Latin Arabia

A World You Never Knew Existed

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Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Arab Bread Commercial

The translation is not perfect, but you get the point. Arab food is totally mainstream in South America.

Of course, we in America know it as pita bread; but how often do you see Pita Bread commercials on American TV apart from some local bakeries or franchise restaurants. What is interesting is that they call it Arab bread; and that is advertised as such by a transnational conglomerate like Bimbo.

The commercial was from Colombia. Bimbo is a Latin American food giant.

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Chile’s Palestinian Radicalism-01

We will start off this category with a rather interesting video made by Palestinian-Chilean students in 2007. They seem to take an almost militant Palestinian line.

NOTE: I do NOT agree with its anti-Zionist views, but I wanted to translate the video accurately.

A Palestinian-Chilean version of the Jewish Birthright tours
Original Chilean Source: (Click Here)
Keep in mind, Chilean Palestinians are Christian

NOTE:I have been told the background music is by a
Sunni Lebanese which calls on Arabs to fight Israel.
To see the Arabic music with English subtitles: (Click Here)

I want you to look at that video above.

That first video above was made by some Chilean Students from Santiago, Chile in 2007. These were the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Christian-Palestinian immigrants to Chile. They are Christians. They are totally assimilated Chileans. Most Palestinian-Chileans have ancestors that arrived before 1930; before the present imbroglios. Some of these kids might be 4th or 5th generation Chilean. Yet, they put Sunni war music as the background for the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.


Chile has about half of the Palestinian-Christians on the planet, even more than in the contested areas of the Mideast. It was as if Muslims were strained out, and only Christians made it to Chile. They are 99% or more Christian. They now form a middle to elite class in Chile. A good portion of them are intermarried now, and part-Spanish, part-Italian, part-Basque, part-German, etc. In other words, well-integrated and upscale Chileans; fortunate to be in a Latin American democracy that is now considered first world. They are thoroughly Westernized one would think.

Yet, like Jews in America, who are discovering their Jewish roots, these children are re-discovering their Palestinian roots.


A part of this is ethnic pride, though in most Western Countries ethnic pride tapers off after 2 generations. This is running against the usual trend of assimilation, and seems to mirror Jewish identity politics. Both groups hang on to their roots. Competing Semitic identities.

Clearly, there is some outside meddling to reinforce this. Saudi and Iranian money are all over South America; but other factors are at work. Factors which cannot be explained by outside meddling.

The history of Palestinian identity politics go back long in Chilean history, back to the first major wave of immigrants in 18901, when the Chilean government, which was subsidizing European immigration, was met with waves of Arabs who were definitely not expected nor appreciated.

At first, they were savagely looked down on2; but within one generation, and with continuing immigration, they had started the social climb, and were on their way to real power.

By 1920, they had established a Chilean soccer team called the Palestinos.3, which would later become a major league soccer franchise in Chile. This sort of puts to death the claim that Palestinian identity was invented in 1964, by the PLO. The Palestinians in Chile were obviously calling themselves Palestinians by 1920 and probably before then.

By 1938, they set up Club Palestino, a prestigious social club in Santiago which is now a seat of power in Chile4.

In 1947 – long before the era of Muslim Oil Wealth, Chile’s Palestinians – by that time – had enough clout to have Chile’s pro-Zionist president change his ambassador’s vote to Abstain in the UN Partition Vote for Palestine. That is real power.

The Arabs were a joke elsewhere on the planet. By the 1940s, they were becoming an elite in Chile.

By the 1960s, some of the richest men in Chile were Palestinians and no one was laughing at them any more. They commanded respect, awe, and power.5

In many ways, they had mirrored the Jewish rise to power in America, and in much the same way and time frame.

By the 1970s, these formerly scorned were now looked up to as magnates of wealth and power.

The Pinochet dictatorship put a halt to much of this, but the Palestinian-Chilean power base re-emerged after the democracy was re-established; just in time for the First Intifada which was making world headlines. Chilean Palestinians were now jolted back to their beginnings.

However, their historical memory was being filtered rather selectively. The original Christian immigrants from Palestine had fled Turkish Muslim rule. They were terrified of their sons being drafted into a Turkish Army where it was not safe to be a dhimmi. One would have thought that alone would have diminished their enthusiasm for a cause which was getting more and more Islamic in nature. However, 100 years of safety in Chile seems to have fogged over that memory.

Immigrants who trickled in after 1948 and 1967 added to this (mis)focus6. These might only remember as far back as the Mandate era when the Muslims were held in check by the British. The refugees of ’67 could remember Zionist, and maybe British outrages, but usually had no experience of the greater Muslim outrages before the Mandate.

