The high level of violent anti-Jewish incidents recorded in 2001 may be partly attributed to intensified efforts on the part of the Palestinian community to increase Chilean awareness of the Palestinian problem. Numerous threats to the Jewish community seem to have been inspired by the Middle East crisis and the September 11 events. Islamist elements in Chile are suspected of links with international terrorist groups. On the other hand, the extreme right was fairly quiet throughout the last year.
The 300,000-strong Palestinian community in Chile is the fourth largest in the world after those in Israel, Lebanon and Jordan. The Palestinians, who began arriving in the country at the beginning of the 20th century, are well integrated into Chilean economic, political and cultural life. Until the outbreak of the first intifada there was no evidence of Palestinian antisemitic or anti-Zionist activity.
NOTE: The number given for Palestinians was probably low for 2001, but at least the Steven Roth Center acknowledged how well integrated into Chilean society the Palestinians were. What is most amazing is that the Steven Roth Center is upset that the Palestinian-Chileans are anti-Zionist: Did they really expect Palestinians to be pro-Israel?
The Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv lays a large portion of the blame for this on Chile’s Palestinian population. No doubt a large part of Chile’s anti-Semitism stems from the Palestinian community. The Palestinian-Chileans have influence analagous to America’s Jewish community; and even as Jews can influence the USA to Zionism, even so the Palestinian-Chileans can influence Chile contrariwise. Palestinian-Chileans can and do set a cultural tone in Chile.
The following year (2002-3), the Steven Roth Center was indicating a more ominous development.
The escalation in anti-Jewish expressions by representatives of the Palestinian, Islamic and ultra-right sections in Chile in 2002 fueled a rise in antisemitic acts, mainly insults, threats and graffiti, which also increased in severity. Palestinian and Islamic groups were very active in 2002, denouncing Israel and championing the Palestinian cause, and antisemitic/anti-Zionist slogans were evident at some of their demonstrations. A state of emergency was declared in the Jewish community in December 2002 due to the large number of anti-Jewish acts that had been perpetrated and to the threat from al- Qa‘ida.
The Steven Roth Center notes the rise of Islamic influence, which is evident on some of the Pro-Palestinian Campaigns. Yes, this is disturbing.
It also notes that Islam in Chile is very small – only about 3,000 out of the whole Chilean population around the year 2000. Even among Palestinian-Chileans, Islam is almost unknown. It should be stressed that the Islamic influences may not hold the general support of the Palestinian Christian community who may see the Palestine-Israeli struggle only in national terms.
Still the trend is distrubing; particularly when one sees Chilean Churches hosting meetings with Islamic graphics and icons.
What seems to be happening is that an Islamic flavor is being parcelled out under the guise of Christian organizations. For this reason, I suspect it is being partly subsidized by outside Arab oil money which is attaching Islamic influence to Christian-Palestinian-Chilean sympathies.
Equally troubling is that some, among the very few Muslims in Chile, seem to be connected to terrorism.
The Fundación Palestina Belén 2000 (Palestinian Belen [sic] Foundation 2000) is the chief funding-raising organization in Chile for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Wealthy Palestinians from the community in Chile support the fund, which publishes a monthly journal, al-Damir. On its first anniversary on 25 June, the foundation organized an event, entitled Centro de Eventos Casa Piedra, attended by more than 1,000 invitees, including ministers, MPs, clerics, army officers and judges. Minister of the Interior Jose Miguel Insulza and Government Secretary Heraldo Muñoz both posed for a photograph, wearing a keffiah decorated with map of a Palestinian state covering the entire territory of the State of Israel.
NOTE: This shows some bias on the part of the Steven Roth Center. While a map which denies Israel’s right to exist is troubling; again, do they expect Palestinians to be Zionist? Is the Steven Roth Center as upset at Jewish maps which deny Palestine?
The Palestine Bethlehem 2000 Foundation (Fundación Palestina Belén 2000) is geared to a Christian outlook; so it may be that Medical tours to Gaza are wrongly demonized as pro-Hamas, but other sources apart from the Stephen Roth center seem to agree with the Stephen Roth Center’s assessment. So the charge cannot be dismissed out of hand.
The Media Line: PALESTINO SOCCER CLUB: KICKING A POLITICAL FOOTBALL
At first glance, Palestino’s Internet site looks like that of any other soccer team. But in its links, one can find the Fundacion Palestina Belen 2000 (Palestinian Belen Foundation 2000).
A Chilean source connected to the Chilean Intelligence Agency (CIA) told TML that this particular fund managed to collect $6m in one year, but that the funds do not always find their way to needy Palestinians. Instead, much of the money goes to charities identified with Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization. According to the source, many of the fund’s activists are themselves members of another terror group – The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The CIA said that it has information concerning the trail of money from the foundation to Hamas, but declined to provide specifics.
It is clear that large sections of the Palestinian-Chilean community deny Israel’s right to exist.
Now maybe the accusations against the Christian Palestine Bethlehem 2000 Foundation are exaggerated, or co-ordinated anti-Palestinian propaganda.
But, whether the accusations are true or not, the rising anti-Israel chorus in Chile has a strong Palestinan-Chilean component and this is troubling.
MORE ON THE PALESTINE BETHLEHEM 2000 FOUNDATION