A group of senior Latino and Latin American journalists, editors and producers completed an eight-day mission to Israel this week.
Hailing from the United States, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela, they were brought over as part of the Anti- Defamation League’s drive to reach out to Latin Americans and US Hispanic communities, to counter what it sees as Latinos’ less favorable attitudes toward Israel and the higher level of anti-Semitism found among them compared to the broader US population.
“The Hispanic community is the largest growing ethnic community in the US,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “Inevitably this means that their impact on government, on domestic issues and on foreign policy is also growing, so as they become more and more of an economic, cultural and political force in the US, now is the time for the Jewish and Hispanic communities to get to know each other.”
The 17 participants in the ADL mission left Israel on Monday, having met with Israeli and Palestinian politicians, activists and religious officials. Stops on the tour included the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Sderot, Nazareth, Safed, Lake Kinneret and the Golan.
Among the participants was Henrik Rehbinder, national news editor of La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in America.
“Our bread and butter issues are immigration, the economic status of
Latinos, and other more domestic issues,” said Rehbinder. “But because
Latinos are such a big proportion of the US population now, they have an
interest in all foreign policy issues, because they affect our
community as much as everyone else.”
He noted that “many US soldiers are Latino, and many of them are
fighting in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, so this is
another reason why we have an interest in what goes on here. We’re
stakeholders in important decisions like foreign aid and going to war,
so we want to make sure our voice is also heard in Washington and
Congress when it comes to decisions like the invasion of Iraq.”
Rehbinder admitted that certain prejudices against Jews did exist in the
Hispanic community, such as the notion that Jews are especially
wealthy, but said that cooperation and work with the Jewish community
was helping to overcome these kind of problems.
Foxman echoed these concerns, citing the ADL survey on anti-Semitism
published this month. The survey showed that whereas the overall level
of anti-Semitism in the US is approximately 15 percent, the figure is
20% among US-born Hispanics, and twice that much among immigrants born
in Latin America and now residing in the States.
“There is a serious level of anti-Semitism which infects the Hispanic
community, especially those who have come from outside the US,” Foxman
said. “The church has tremendous impact there, and deficiencies in
education there are also a factor. But this is why the American Jewish
community is investing in relationships with Latinos – and importantly,
Latino leaders don’t deny that there’s an issue, so this is what we’re
aiming to address.”