Monday, December 01, 2014

The Middle East Conflict in Chile

I've written before about the Palestinian population in Chile (which is the largest outside the Middle East) and The Guardian has a really interesting story about the tension between Palestinians and Jews plays out in Chile. The upshot is that the Jewish population feels it is on the defensive:

In August, as Israel resumed military operations against Gaza, Bachelet, re-elected in March, recalled the Chilean ambassador to Tel Aviv. Thousands of people demonstrated in Santiago in solidarity with Palestine. The ambassador only resumed his functions once a ceasefire had been arranged. Several neighbouring countries followed suit, the exception being Argentina, home to the largest Jewish community (250,000-strong) in Latin America. 
Gerardo Gorodischer, leader of the Jewish community in Chile, deplores “the confusion between Jews and Israel” and the rise of “antisemitism unprecedented in Chile”. He goes so far as to say: “We are enduring a pogrom, without the Chilean government lifting a finger. The most prosperous people are thinking of moving to the United States.” He claims that the Israeli flag was burned at several pro-Palestine demonstrations. Palestinian leaders maintain this was the work of “radical groups which are not representative of the community”.

The article doesn't provide evidence of antisemitism but it has been characterized elsewhere as graffiti and verbal abuse. The question of separating Jews and Israel is an important one. Sebastián Piñera recognized the Palestinian state in 2011, so I'd be interested to know whether antisemitism in Chile has increased since then, or whether it is sporadic depending on what happens to be in the headlines.

Either way, it is a reminder of how much diasporas matter, as they literally bring politics from other parts of the world with them. Just look at all my posts on U.S. policy toward Cuba.


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