Mexico recorded an
increase in antisemitic manifestations in 2008, mainly swastikas displayed near
Jewish institutions and verbal abuse, even before Israel’s Gaza Operation began.
The operation itself triggered a wave of virulently anti-Israel articles, many
of which crossed the line to antisemitism, mostly in the center or left-wing
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
approximately 40,000 Jews in Mexico out of a total population of 104 million.
Most live in the capital Mexico City and its environs, while the rest inhabit
the cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana and Cancun.
Jewish immigrants who arrived in the country at the end of
the 19th /beginning of the 20th century formed communities according to their
place of origin, a pattern which has persisted until today. The main
communities are Alianza Monte Sinai (formed by descendants of immigrants from
Damascus, Syria); the Ashkenazi community (formed by descendants of Eastern and
Central European immigrants); the Maguen David Community (formed by descendants
of immigrants from Aleppo, Syria); and the Sephardic Community (formed by
descendants of immigrants from Greece Turkey and the Balkans). .
The Jewish Central Committee of Mexico (JCCM) represents
the Jewish community in relations with the government and with Jewish
communities around the world. Tribuna Israelita (www.tribuna.org.mx ), its public opinion and analysis agency, promotes an
ongoing dialogue with opinion leaders and implements joint programs with
national organizations aimed at sensitizing citizens to the phenomena of
antisemitism and racism.
High enrolment in Jewish day schools (more than 90 percent) and a very low rate
of intermarriage (7 percent) characterize the community, which provides a wide
range of welfare, religious, and educational services. A variety of periodicals
published monthly reflect political, cultural, and ideological views in the
antisemitic and anti-zionist activity
Graffiti, Threats and Insults
Mexico recorded an increase in antisemitic manifestations, from 36 in 2007 to 47 in 2008. For example, swastikas were detected on walls near Jewish institutions or painted
on passing cars. On several occasions, slogans such as “Heil Hitler,” “Damn
Jews” and “I want soap made out of Jews,” were shouted by people passing
synagogues and community centers.
Propaganda and Discrimination
In March, peddler stalls selling
antisemitic books such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein
Kampf were reported in downtown Mexico City. A few weeks later, youngsters
dressed as Nazi soldiers handed out leaflets with Nazi propaganda outside the
Guadalajara International Book Fair, financed by the Autonomous University of
Guadalajara and held in late November−early December, the Spanish publishing
house Ediciones Ojeda sold antisemitic literature, such as Hitler’s Mein
Kampf. The company had also planned to hold a conference featuring speakers
such as Salvador Borrego (a leading Holocaust denier in Mexico) and Pedro Varela (a Spaniard who served a prison term in Austria for holding similar views –
1997−2007). Following a meeting between the director of Tribuna
Israelita and the fair’s director, at which the concerns of the Jewish
community were raised and it was stressed that such actions constituted a
violation of the federal anti-discrimination law, the conference was cancelled
and all copies of Mein Kampf were removed. Nevertheless, on December 6,
Varela and Salvador, hosted their own meeting, entitled, “First Cycle of
Historical Realism,” at Guadalajara’s Plaza Hotel.
In early December,
the job website Folderex (www.folderx.com/bolsa.html)
posted an announcement seeking a graphic designer for the Mabe Appliance
Company, stipulating that the applicant should be “neither a Jehovah Witness
nor a Jew.” After Tribuna Israelita contacted the Mabe Human Resource office,
it was explained that the announcement had been placed by an employee, who had
since been fired because he had not complied with company recruiting guidelines,
which were non-discriminatory.
Online forums were
exploited by some users to express antisemitic and anti-Zionist arguments. Most articles published in the mainstream local
press were neutral. As in previous years, negative remarks against Israel and
Jews, mainly in the centrist and left-wing press, were based on the following
- Comparisons between Israel and Israeli policy
with Nazis and the Holocaust. For example, the columnist Ariel
González Jiménez wrote an article in the centrist Milenio
Diario (January 26), entitled “The Gaza Ghetto,” stating that “Israel’s
is the worst answer to the Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel,
because [its response] generates more extremism and, above all, because it
rests on the savage ‘eye for an eye’ [principle].” Tomas Mojarro, in the
centrist Metro (November 13) wrote: “In 1982, one thousand defenseless Palestinians
were massacred in Israeli concentration camps, with the opposition of all
the countries of the United Nations…,” while the centrist Milenio
Diario (March 3), stated: “The
strategy has always been… exterminate the Palestinians with the same ‘final’
formula that Hitler applied to a million Jews.”
- Relations between Israel and the United States and the UN. This theme was discussed by writers in several newspapers, mainly
that Israel carries out its criminal acts with the unconditional support of
the US and violates all UN resolutions,
an organization described as biased when it comes to judging Israel within the context of the Middle East conflict. Hector Delgado, from the left-wing Unomasuno
(June 20) stated: “The sufferings that the State of Israel – military ally
and accomplice of United States − inflicts upon the Arab people in Palestine, is part of the ‘war against terror’ that Tel Aviv is supposedly fighting
shoulder to shoulder with the US.”
