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 Jewish community
The Jewish community of Chile,
numbering approximately 15,000 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 Iquique, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar,
Concepción, Temuco and Valdivia. Most 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 are two Jewish schools in Santiago and one
in Viña del Mar. Several publications cater to the needs of the
Anti-Jewish combined with
anti-Israel positions have been publicly declared by groups within three main
sectors in Chile: the Palestinian community, the Islamic community and the
ultra-right wing. Al-Aqsa intifada and the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict have served to strengthen cross-sector links.
The 300,000-strong Palestinian
community in Chile is the fourth largest in the world after those in Israel, Lebanon
and Jordan. The community was very active during the year 2002. It organized
several rallies in the first part of the year, including one in front of the
Israeli embassy in March, and another in April in the central Plaza de la
Constitucion (see below). The community received wide media coverage in the
first half of 2002, especially during the sieges of Jenin and of Arafat’s
compound in Ramallah. The activities of this sector were directed mostly toward
students and youth. Closer ties between the Palestinian
and Islamic communities have been noted, such as the participation of Shaykh
Suhayl Assad, head of the Cultural
Islamic Center of Santiago, in activities organized by the UGEP (see below).
General de Estudiantes Palestinos (General Union of Palestinian Students – UGEP) was the most active group in 2002.
It has links to several political organizations, mostly left-wing parties and
groups, among them left-wing students at the Catholic University of Chile
(Frente de Estudiantes de Izquierda de la Universidad Catolica de Chile). They
also participated in Communist Party events, such as the Fiesta de Quina. UGEP
has a radio program, Palestina por Siempre (“Palestine Forever”), broadcast on
Radio Nuevo Mundo, which is extremely anti-Israel and contemptuous of Jewish
culture and customs. On 8 August it was claimed on the program that Chilean
Ambassador to Israel Sally Benderski was a Jewess who should be removed from her post because
she was likely to ask for Israeli citizenship.
Palestina de Chile (Palestinian Federation of Chile – FPCh) organized a rally in Constitution Square on 6 April 2002, as well as a series of conferences on the Middle East. Some 2,000 mostly
young people attended the rally under the banner “For Life and Peace in Palestine.”
The demonstration attracted Communist and Socialist Party supporters, many of
whom wore T-shirts or keffiahs championing the Palestinian cause. They carried
placards saying “Sharon=murder,” “Zionism=Nazism,” “USA+Israel=Swastika,” and
waved Palestinian flags. The rally was endorsed by the majority of Palestinian
institutions in Chile, as well as by the teachers’ union and senior
representatives of the main political parties.
year, the federation frequently published anti-Zionist articles in one of Chile’s
leading newspapers, El Mercurio, as well as letters to the editor in
various other newspapers. Hamas leader Salah Shehata, who was killed by Israeli
forces in 2002, was recognized by the FPCh as a martyr of the Palestinian
The Asociacion de
Jovenes por Palestina (Association of Palestinian Youth – AJPP) is the youth wing of the FPCh. On
15 April, Palestinian activist Kamal Cumsille published an article in the
national La Tercera entitled “The Middle East Is Here in Chile,” in
which he claimed that the Chilean Jewish community had invited him to give a
talk, but since they had put up posters throughout Santiago claiming that
Arafat was a murderer, he would not talk to liars. Moreover, he maintained, one
needed to understand the suicide bombers who lived in appalling conditions and
had no hope. On 26 September, the group organized a pro-Palestinian rally in
front of the Israeli embassy in Santiago. Demonstrators displayed placards
equating the Star of David with the swastika and Sharon with Hitler and burned
an Israeli flag.
Palestina Belén 2000 (Palestinian Belen 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.
The Comité Democrático Palestino
(Palestine Democratic Committee), led by Cristaki Massad and Fuad Dawabe, is
aggressively anti-Israel. Together with the AJPP, its members commemorate the nakbe
(Palestinian catastrophe). The 2002 ceremony was held on 15 May in Constitution
Square. In early April 2002, Dawabe said on a Channel 13 TV program that the Sharon
government was treating the Palestinians just as the Nazis did the Jews and
that Israeli forces were perpetrating a genocide of the Palestinian people.
An anti-Israel rally, organized by the Palestinian community,
took place in the city of Concepción on 10 April. Attended by
politicians and municipal leaders, the demonstration was characterized by
antisemitic and anti-Zionist slogans similar to those displayed at the rallies
held an International Solidarity Day with the Palestinian People in November.
