Very Mainstream

A good start to gauge the situation of Arabs in any Latin American country is to go to their FEARAB Site. FEARAB stand for the Federación de Entidades Arabes (or roughly translated: Federation of Arab Groups/Societies). The ACRONYM only looks bad in English. Each country has its own pecular umbrella organization, and they can be amazingly different.

In Argentina, on FEARAB – Argentina one of their pictures is of a gaucho. A truly assimilationist image which avoids the Israel-Palestine issue altogether.

The Argentine Arabs seem to be more mainstream.

NOTE: Fearab – Chile’s site has a map which denies Israel
Fearab Argentina has rotating images, but one image is of a gaucho.
The Argentine site avoids controversy.

Fearab – Argentina’s website (in Spanish) seems to be heavily concentrated on Arab-Argentine history: How many Arabs immigrated to Argentina, and when. It concentrates on community TV shows, radio shows, publications, etc. They run youth programs.

There is a link to the Syrian-Lebanese club of Buenos Aires.

The Argentine Arabs seem to be more interested in pushing a cultural agenda than a political or religious one. It is not that they have no interest in these things, but that these things are not their main concern.

Why? because in Argentina, the Lebanese Maronites are a major part of the Arab community. Almost half of the Arab community. Maronites are Catholics, Westernized, historically suspicious of Islam. Many have even been historically sympathetic with Israel, though that seems to be seriously diminishing.

Some Maronites even prefer to be called Phoenician, not Arabs. Centuries of violent persecution by surrounding Muslims have dissuaded them from any pan-Arabist viewpoint. They wanted to consider themselves misplaced Westerners who just happened to be stuck in the Mideast; but their language and history would not permit that illusion to go too far. But the Maronites actually welcomed the Crusaders. These people came with a real desire to Westernize. They came in half Western at the start.

A classic example of Maronite influence was an Argentina TV showed called Desde El Aljibe (from the well) (2003-2011), where the chief stars were Lebanese Maronites. The show was about Arab culture, but to a large degree apolitical. Muslims were welcome on the show, but no preference was given to anybody: Jew, Muslim, or Christian. The show was about music, cooking, language lessons, history, travelogues, and from time to time: some politics.

The Maronites give a Westernized aspect and impetus to the Arabs in Argentina.

Argentina could not have asked for a more readily and eager assimilable Arab group than the Maronite Lebanese. They were Mediterranean in appearance, Roman Catholic, and considered themselves really Western at heart.

This explains the relatively mild temper of Arabs in Argentina. The Maronites seemed to have set the tone.

That may be changing.

The Saudis are buying influence, but up until recently, the Arabs were an almost invisible ethnic group in Argentina. Colorful, but not radicalized.