By Sebastian Silva
Santiago, May 24 (EFE).- Early on the morning of May 17, Jawad Al Samak, a 28-year-old Palestinian living in Chile, saw on television members of his family being rescued from the ruins of a six-story building in the Gaza Strip that collapsed after it was hit by an Israeli bomb.
“I felt something that I can’t explain to you,” he told EFE.
Jawad arrived in Chile after being shot in the right leg on March 31, 2017, and it was not at random that he came here, given that this South American country has the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East and with the increase in violence there in recent weeks, thousands of its members have taken to the streets of Santiago to demand that the Chilean government levy sanctions against Israel.
With his 12-year-old brother still in a coma after spending 22 hours buried in the rubble, Jawad, who participated in a caravan that moved through the Chilean capital, was emphatic: “I’ve lived through three wars. I’ve seen a 14-year-old brother die from sniper fire and I was in a coma for 45 days after the 2008 bombardment. The world must know the truth.”
After 11 days of conflict between the Israeli armed forces and the Islamist Hamas movement, with the two sides declaring a ceasefire on May 21, a total of 12 Israelis are reported to have died, including two children, along with at least 248 Palestinians, of which 66 were children.
“This isn’t a war between equals. It’s the occupation of a country that nowadays is cut off,” Jawad told EFE. “We have to go out to shout: ‘No, no more.'”
Along the same lines, the head of the General Union of Palestinian Students in Chile, Dalal Manzuca, told EFE that the curret Palestinian situation “is a paradigmatic case of colonization by an occupying power.”
According to a Human Rights Watch report published on April 27, Israeli authorities committed crimes against humanity by pushing forward with apartheid and persecution policies in their attempt to completely dominate the territory.
In the face of that, according to Manzuca, the Palestinian Community in Chile “must echo the voice of the Palestinian people, urging Chilean and Latin American civil society to exert pressure on their governments so that once and for all effective sanctions can be put in place, as was the case with South African apartheid.”
The conflict in the Gaza Strip, one of the planet’s most overcrowded territories from which there is no possibility of escape, includes the destruction of more than 1,000 homes and businesses. Fifty-six educational centers, six hospitals and 11 clinics have suffered serious damage to their infrastructure, and about 800,000 people have problems accessing potable water, according to the United Nations.
With a little more than 500,000 people of Palestinian descent, Chile is the biggest refuge for Palestinians outside the Arab world, all of them the heirs of a history that began five generations ago with an exodus from Ottoman domination and who have managed to successfully take root in all sectors of Chilean society.
However, their original land exerts a strong pull: “The Palestinian identity is always going to remain present as long as we don’t have our own homeland and today our objective is clear – once again putting Palestine on the map,” the president of the Palestinian Community in Chile, Maurice Khamis, told EFE.
The statement has both symbolic and literal meaning: In 2016, Google erased Palestine from its geographic server and only Israel now appears as an entity in that territory.
Leading the demonstrations last week in Santiago, which included an 11-kilometer (almost 7-mile) caravan with about 30,000 participants according to his estimates, Khamis said that the community “will continue taking action to make visible what’s happening in Palestine and to pressure the government to come out with a statement and get out of the logic of the (stalemate).”
“We’re not against the Jews, we’re against the political project of Zionism, a project that today has Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala and all the occupied territories with a policy of apartheid, human rights violations and persecution of Palestinians, a situation that is ratified by international organizations,” Khamis said.
“It’s about time for the Chilean government to stop lamenting and condemning. It has to implement sanctions against Israel to comply with international law. It’s time to say ‘enough’ after 73 years of occupation,” he added.