As the ancient memories of old Islamic terrors wafted away, the more pressing recent outrages of Zionists became the focus of attention.

Adding to the mess, TV brought images of Israeli-Palestinian clashes in the West Bank and suddenly Palestinian-Chilean interest was piqued.

Like an earlier generation of Jews, they did not remember that the tolerance of Muslim neighbors that grandfathr had spoken of was the consequence of either European rule which protected Christians, or European threats to intervene if Christians were attacked. They obviously forget the reason why the first wave of their ancestors had fled in 1890. It was to escape Islamic Turkish tyranny.

Humans being myopic, today’s Jewish misdemeanors angered the Palestinian-Chileans more than earlier Islamic felonies.

So Chile’s Palestinians have joined and seem to lead, the South American branch of the political Intifada.


The first two parts of the matter can be traced to two facts.

1) The Palestinian-Chileans have a strong ethnic pride

2) Palestinian-Chileans have a short-range historic memory

Neither is unusual. Palestinian-Chileans are not to be condemned for doing what everyone else does. Japanese-Americans will often send their children to Japanese school, so that the language will live on. Catholic children in New York City, of an earlier generation, went to Wednesday afternoon Catholic Catechisms. Jews, of course, still go to Hebrew School. So we can’t condemn the Palestinian-Chileans for wanting to maintain their heritage; but the only way we can explain their political involvement is if a Palestinian analog of Zionist organizations has arisen among them. This in itself would not be troubling; but it has started to exhibit Islamic overtones, which indicates that outside agendas, foreign to a Christian people, are being pressed into play.


There are two other factors at play.

3) Increasing Saudi and Iranian influence in South America

4) A myopic Israeli establishment which refuses to work out a deal of equality and enfranchisement with Arab Christians – in a divide and conquer strategy – and doesn’t try to use Chile’s Palestinians as a bridge betweem the Ummah and the West.

These I hope to discuss in a later discussion.

Palestinian Radicalism-01
Palestinian Radicalism-02
Palestinian Radicalism-03

1There is evidence of individual immgrants going back to the 1850s, but 1890 was the start of large scale Palestinian immigration.

2The paper El Mercurio would write in 1911, “Whether they are Mahometans or Buddhists, what one can see and smell from far, is that they are more dirty than the dogs of Constantinople…” Source Wikipedia: Palestinian Community in Chile.

3See: and

4Apparently, from their own website (Click Here) (in Spanish), they entered in an arrangement with the British Mandate, via the British Embassy in Chile. The list of founders indicates that even at this early date, they had become Chileanized, and were sporting Latin first names. The club has become quite prestigious over the years as this Wikipedia article claims (Click Here).

5At one point, the Yarur family controlled 60% of Chile’s textile industry. Now, they are heavily involved in banking.

6A similar thing happened to Jewish ethnic memory, which after the horrors of the European Holocast, tended to glamorize the tolerance of Islam over Europe. They brought up memories of Arab tolerance of Jews, forgetting that this Arab tolerance was the consequence of European colonial rule. Before colonial rule over the Arabs, which extended European rights and liberty to Sepharic Jews in Araby, the life of a Jew was horrific. But in 1945, very few living Jews could remember back that far, and the myth of Islamic tolerance was born. Recent scholarship has rooted out that error and re-discovered the brutality of Muslim and Berber regimes. It has been settled that it was not Islamic tolerance, but the standard colonial practice of extending protection to Sephardic Jews in the colonies which was the source of the tolerance, enforced by colonial rifles. Oddly enough, Muslim tolerance was really European tolerance; but after 1945, for obvious reasons, Jews were not thrilled with European tolerance.

This was particularly true in French-held Algeria where Sephardic Jews were awarded French citizenship in 1870; but the Arab had to renounce Islamic mores and adopt Western practices. This was considered apostasy and few Arabs went through the process.

To get a sense of what Jews had to endure in pre-colonial North Africa, the execution of Sol Huachel is instructive (Click Here). But after World War 2, such tyranny was overshadowed by the recent Holocaust, and the myth arose of tolerance.

Jewish Academics are starting to re-examine the whole era in a more unbiased light, and the myth of Islamic tolerance is crumbling. The Europeans did not so much as export anti-semitism to Araby; rather they exported a racialized variety of anti-Semitism to reinforce an already existing Islamic prejudice. No doubt the continued struggle with Islam has forced this re-assessment of Muslim tolerance among Jewish academics. It would be nice if more Christian academics followed suit.

