The Jews of Chile
Chile is odd.
It has been rather hospitable to both Jews and Arabs.
Some [Jewish] refugees – 879 in number – who reached Chile after the outbreak of World War II were accepted on condition that they settle in the south and not move to the capital.
When one adjusts for population, 879 refugees would have been like the USA accepting 14,000 Jews. They sent them to the south of Chile, to build up the land.
In all, between 10,000 and 12,000 Jews were able to enter Chile in 1933–40. The two last ships, Augusto and Virgilio, arrived in January 1940 with a few hundred Jews who were moved to the south in a special train under military custody. An attempt to bring 50 French Jewish children to Chilean Jewish families who promised to adopt them was made in 1943 but failed.
In certain instances the Chilean government protected Jewish refugees of Chilean origin or Chilean citizens in zones occupied by the Nazis, to prevent their deportation to concentration camps. On a few occasions the foreign minister and the Chilean ambassador to Germany, Tobías Barros Ortíz, threatened to imprison German supporters of the Nazis who resided in Chile if Chilean citizens in Germany were detained.
When adjusted for Chile’s small population [only 18 million today], this is an enormous number. They did this when the rest of the world was refusing Jews.
EL SÁBADO GIGANTE
The most watched TV show in history. It’s hosted by Don Francisco, the Chilean born son of Jewish refugees.
Probably the most famous product of this exodus was Don Franciso (nee Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld) of El Sábado Gigante, who was born in 1940 Talca in the South of Chile soon after his Jewish refugee parents arrived. The show is the longest running TV show on the planet, and may have the biggest regular audience as well. It is shown in the United States, Spain, and all of Latin America.
This mixing of Jews and Palestinians has had the oddest effect on Chile. There are about 15-60 Thousand Jews depending on the sources. Yet, Chilean society is overall sympathetic to them. On the other hand, Chile has 500,000 Palestinians, who are middle class to rich. They cannot be ignored either.
This produces a schizophrenia in Chilean society, policy, and government attitudes towards the Mideast.
In 1947, the Palestinians were able to persuade the Zionist friendly president, Gabriel González Videla, to have Chile abstain from voting for a paritition of Palesitine, which would have created Israel.
In 1945 a Pro-Palestine Committee was founded in Santiago, and its prominent member, Senator Gabriel González Videla (later president of Chile), was among those who sponsored the organization of the International Christian Conference for Palestine, which took place in Washington in 1945. In spite of his past record of goodwill toward Jewish aspirations, as president Videla gave in to the internal pressure of the Arab community (100,000 citizens of Arab descent lived in Chile at that time and were known for their financial and political influence) and instructed his delegation to the UN General Assembly to abstain from voting on the resolution to partition Palestine in 1947. Senator Humberto Alvarez, second-ranking member of this delegation, resigned in protest against that decision.
Arabs are now 800,000 in Chile, with Palestinians alone being roughly 500,000 today. Almost all the Palestinians are Christian, but they are radicalized against Israel. But even as far back as 1947, they had enough wealth and clout to throttle Chile’s pro-Zionist sympathies at the UN.
To get a sense of how schizophrenic this is:
In 2006, according to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, Chile had the most Jewish government in the world outside Israel, but …
Following the Israeli government, the newly elected Chilean cabinet is the most Jewish government in the world, with three Jewish ministers, one deputy minister serving in government
… what the article does not say is that there were an equal number of Arabs in the government.
This produces some bizarre occurrences coming out of Chile.
Further compounding this schizophrenia is the massive growth of Evangelicals; many of whom who support Israel.
The Evangelicals of Chile
So you have Chile which produces the largest radicalized population of Arabs in South America, but it is also extraordinarily friendly to Jews and Evangelicals.
Chile is now a first world nation. The Switzerland of South America, yet when it comes to the Mideast, the government is torn between two completely opposite groups.
In 2011, Chile recognized Palestine; and what a fight that was.
The government’s resolution also noted that both Jewish and Palestinian communities have been key to Chile’s social, cultural, political and economic development for many years, working in harmony that should serve as a model for their both the Israeli and Palestinian states. It’s a message that Pinera plans to make personally during a visit to the Middle East in March.
What the above article does not mention is the Pinera put a lot of conditions on the recognition. For ex: The Chilean declaration did not mention the ’67 borders as the borders of Palestine, like the other South American countries did.
As time goes by, the demographic weight, and wealth, of the Palestinian community seems to be asserting itself. This will be interesting to watch.
Let’s hope they make the right decisions.