The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has deplored recent developments in Chile, in which the Chilean Jewish community finds itself under attack for supporting Israel. Chile, a country with large number of groups from other countries, has a Jewish population of about 20,000. It also has a Palestinian Arab community of about 400,000, which is established, wealthy and well-connected to government and media. In Chile, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), an initiative that seeks to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, is stronger than in any other Latin American country.
As an indication of the deterioration in relations and hostility to Jews, during a recent amateur soccer match between Estadio Israelita Maccabi and Club Palestino at the latter’s home stadium, the referee, Norman Vega, had to suspend the game due to the uncontrolled violence that ensued when hundreds of Palestinian fans invaded the field, throwing bottles and screaming racist insults.
Also recently, the General Union of Palestinian Students (UGEP) launched a campaign to boycott the candidacy of Jorge Testa, a Jewish candidate for the University of Chile’s student council, saying his Jewishness and support for Israel rendered his candidacy unacceptable. Never before has a Chilean Jew been openly opposed for a position because of his or her support for Israel. Also, disturbingly, a huge poster set up on of Santiago’s main boulevards drew a comparison between the Holocaust and Gaza.
Dina Siegel Vann, director of the AJC’s Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, says that “By importing this conflict and by putting it in the terms that the Palestinians are doing it, they are endangering democracy in Chile, inclusiveness in Chile. That is the message that we’re trying to convey, because we’re friends of Chile. We’re admirers in many respects of Chile’s record. But here we think that they have a problem” (Benjamin Kerstein, ‘Major Jewish Group Petitions Chilean Government to Act Against Rising Antisemitism,’ May 24, 2018).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is a terrible development when the Chilean Jewish community, long established, respected and secure in Chile, has to now contend with rising anti-Semitism spurred, and often disguised as, anti-Zionist activism. Relations between communities is now deteriorating as a result of the anti-Jewish acts that have occurred, and the increasing acceptability of these in the country.
“Successive Chilean governments have been careful and scrupulous to respect and support all Chilean communities. It is, however, now necessary that it take a public stand against anti-Semitism in Chile and not be deterred from doing so by the fact that the large Palestinian Arab community has been increasingly involved in anti-Zionist activities like BDS.
“This is not a situation that will remain static for long. History shows the anti-Semitism that becomes tolerated grows and metastasizes.
“We call upon the Chilean government to publicly condemn the increasing anti-Semitic attacks and acts in Chile and to condemn the BDS movement and its open activism on behalf of destroying Israel.”