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 JEWISH COMMUNITY
The Jewish community of Chile, numbering
approximately 21,000 out of a total population of 14.5 million, is mostly
concentrated in the city of Santiago de Chile, with a scattering in the
provinces of Valparaíso, Viña
del Rancagua, Concepción, Temuco and Valdivia. Most of the Jews are
descendants of refugees from Germany and are religiously unaffiliated. The
Representative Committee of Jewish Organizations in Chile (CREJ) encompasses
all the Jewish communities and organizations in the country. There is a large
Jewish school in Santiago and several publications cater to the needs of the
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.
After the eruption of the
second intifada in September 2000, the Palestinian community worked vigorously,
using the weight of their numbers and status within the country, to place the
Palestinian cause on the Chilean public agenda. In 2001 the level of activity
and cooperation of the various groups (Asociacíon de jóvenes
por Palestina – AJPP; Union General de Estudiantes Palestinos –
UGEP; Fundacón Palestina Belén 2000 – Comité
Belén 2000; Comité Democratico Palestino – CDP; Federacíon
Palestina de Chile; Centro de Estudios Arabes de la Universidad de Chile;
and Federacíon Arabe de Chile – FEARAB) was unprecedented and
their tone was extremely anti-Israel and often antisemitic. The transmissions
of Radio Nuevo Mundo, linked to the Communist Party of Chile, were influenced
by this trend. Further, Congressman Eugenio Tuma Zedán, a member of the
center-left party Partido Popular Democratico (PPD), publicly asked the
Ministry of Defense, on behalf of the Palestinian community, in early September
2001, to investigate the continuous presence of Israeli youth in Pumalin Park (a
tourist attraction for many young Israelis). He also asked for an investigation
of Zionist activities in Chile and questioned whether they were legal in Chile
in light of Zionist racist practices.
galvanizing the community were the UGEP and the AJPP, which became the foci for
Palestinian youth, while the Federación Palestina, Comité
Democrático Palestino and Fundación Belén 2000 organized
masses in the nation’s churches, rallies and demonstrations, and fund raising
and cultural activities on behalf of the Palestinian cause.
The Muslim Community
The Muslim community in Chile is tiny, numbering no
more than 3,000 (the majority of the Palestinian community is Orthodox Catholic).
After the September 11 events, it received considerable media attention. There
was some anti-Muslim sentiment, mostly on the part of right-wingers and
conservatives, and the police provided protection for the community after
reports of attacks against some of its members.
Chilean Islamists are
suspected of links with the Lebanese Hizballah. Two Chilean citizens, traders
Assad Ahmad Mohammed Barakat and Khalil Saleh, were being investigated for
money laundering in the Free Zone of Iquique in the northern part of the
country and for a possible connection with the Free Zone of the Triple Frontier
between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where Islamists acted freely until an
agreement was signed between the three countries (see Brazil).
In addition, the Paraguayan authorities accused Barakat of operating a military
arm of the Hizballah in the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este, on the Triple
Frontier. The authorities claim they have documents proving that Barakat was
sending large sums of money through the trading companies Saleh Trading and
Saltex Exporters from Iquique to the Middle East, to finance terrorism.
The various state
intelligence networks in the region suspect that since the late 1990s the city
of Iquique has been used as a base for international terrorist activity. The
fact that it is on the northern border with Peru and Bolivia and is relatively
close to Paraguay; that it has a community of Muslim businessmen; and that it
is a free tax zone, with a tax-free port and a high level of imports, make it
an ideal location for the illegal traffic of drugs and arms and the passage of
terrorists with false documentation.
It should be noted also
that the Argentinean investigation of the AMIA bombing in 1994 confirmed
involvement of the Iranian embassy in Chile, among others.
One of the leading neo-Nazi groups is Movimiento
Patria Nueva Sociedad (PNS), led by Alexis López Tapia. Despite its
solid structure, capable leadership and international connections, especially
with far right groups in other Latin American countries, its membership has not
increased and it has failed to attract grassroots support. Nevertheless, its
attempt to create regional cells demonstrates its intention of expansion
throughout the country, probably with the aim of becoming a political party.
The Internet page, http://www.libreopinion.cl,
was the center of the group’s activity in 2001.
nationalist Revista Ciudad de los Césares is led by Erwin
Robertson. Although he avoided making antisemitic remarks in the past few
years, in the October/November 2001 edition of the group’s journal of the same
name (which appeared irregularly during 2001 due to financial problems), he
made clearly antisemitic and anti-Israel declarations.
Miguel Serrano, known as
a leading “old-school” Chilean Nazi, published a book in 2001 entitled Se
Acabó Chile (Chile Is Finished), in which he claims
that the Jews dominate everything and everywhere, including Chile (“Chile is
right-wing, nationalist group is Movimiento Orgullo Nacional, which
publishes the journal Batalla 88. In April 2001 it distributed posters
with nationalistic and militaristic messages.
together with other ultra-right groups, in the annual 5 September 1938 commemoration
(Conmemoración de la matanza del Seguro Obrero, 5 de setiembre – see ASW 1998/9,
in the Cementerio General where they displayed Nazi flags and symbols. They
exhibit violence against punkist youth and homosexuals, but are not
demonstrably antisemitic. Skinheads tend to have a low level of education and
few financial resources.
Violence, Vandalism and Threats
The violence in the Middle East and the resurgence
of pro-Palestinian activities in Chile seem to have instigated a larger number
and a more serious type of violent actions than in previous years. Chilean Jews
experienced several violent incidents in the course of 2001.
In April, human excrement
was thrown at a kosher restaurant in Santiago and a stone was flung at the Jewish
firefighters’ association Bomba de Israel, smashing a window. On 3 June young
Jews sitting in two fast-food restaurants in Santiago were assaulted by a group
of Palestinians in their early twenties, who wore kaffiyehs and leather jackets
and carried chains. In another incident, on 3 November, a man passed
through the Orthodox Shaked congregation in Santiago during the Sabbath service
giving the Nazi salute.
Several phone and e-mail
threats were received by Jewish organizations. For instance, two phone calls,
one in March to the Estadio Israelita building and the other in May to the
Instituto Hebreo school, threatened harm to children. An e-mail to the Jewish
community in Santiago warned of a “campaign against the genocide [of the
Palestinians] and the Zionist colonizer,” while another stated: “You are the
real Holocaust. You are the worst pest on this planet … Sieg Heil!!! Heil
Hitler!!!” Bomb threats were received by Jewish organizations on and after 11
September, including during Yom Kippur services.
Throughout the year
frequent photographing of community buildings, especially the Institutuo Hebreo
school, was detected. It is suspected that certain groups are trying to collect
information in order to carry out some action against them.
Some of the Palestinian groups promote antisemitism.
The AJPP website, for example, has a game called “Biting the Jewish mouse.” The
UGEP transmits a weekly radio program “Palestine Forever,” with anti-Israel,
anti-Zionist and antisemitic messages. The Federacíon Palestina de Chile
holds masses in memory of suicide bombers and prays for an end to the
“Palestinian holocaust.” In an interview to the independent periodical la
Hora, distributed free-of-charge, in February, Eugenio Chachauan,
director of the Centro de Estudios Arabes de la Universidad de Chile, claimed
that since “the Jews murdered the Messiah they can be expected to murder
appeared at a main junction in the center of Santiago. The graffiti read, inter
alia, “Star of David=Murder” and “Revolution until victory, Al Fatah.” Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was described as a murderer on a current affairs
program broadcast by University of Santiago Radio on 19 May, entitled “The
Feast of Zion.”