- Israeli policies are terrorist,
expansionist and colonialist. Some editorials claimed that the goal of Israel’s security fence is not protection of citizens, but control and asphyxiation of the
Palestinians and that the defensive operations carried by the Israeli
government are massacres of the most vulnerable members of the Palestinian
population. Pedro Miguel stated in the daily left-wing La Jornada (December 18) that: “Israel maintains its military siege against the
population of Gaza, something that can be only explained as a plan to
starve and kill the civilians that live there.”
- The world economic crisis.
Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, an editor with La Jornada blamed Israeli banks for the financial crisis in the US (October 12): “The controversial ‘Voices of
the White House’ (thetruthseeker.com.uk) says that 400,000 million dollars
were sent” by American businessmen to Israeli banks through Lehman
Brothers prior to their bankruptcy.” He
also accused American banks controlled by the “Israeli mafia” for the terror
attacks in Mumbai, India (November 2008): “The Israeli-Anglo-Saxon bank [sic]
perpetrated the butchery in Mumbai, in order to artificially re-value the
dollar (December 7).
War in Gaza
As in previous Mid-East crises, Israel’s operation in Gaza triggered a wave of antisemitic and anti-Zionist expressions, many of which crossed
the line to antisemitism. Most appeared in the center or left-wing press, where
Israel was described as a violent, militaristic nation insensitive to the
plight of others and interested only in furthering its own expansionist aims. Although
most informative articles were relatively impartial, many headlines and
photographs were sensationalistic, such as “Israel Celebrates Shabbat, Its Holy
Day, with the Worst Massacre of Palestinians in 40 years” (centrist Crónica,
December 28), and “The Palestinian Holocaust” and “Israel and Nazi Methods” (La Jornada, January 12, 18, respectively).
Editorials, cartoons, and readers’ letters
expressed venomous opposition to Israeli policies. Editorials by Pedro Miguel,
Guillermo Almeyra, Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, Jose Steinsleger, and Héctor
Delgado argued in defense of the legitimacy of the Palestinian and Hamas’
cause, criticized the “privileged” US−Israeli relationship, and compared
the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust. Juan Gelman in Milenio,
asserted: “The objective of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead is to throw the
Palestinians from their land. The 4 million evacuated since 1948, are not
enough for Tel Aviv” (January 10), while Jesus Sanchez declared that “the first
great genocide of the new century” was going on in the Gaza Strip and no one
was doing anything about it... it’s an extermination” (center-left La Prensa, January 1).
Many journalists with little knowledge of Middle East affairs wrote on the operation, displaying ignorance and prejudice. Moreover,
the Electricians Union, the Teachers Union and the Workers of the National
Autonomous University of Mexico Union published ads in the press expressing
solidarity with Palestinian suffering and accusing Israel of genocide.
Left-wing Jewish intellectuals, mainly
Argentineans living in Mexico, expressed opposition to the operation in
articles published in La Jornada. They also created an organization,
“Adopt a dead Palestinian child” to “preserve the memory of Palestinian
children killed or injured by the Israeli army.” A blog denouncing Israel’s actions provided information on their project.
During this period NGOs, such as International
Amnesty, the Mexican Chapter of Not in Our Name, and Solidarity with the
Palestinian People Movement, organized mass demonstrations
outside the Israeli and American embassies in Mexico City, as well as in Oaxaca, Puebla, Mérida, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. They carried dolls stained with
red paint representing Palestinian children, and placards with antisemitic and
anti-Zionist slogans and imagary, such as an Israeli flag with the Star of
David evolving into a swastika. Jewish institutions received emails blaming
Jews in general for the violence in the Middle East, accusing Israel of genocide, and transforming Israel the victim into Israel the murderer.
The Mexican government demonstrated
impartiality. While its foreign ministry condemned Israel’s “excessive” use of
force, it also criticized the continued mortar attacks on Israeli territory. A
marked reduction in anti-Israel and anti-Zionist articles in the media and a
cessation of demonstrations and conferences on the war were noted a few days
after Operation Cast Lead ended. (For more details, see General Analysis).
Cartoons during Israel’s war in Gaza:
“On Target,“ La Jornada, December 31
Bad and Worse
Israel as a neighbor?” centrist El Universal, December
Responses to Racism and Antisemitism
As in previous years, a Jornadas
Judaicas (Jewish Days) event was organized in the Iberoamerican University by Tribuna Israelita, together with the Jewish community and Jewish students. The
program includes lectures about Judaism, antisemitism and the Middle East, as
well as traditional, cultural and gastronomic exhibits.
Two special media supplements commissioned by Tribuna Israelita were published in the conservative newspaper Reforma. The first was about Israel’s 60th anniversary, and the second – a joint project with the National Human Rights
Commission − dealt with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Universal
Human Rights Declaration. To commemorate this event, Tribuna Israelita honored
the reputed Mexican jurist Hector Fix Zamudio with the Rene Cassin award.
Israelita edited and emailed to approximately 2,700 persons, mainly members of
the Jewish community, as well as journalists and non-Jews who requested it, a
weekly newsletter News of Israel, the Jewish World and the Middle East,
with news and information on current Jewish issues.