San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Protesters Demand Action Against Israel

Several Costa Rican organizations protested outside the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, June 1 in response to Israel’s raid the previous day of an aid flotilla carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian goods headed for blockaded Gaza.

Two protesters held a Palestinian flag, while next to them, a woman carried a poster with an Israeli flag in which the Star of David had been replaced with a Swastika. The sign read: “We hope to break relations with the genocidal state of Israel.”

Close to 20 people showed up at the steps of Casa Amarilla, the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry, on a rainy afternoon. Cars driving by the protest occasionally honked their horns or flashed “thumbs up” in support of the protesters.

“We’re joining the international community in our outrage,” said Isabel Macdonald, executive director of the Friends’ PeaceCenter. “We’re angered by what happened. We’re in solidarity with all these activists.”

Tens of thousands of people protested around the world in response to Monday’s raid by Israel of a flotilla of boats carrying about 600 activists from 20 countries. At least nine activists have been confirmed dead. All but approximately 45 of the activists remain detained in Israel.

“We must take action because Israel is asking for action,” said Abdul Sasa, a Palestinian who has lived in Costa Rica for 38 years. “And the world needs to make them see the consequences – to teach them that there are international rights.”

In spite of the protests, responses from Costa Rica and the United States governments were notably reticent. Both countries expressed “deep regret” about the loss of lives – but said they would not comment further until an investigation of the incident was completed.

The groups protesting in San José demanded a meeting with Foreign Minister René Castro to discuss options such as boycotts affecting Israel or the possibility of eliminating diplomatic relations with the Middle Eastern country.

The Israeli ambassador to Costa Rica, Ehud Eitam, spoke with the Costa Rican daily La Nación about the attacks. Eitam “lamented the loss of lives in this incident.” But he defended the legality and appropriateness of Isreal’s response to the situation.

“The preventative actions of this type are valid in international waters,” Eitam said. “Where do you believe they should board the boats to keep them from entering Gaza? To board a boat in international waters is permitted by international law.”

Costa Rica’s left-of-center Citizen Action Party presented a motion to the Legislative Assembly condemning “the disproportionate and lethal force used by the Israeli army against a humanitarian mission.”

–Matt Levin

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