October 17, 2023: Colombian president Gustavo Petro expelled the country’s Israeli envoy, Gali Dagan, for criticizing the president’s outspoken support of Palestinians and accusations against Israel amidst ongoing Israel’s bombing on Gaza, the newarab.com reported Monday.
Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva said the envoy, Gali Dagan, should “at a minimum, apologize and leave” after criticising Petro’s comparison of Israeli attacks on Gaza with the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
Leyva lashed out on social media at the “rudeness” of Israel’s response to Petro, adding: “Shame.”
Petro, in one post on X, formerly Twitter, accused Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant of using language about the people of Gaza similar to what the “Nazis said of the Jews”.
Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip after Hamas fighters carried out a surprise attack on 7 October on Israeli bases and settlements.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 2,750 Palestinians, including over 1,000 children. The campaign has been slammed by UN experts for being on the verge of “mass ethnic cleansing”.
Colombia’s first leftist president asserted that “democratic peoples cannot allow Nazism to reestablish itself in international politics.”
On Sunday, Israel, one of the main providers of arms to Colombia’s military, said it was “halting security exports” to the South American country as the diplomatic feud escalated.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said Colombia’s ambassador, Margarita Manjarrez, had been summoned over Petro’s “hostile and anti-Semitic statements”.
In response to Haiat’s statement, Petro said his country does not support “genocide.”
“If we have to suspend foreign relations with Israel, we suspend them,” he added.
Petro has also engaged in an online war of words directly with the ambassador, Dagan, who had urged the president to condemn a “terrorist attack against innocent civilians.”
In his response, Petro said: “terrorism is to kill innocent children, whether it be in Colombia or in Palestine.”
Dagan then invited Petro to visit the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, which the president retorted he saw being “copied in Gaza.”
“No democrat in the world can accept Gaza being turned into a concentration camp,” Petro added.
Initially, Colombia’s foreign ministry had issued a statement to “vehemently condemn the terrorism and attacks against civilians that have occurred in Israel” and express solidarity with Israeli victims.
The link to that statement was later disabled, with a new one making no mention of “terrorism”.