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Chile's Jewish Leaders Are Using Antisemitism to Bash a pro-Palestinian Leftist. Again

Claudio Mandler
Claudio Mandler
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Daniel Jadue, current Mayor of the Santiago suburb of Ricoleto and presidential candidate in Chile's November elections
Daniel Jadue, current Mayor of the Santiago suburb of Ricoleto and presidential candidate in Chile's November elections Credit: imago images/Aton Chile
Claudio Mandler
Claudio Mandler

It’s hardly surprising that institutions that equate all criticism of Israeli policies with antisemitism are labeling Daniel Jadue, the leftist candidate for the presidency of Chile who’s part of the country’s Palestinian community, as antisemitic. It’s a common accusation against politicians who criticize Israel in many places around the world.

Therefore the claim that Jadue expressed antisemitic views on account of his Palestinian background and pro-Palestinian views, as suggested in a recent Haaretz article (A Grandson of Palestinian Immigrants Could Be Chile’s Next President, and These Jews Are Worried) was predictable, as was the fact the Simon Wiesenthal Center named him in their top 10 list of global antisemites for 2020, an exercise in delegitimization.

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But despite being expected, this claim, the official line of the leadership of the Jewish community in Chile, cannot be allowed to stand without being challenged. That has to start with asking the leaders of Chile’s Jewish community to justify the antisemitism slur, and to ask whether this is actually their real objection to Jadue’s candidacy.

Members of the Palestinian community in Chile and supporters protest against Israel and in support of Palestinians, in front of the Israeli embassy in Santiago, Chile last monthCredit: Esteban Felix,AP

Outwardly, on Israel-Palestine, the leadership of the Jewish community in Chile presents itself as "pro-peace." It has repeatedly asked the large local Palestinian community not to "import" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Chile. But those same Jewish community leaders didn’t feel any qualms about "importing" the conflict when it was amongst the first to publicly congratulate President Trump when he defied Palestinian rights and moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Chile’s Jewish community considers itself Zionist, to the point of declaring that there are no Jews who are not Zionists. The community’s interpretation of Zionism means an endless willingness to justify or "clarify" any news about Israel: Any criticism from Jews towards Israeli policies in general, and those in the occupied territories in particular, is branded as "Jewish self-hatred."  

This isn’t the first time that the institutional Jewish community in Chile has expressed animosity towards a prominent leader on the left. Salvador Allende, the socialist president of Chile between 1970 and 1973, was also branded an antisemite. Just as with Jadue, Chile’s Jewish community leadership talked up antisemitism rather than address their more fundamental opposition to left-wing economic policies.

Many Jewish families "escaped" from Chile after he became president, frightened by the "horrors of communism". But the only horror came on September 11, 1973, when Allende was overthrown by a bloody civil-military coup, which established the 17-year Pinochet dictatorship, killing, torturing, exiling thousands of people. 

Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1972Credit: Brazilian National Archives/Wikipedia

I am part of a proud group of Jews on the left in Chile who identify with the social and political struggles that the candidacy of Daniel Jadue represents. We are convinced that the attacks on him and the bad faith accusations against him are fueled by opposition to his political and economic policies, under the guise of concern for Chilean Jews.

We are very happy that at last Chile is leaving behind the dark ages of Pinochet’s dictatorship. We are delighted that, more than 30 years since the end of the authoritarian regime, Chile will be writing a new Constitution to enshrine in law the human and civil rights of Chile’s people, in accordance with the results of a referendum several months ago.

We are heartened by the presidential program that Jadue presented last week, as the first act of his candidacy: a diverse, inclusive Chile, without discrimination of any kind. 

Daniel Jadue aims for a more just society, a better Chile for all Chileans. As Jews, as Chileans, we are very proud to back him as our candidate.

Claudio Mandler was born in Chile, grew up in Jerusalem, served in the IDF’s Nahal infantry brigade, and returned to Chile as an emissary for the Hashomer Hatzair movement in 2005. He is a tourist guide and audiovisual editor who co-directed ‘Los caminos de la ausencia,’ a documentary film about the military dictatorship and human rights in Chile

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