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Revival in Latin America

There is a massive Evangelical revival going on in South America. This does not get much play on American TV, but Latin American religious demographics are changing.1

Brazil is now 22-25% Evangelical and their numbers are growing so fast that Brazil is expected to become the world’s first Latin Evangelical Nation in the next 10-20 years.

Chile is now 15% Evangelical, and Reformation Day is now a national holiday in Catholic Chile.

Even famously Catholic Argentina is now 9% Evangelical.

The media notices a few more mosques in Brazil and panics because the number of mosques has quadrupled; but their numbers were miniscule to begin with. Any increase, no matter how small, would have quadrupled their numbers. One boatload of immigrants could have done the job.

What the media ignores are the 1-3 Million Brazilians converting to Evangelicalism every year.

If the trend continues, the few Muslims in Brazil will be met with bible thumping Pentecostals, something that is quite rare in the Mideast, where Catholics and Orthodox Christians were often dhimmis who lived in fear.

These Pentecostals go into drug and crime ridden favelas. A few mullahs will not scare them.

I do not think the Muslims in South America can bear up. Islam survives by a societally imposed terror, which does not exist in South America. There is only so many JESUS LOVES YOU bible tracts that Muslims can find before they take effect.

1The reason this goes unnoticed in American media is because the Evangelicals are often as socially conservative as the Catholics. Strict abortion laws in Latin America are blamed on Catholicism, but there is evidence that it may be the emerging Evangelicals upholding these pro-life laws, even as Catholics are lapsing. Our media credits this to a socially stifling Catholic Church, which once was true, but no longer. It may be the moral awakening of an emerging Evangelical presence now sustaining these laws. In Brazil, Evangelicals are radically anti-abortion and pro-life.

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012


South America, until recently, was solidly Catholic. The liberators (O’Higgins1 , San Martin, Bolivar) may have thrown out the Inquisition, but they did not get rid of the Church nor its controlling influence.

This has an effect on our story.

Most Arab immigrants to South America were either Roman Catholic or Eastern Christian. The Catholics would have fit in seamlessly, of course; and many an Arab of Eastern Christian affiliation easily segued over to Roman Catholicism, completing the transaction of assimilation. Many others maintained their Syrian Orthodox Christianity which, because of its resemblance to Roman Catholicism, would not have stood out.

Often Catholicism was the state church in many countries, but a lot of official and unofficial tolerance was allowed2. Protestants had made it to Chile by the 1840s, and the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral of San Jorge (Saint George) was set up in Santiago Chile in 1917. By 1925, Chile had separated church and state3.

Saint George Syrian Orthodx Church in Chile – Complete assimilation!

Today, there is absolute freedom of religion in South America, but the Catholic Church is still a force to be reckoned with, and it can wield power in its preference4. This is typical of much of South America; except Brazil, where Evangelicalism is so powerful that it competes successfully for societal affections.

Jews, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants would be accepted, but Islam was so far out of consideration that there had to have been enormous societal pressure placed on the Muslim immigrants to convert or at least blend in.

For all intents and purposes, the pressure worked.

Source: Muslims in Argentina – Pedro Brieger

Chronicles from the 1940s mention that it is rare for a Muslim Arab not to drink wine.

If the Muslim would not convert, he would at least be pressured to conform to Argentine cultural norms such as alcohol.

Like America, the melting pot ethnic was enforced. You were going to conform. Unlike America, where religious freedom was total, there was real societal pressure to Christianize, preferably Catholicize. The Inquisition was gone, but if you wanted a passport, a baptismal certificate might be required. If you wanted to get married, a cleric might be required. True, a rabbi, minister, or judge might suffice, but where was a Muslim immigrant going to find an imam?

Many charities in South America were, and are, still run by the Catholic Church. Any Muslim immigrant in need would have been almost certainly met with a Catholic cleric.

Colonel Mohamed Alí Seineldín was
the genuine article: a devout Catholic.

The effect was enormous. Carlos Menem, former President of Argentina, was a convert to Catholicism from Islam,; though some suspect it was for political convenience5. However, Colonel Mohamed Alí Seineldín, an Argentine hero of the Falklands War6, was the genuine article. He converted in his youth, and became a devotee of the Virgin Mary.

In the end, by intermarriage, outright conversion, or just lack of cultural support, Islam took a serious beating among Muslim immigrants.

South America has an amazing track record in this area.

In fact, as late as 2000, the Argentine academic Pedro Brieger was suggesting that Islam might die out in Argentina.

