Bolivia's President Evo Morales (R) and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera sing the national anthem during a presidential election campaign meeting in La Paz, July 25, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
Bolivia’s recent declaration that Israel constitutes a terrorist state has caused some in the Middle East to compare the Latin American state’s move with the stance of many Arab states on the issue.
Many supporters of Palestine praised Bolivia’s decision, and on Twitter, the hashtag #VivaBolivia started circulating.
Bolivia on Wednesday declared Israel a terrorist state and renounced a visa exemption agreement with the country in protest at the ongoing Israeli military offence in the Gaza Strip which has killed over 1,450 Palestinians, destroyed around 5,000 homes and displaced around a quarter of a million people.
The cabinet announced that “the Bolivian state and people have made a firm decision to terminate the agreement on visas to Israel, from 17 August 1972, signed under a regime of dictatorship in Bolivia and that allowed Israeli citizens to enter Bolivia freely without even an entry visa."
Canceling a 1972 agreement which allowed Israelis to travel freely to Bolivia “means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state,” the country's president, Evo Morales, announced.
No Middle Eastern state has made a similar announcement, and none has yet commented on Bolivia’s declaration.
Palestine has traditionally looked to fellow Arab states for support in its ongoing struggle, particularly in the last century when pan-Arabism was a major political force in the region.
Gennaro Gervasio, a lecturer in the Arab Israeli conflict at the British University in Egypt, praised Bolivia’s "courageous gesture" but noted that these kind of diplomatic measures were easier for some states to take than others.
“Some states are freer than others, especially if they are very remote from the specific area of conflict,” Gervasio told Ahram Online, arguing that compared to Bolivia's stance the Arab League's statements on the ongoing violence had been relatively cautious.
While it is “not easy for Latin American countries to side against Israel” because they need to acknowledge US hegemony over the continent, Gervasio argues that “it is less problematic for a Latin American state than a state that is a member of the EU,” to do so.
On Twitter and Facebook many expressed their frustration about the relative restraint from Arab states and the Arab League.
“Again! Bolivia & S. America take the lead as moral & ethical governments. Viva the Bolivar Revolution!” wrote @donilo252525 on Twitter.
“Put this man on a throne and parade him around the streets. Hats off to you #FreePalestine #VivaBolivia,” wrote @lyazKahn on his Twitter account.
Earlier in July, Morales filed a request with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prosecute Israel for “crimes against humanity.”
Other Latin American countries including Chile and El Salvador recalled their ambassadors to Israel for consultations on Tuesday due to the increased violence in the Gaza Strip against civilians. Ecuador, Brazil and Peru have also recalled their ambassadors.
Bolivia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 over a previous military operation in Gaza.