Israel and Colombia established close diplomatic relations beginning more than fifty years ago after opening embassies in their respective countries, and since then they have developed an expanding process of military, economic, commercial, and cultural exchanges. Evidence of this is that since 1982, a battalion of Colombian soldiers takes part in the international force patrolling the Sinai region following the Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel.
Relations between the two countries are becoming ever closer and greater in volume and scope. The Israeli government has offered more than 100 scholarships to Colombian professionals; Israeli experts cooperate closely with Colombian universities and act as consultants to agricultural sectors such as bananas and cut flowers, as well as in various areas related to health and sanitation. Also important is their role in seminars, such as that held in March in Barranquilla entitled “Israel, Agriculture, Innovation, and Technology”, or the one carried out in February in Medellin, “High-Impact Enterprises: The Case of Israel and its Relevance for Colombia,” facilitated by Israeli advisors and directed to entrepreneurs and academics, or the International Agricultural Conference, to be held in Israel on May 15 to 17 of this year.
Furthermore, Israeli presence in Colombia is strong in the arts, and Israeli artists are very active in the Colombian cultural scene. Proof of this was the presentation of the Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company in March of this year.
On the other hand, Colombian presence in Israel is more limited and is headlined by artists such as Shakira and Carlos Vives or the sculptor Fernando Botero.
Both countries are strengthening their commercial exchange: Israel exports agro-industrial products, chemicals, and communications components; and Colombia exports coal, raw materials, agricultural products and soap operas.
Colombia and Israel have drafted a document containing the terms of the process of negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement between them. The latest meeting was held March 19 through 23, closing a six-month negotiation process. This treaty joins other agreements that Israel has signed with Mexico (2000) and with Mercosur (2007).
During the interview between Barak and Pinzón, the latter said: “For many years Colombia has had access to Israeli firms for acquiring equipment and technology, and this has resulted in an increased efficacy in the struggle against terrorist organizations.” He also made reference to the cooperation of the firm Israel Military Industries, which, together with the Colombian Indumil, makes Galil rifles in Colombia. However, Minister Pinzón forgot to mention the strong support of Israeli advisors in the war against the FARC or the presence in Colombia of important security companies of Israeli ownership.
The increase in Colombian military expenditures amounts to 15,2% and is the second highest at the Latin-American level after Brazil (46,4%) and ahead of Chile (10,2%) for a total of 12,4 billion dollars in 2010. This figure represents 4,9% of its GDP, in a country where 46% of the population lives in poverty. For its part, Israel increased its defense budget by 190 million in 2011, reaching a figure of 15 billion dollars. This sum takes up 7,3% of its GDP, in a country where 23,6% of the population lives below the poverty line.
This “brotherhood” between Colombia and Israel is not surprising, given that both countries have the honor of being part of the élite of those that most violate human rights in the world. Thus, recently Colombia was put on the “black list” of countries that violate human rights according to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. This body highlights the impunity surrounding the case of the so-called “false positives,” the reforms seeking to strengthen military justice, and the absence of any significant progress in the application of the Justice and Peace Law, where sentence been passed only in one case.
Furthermore, other organizations point to homicides of unionized workers and members of social and human rights organizations, sexual violence against women as a systematic practice and a common strategy in the conflict, the displacement of the population, the existence of numerous paramilitary groups, attacks against organizations and persons that defend human rights, the existence of common graves, torture, the existence of nearly 9,500 political prisoners, disappearances, or discrimination against the indigenous and Afro-Colombian population.
On the other hand, various human rights and solidarity organizations such as Amnesty International, the UN Human Rights Council or the Solidarity Network against the Occupation of Palestine question the human rights situation in Israel, “the only democracy in the Middle East”, and the level of impunity there.
The measure taken by the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding the investigation of the impact of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories led the Israeli government to break relations with this body in March of this year. Many of the human rights bodies point to the situation of apartheid in which the Palestinian population lives as a result of the occupation: War crimes, use of persons as “human shields,” denial of medical care, torture, arbitrary detention, nearly 6,000 political prisoners, destruction of homes and land plots, settlements, selective assassinations, checkpoints, construction of a wall (declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in The Hague), discrimination of Arab Israeli citizens, policies of repression and terror affecting women, as well as the nearly 4,6 million refugees living in neighboring countries. The two ministers, the Colombian and the Israeli, spoke about sharing experiences and strengthening their friendship in the struggle against what they call terrorist organizations, which, in the Colombian case, in addition to the FARC and the ELN, covers many social organizations, and in the Palestinian case all those who are opposed to this apartheid.
It is significant that, thanks to the important military support of the United States, each of the two countries carries out the role of policeman for U.S. foreign policy in its respective area of influence. In 2012 Colombia obtained 37 million dollars in direct military aid and 160 million dollars for the fight against “drug trafficking,” and Israel received 364 million dollars in military aid.
These figures speak louder than words and this “brotherhood” between the two countries is based on their conception of a systematic policy of human rights violations that they can carry out with impunity internationally thanks to the sponsorship of the United States government and the conspiratorial silence of the European Union. The hope lies in that the struggles of the Colombian and Palestinian peoples, with the complicity of international solidarity, can revert this “embrace between violators” and that the struggle against impunity and injustice will prevail in both countries.
Author: Luis Nieto Pereira
Location: Madrid, Spain
Date Published: April 23, 2012
Source: Revista Pueblos