraging to witness other Colombian leaders rejecting this hate.

Just as some of these leaders have done, other leaders must distinguish between right and wrong. This is a time when all decent people with basic moral standards, irrespective of political views, should denounce the savage terrorism exhibited by the Iranian-backed Hamas, advocate for the release of the hostages, and support Israel’s right to defend itself. Sadly, Petro’s moral cowardice ill-serves the people of Colombia at this crucial time.

About the Author
Marina Rosenberg is Senior Vice President of International Affairs at the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and former Israeli Ambassador to Chile.