It is illegal for municipalities to boycott Israel, the Chilean National Comptroller determined this week.
The comptroller’s decision followed complaints from Shai Agosin Weisz, president of the Chilean Jewish community, as well as the Chilean community in Israel about the Valdivia municipality’s decision to ban the city from signing contracts with any company linked to Israel.
Valdivia called on Israel’s ambassador to Chile to be expelled and declared itself to be “the first municipality in Latin America free of Israeli apartheid.” The municipality’s decision accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and confiscation of Palestinian land.
The complainants said the ban violates equality before law, as well as discrimination in economic matters.
Chile is thought to be home to the largest Palestinian diaspora community outside of the Middle East, including over 500,000 people according to some reports. According to the World Jewish Congress, there are 18,000 people who identify as Jewish in Chile.
In the decision, the comptroller determined that, while the Chilean constitution gives local government a degree of independence, it is the job of the head of state to conduct relations with foreign powers, and municipalities do not have the legal authority to do so. As such, Valdivia’s boycott of Israel is not legal.
In addition, anyone participating in a government bidding process is legally ensured “equal and non-discriminatory treatment” under Chilean law. The law also prohibits “arbitrary discrimination that is based on considerations such as nationality and that cause a deprivation, disturbance of threat of the exercise in fundamental rights,” the comptroller wrote.