Source: Muslims in Argetina – Pedro Brieger

The number of Muslims in Argentina is decreasing, and this is due to several factors. Firstly, in families of Muslim origin, customs are being lost, from the Arabic language to food and drink. Secondly, there is relatively little reading material on Islam available in Spanish. There is a growing tendency toward mixed marriages in which children lose all references to Islam, and there are too few study centres for disseminating Islam. This may, however, change in the future with the construction of the new Islamic Cultural Center King Fahd, financed by the Saudi government, which includes a school and a mosque with a minaret in the heart of Buenos Aires.

From a Western Point of view, such a prediction was hopeful. Latin America had a real tendency to take in Muslims and crunch out Christian kids, or at least non-observant secular Muslim children.

However, the last two decades have seen some ominous trends.

These ominous trends are not as developed as they are in Europe, so Latin America has a possibility of reversing the mistakes and returning to their successful former practices.

1Bernardo O’Higgins, the liberator of Chile, wanted to grant total religious freedom in Chile to encourage Protestant immigration to the area. This caused immense hostility from the Church and reactionary classes. He was sort of an enlighted despot who tried to liberalize the country too fast. He advocated democracy, land reform, religious freedom, and an end to titled nobility, thus causing friction with the settled conservative establishment who accused him of being a dictator when he tried to rush reforms through. Eventually O’Higgins went in to exile. Chile later realized its mistake and he was called back; only to have him die en route home. His body was repatriated. After his death, Chile realized that O’Higgins policies were generally wise, even if he was a bit imperious in their implementation; and he is now their equivalent of George Washington.

2 For ex: Argentina set up Catholicism as a state religion, but there was no obligation to be a Catholic. An Anglican Church was set up in 1831 for British residents, on land donated by the Argentine President. Freedom of religion was finally ratified and written into the 1853 constitution. Synagogues were in Argentina by the 1860s.

Argentina’s Catholicity stems more from culture than sincerity. Their 1810 Revolution abolished the Inquisition; but there was a question whether freedom of religion could be manipulated by local caudillos (regional leaders) to the purpose of fomenting civil strife. After much debate, only the president was required to be Catholic since the president had a hand in the process of approving cardinals and bishops. Even that one relic requirement was changed in 1994. The only remaining issue is that the state subsidizes the Catholic Church.

That aside, since 1853, Argentines have had a clear constitutional right to freedom of religion, though society could exert massive pressure for Catholicism.

In the end, no one was obliged to belong to the Catholic Church. The situation is similar to established Lutheran Churches in Scandanavia or North Germany; or England where the King of England is still required to be Protestant.

3Ironically, Chile has a considerable Protestant population of 15% today. Futher confounding the picture is that Catholic Chile is one of only two countries in the world which celebrates Reformation Day as a National Holiday. Even more amazing is that no Protestant nation celebrates the day as a National Holiday any more, though some Protestant provinces in Europe do.

O’Higgins would have approved.

4This pressure can be quite real.

Though absolutely secular today, Chile did not legalize divorce until 2004, thanks in part to Catholic influence.

Throughout South America, abortion is illegal. In Chile, this prohibition is embedded in the constitution. A large part of this is due to the Catholic Church, but not solely. In Brazil and Chile, Evangelicals are strongly anti-abortion, and these pick up the battle also.

Juan Perón was eventually overthrown in 1955 by a conservative coup, in part because he stood up to the Roman Catholic Chuch; though to be sure there were other considerations. He went after the privileges of the elite classes in favor of the working class; and frankly, Perón was semi-dictatorial. The elites allied with the Church, and got rid of Perón.

The Roman Catholic Church does not operate dictatorially in Latin America today. This is not Medieval Spain; but it can ally with others to tip the balance in its favor. On the issue of abortion, the Catholic Church is allying with the Evangelicals, just as in the United States.

.5Menem’s wife and son did not convert at that time, which drew suspicion as to his sincerity.

6Colonel Seineldín was admired as a brave commander in the war who commanded the 25th Regiment which inflicted considerable damage on the British.

He would later be instrumental in two right wing coups against the government – in order to stop the prosecution of officers connected to the junta-era killings. The coups failed and Seineldín was imprisoned for 13 years; however to the end he seems to have remained a devout Catholic. He was devoted to Latin culture and once referred to Spain as the motherland – an amazing viewpoint from one of Arab ancestry; but it demonstrated his complete assimilation into Argentine culture.

He still has some admirers in Argentina among the right wing.

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