Ostensibly a cultural event held in a largely Arab neighborhood, the program featured
During the year 2002 several articles
appeared dealing with the presence of Hizballah in Chile. In its annual
bulletin on global terrorism released in May 2002, the US Department of State
noted that a financial aid network for Hizballah exists in the city of Iquique,
led by Assad Ahmad Barakat, a citizen of Lebanese origin. This information is
significant because it indicates the potential for Islamic terrorism in Chile
(see also ASW
2001/2). Discussions began in March 2002 in the Chilean parliament to
draft a law that would enable the creation of a National Agency of Information
(ANI) to deal with national and international terrorism.
In June it was reported that Asad Ahmad Barakat had
been detained in Brazil. He is the owner of several businesses in the tax-free
zone of Iquique and was being sought by Chile and other countries in the
Southern Cone in connection with his financial and other links to Hizballah. A
Paraguayan judge stated that Barakat had been recruiting combatants from among
the Arab community living on the Triple Frontier regions shared by Paraguay, Argentina
and Chile and sending large sums of money to the Middle East.
Also in June,
Judge Juan José Galeano, who is conducting the inquiry into the 1992
Israeli embassy and the 1994 AMIA bombings, requested a Chilean investigation
of 61 persons of Iranian origin suspected of implication in the attacks (see
also Argentina). He believes that some of them might have passed through
Chile, a popular country of transit for Arab Muslims.
Existing neo-Nazi and antisemitic
organizations have been augmented by new groups. Among the established ones, Patria
Nueva Sociedad (Patriotic New Society –
PNS) aspires to become a political party. Leader Alexis Lopez affirmed that
once they become a party their main aim would be to hold a National Socialist congress
in Chile as well as an international meeting at the University of Santiago
Diego Portales before the year 2005. Their ultimate objective, he said, was
to become the leading political party in Chile by 2010.
announced that the president of the party as of 2002 would be former party vice-president
Aarnel Epulef Cifuentes. The PNS celebrated its 3rd anniversary in 2002.
According to its Internet page, http://www.libreopinion.com/accionchilena/,
membership in 2002 was 82, with branches in several cities. They publish a
journal Revista Acción Chilena, both online and in print (a
quarterly), as well as a monthly mail bulletin, and run a radio station,
Emisoras Patria Nueva Sociedad.
The antisemitic and anti-Zionist Frente de Estudiantes Nacional
Socialista (National Socialist Student Front – FEN) appeared in early 2002 as a web page (Nuestra Voz)
with an online journal. Members of the group, headed reportedly by neo-Nazi
militant Eugenio Lutz, are mainly university students. Their publication accuses
the Jews of gaining political and economic control of the country and calls on
Chileans to rescue their homeland from the Jews.
last appearance on the web was on 2 October 2002. They claim they were
suspended from this website because the “Zionist Democracy in Chile” was
persecuting them, but vowed that the National Socialists in Chile would continue
their struggle against their enemies, principally the Jews.
The skinhead Martillos
del Sur (Hammer of the South – MDS)
consists of some 20 persons, who proclaim that they are dedicated to
persecuting and beating up immigrants, sexual minorities and alcoholics in the
streets. Similar groups were formed in the areas of Puente Alto and Maipu.
Members of MDS
were involved in a major violent incident in the city of Valparaiso in 2002. During
an anti-fascist concert held by punk groups in the El Dique bar in June, a
group of 10–20 masked militants burst
in with baseball bats, Molotov cocktails and other weapons, injuring five
persons, one of them seriously. Nevertheless, only two of them were put on
trial after their arrest and one of these was freed after six days. Elliot
Quijada is the leader and spokesman of MDS. He began his neo-Nazi career with PNS
leader Alexis Lopez, but after declaring himself a racist and a fascist
skinhead he left Alexis Lopez’ organization. Another group, La Jauria,
is also under investigation about these events. Lopez denied any connection to
the Valparaiso events and condemned the skinhead violence, which he considered
unrepresentative of historical nationalism in Chile. However, Nazi leader Miguel
Serrano (see below) claimed that the PNS was implicated in the incident.
As a result of the
great impact this incident had on the Chilean public, some 30 organizations,
mainly communist, set up a forum called Citizenship Coordination for Peace and
against Neo-Nazism (Coordinadora Ciudadana Por la Paz y Contra el Neo-Nazismo),
which is demanding a criminal investigation of the incident.
A group signing itself Movimiento anti-Judío
(Anti-Jewish Movement –
MAJ) sent e-mail messages at the end of September 2002 to various addresses, declaring
they were fighting “Jewish abuse in the world” and aiming to liberate the world
from Jewish control, especially economic control. However, they disclaimed identification
with either neo-Nazi groups or acts of genocide.
interview on 15 February to the women’s journal Caras, the veteran Nazi
leader and writer Miguel Serano, spiritual leader of Chilean Nazism, persisted
in his antisemitic position. He claimed that the symbol of the Chilean
government was the Magen David, implying that the government had sold itself to
Jewish powers, and that persons behind government officials, such as
sociologist Eugenio Tironi and the former secretary for Communications and
Culture, Patricia Politzer, had links to Jews. One of Argentina’s problems, he
continued, was that Zionism aspired to control Patagonia as part of a
conspiracy to control the south of the continent.
books were on sale at the Chilena del Libro book fair in Santiago in October.
They included works by Miguel Serrano and the Belgian Nazi Leon Degrelle, as
well as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf and The
As in previous
years a group of 15 skinheads gathered in the General Cemetery on 5 September
to commemorate the 1938 slaughter of Seguro Obrero (Acto de Conmemoración
de la Matanza del Seguro Obrero, when government forces killed a group of
National Socialists – see, for example, ASW 1998/9,
Palestinian/Islamic focus on the
Jewish community in light of developments in the Middle East has kept the
latter vigilant. The clandestine entry of Muslim immigrants to the country, the
links of some Palestinian/Islamic organizations to militantly left-wing
(anti-American and anti-Zionist) Chilean groups and the possibility of small
terrorist cells infiltrating the country, all pose a threat to the Jewish
community. According to Jewish circles, a terrorist attack on the Jewish
community cannot be ruled out and preventive steps should therefore be taken.
As in previous years, the
activities of the extreme right in Chile had little relevance for the Jewish
community. Nevertheless, the possibility of the PNS becoming a political party
is a factor that should be taken seriously.
community enhanced their organization and efficiency. They received much wider
media coverage for their actions and conferences than in previous years. The
escalation in anti-Jewish expressions in 2002 fueled a rise in antisemitic
acts, mainly insults, threats and graffiti, which also increased in severity. As
in the past, their frequency and intensity paralleled political and military
events in the conflict.
December 2002 a state of emergency was declared in the Jewish community due to
the large number of anti-Jewish acts that had occurred in the previous months;
and to the international warning of al-Qa‘ida
that they would perpetrate an attack on a US or Israeli target during the month
of Ramadan (December).
Violence, Vandalism, Threats and Insults
There were several cases of cemetery
desecration in 2002. On 24 September, for example, a number of tombs were
damaged and swastikas were drawn on the border separating the Sephardi Cemetery
from the General Cemetery of Santiago.
Between April and July
members of the Jewish community received phone threats and some written ones.
In July, several Jews received e-mails containing antisemitic insults sent by
Threats decreased in
August and September, but rose again in October and November. Two members of
the Jewish community responsible for the community web page (www.lavozjudia.cl
received threats from someone called ‘Ami Cohen’, possibly a member of the UGEP
posing as a Jew. In April, five Palestinian youths insulted a group of Jewish
young people in a bar in Santiago.
As of April, and
especially from June on and including the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays,
several individuals were detected taking pictures and notes in the vicinity of
Jewish institutions, including community schools. It is suspected that they
were gathering information on behalf of groups planning to perpetrate an attack
on a Jewish institution. This activity was not observed prior to 2001 (see also
The period from April/May on was marked by
a progressive rise in antisemitic/neo-Nazi graffiti scrawled on the walls of
universities and Jewish institutions in Santiago and Viña del Mar, and
an increase in personal insults against persons who were visibly Jewish. The
occurrence of graffiti declined toward the end of the year.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a dominant feature in the Chilean media.
Although there was little antisemitic propaganda in the first months of 2002
the mainstream La Hora de la Tarde published a cartoon on 13 March
supporting the creation of a Palestinian state and showing a Magen David
together with a swastika to represent Israel.