A tweet by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backing US President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall along its border with Mexico has triggered a wave of online antisemitism, according to Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, chief rabbi of the Magen David Jewish community of Mexico.
In an interview with Army Radio on Monday morning, Tawil noted that while antisemitism is usually rare in Mexico, the tweet instantly “awakened a lot of antisemitism here on the social media networks.”
The moment the prime minister tweeted, he said, comments against Jews and Israel began to appear, with statements such as “out Jews” targeting the community. Tweets included calls to “burn the Jews,” while others called Jews “disgusting” or used more vulgar language to describe them.
Netanyahu’s incendiary tweet on Saturday night read: “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.” At the end of the tweet were pictures of an Israeli flag and an American flag.
The tweet was immediately denounced by the Mexican government and the Mexican-Jewish community.
The Central Committee of the Jewish Community of Mexico, the umbrella organization of Jewish communities in Mexico, promptly released a statement distancing Mexican Jews from Netanyahu’s statement. “We do not agree with his point of view and we strongly reject his position,” the statement read. Mexico’s Jewish community comprises some 50,000 people.
“As Mexicans and Jews, we support the actions taken by our government, led by President Enrique Peña Nieto, in the negotiations with the US. We stand in solidarity with our fellow citizens who live, work and contribute to the neighboring country, whose human rights should be respected at all times and who should receive dignified treatment,” the group added.
Patricia Bialek, a member of the Mexican coast city Puerto Vallarta’s small Jewish community, described Netanyahu’s statement as “problematic,” and said it was unfortunate that a statesman at his level publicly backed Trump’s position on the matter. She told The Jerusalem Post that while the US has an undeniable right to defend its borders and an unquestionable right to build a wall, “no leader of any other country should support a measure that raises a very important humanitarian question for both countries.”
She added that while Mexicans are good people and don’t generally harbor negative feelings toward Jews, they are very sensitive about matters of nationalism. “Therefore, Netanyahu’s words are very problematic for the Jewish community in Mexico, because they can generate an aggression against the Jewish community in Mexico,” she said. “Mexicans always consider ‘others’ as ‘others.’”
But Isaac Ajzen, director of the Jewish Mexican “Diario Judio” website, said that while antisemitism may not be common in Mexico, it does exist, and every time Israel does something with which antisemites disagree, they use it as ammunition.
“They use it like any other opportunity to say things about Jews. There are people who use antisemitism like anti-Israel opinion, or people who use anti-Israel opinion like antisemitism,” he told the Post, adding that some people perceive Mexican Jews as prioritizing Israel over Mexico.
Although his own website was the target of multiple antisemitic tweets, Ajzen pointed out that the Mexican Jewish community had also received a lot of positive response, particularly to its statement against Netanyahu’s tweet, which was published in newspapers across the country.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray was among the public officials who thanked the Jewish community for its statement, praising its contributions to the country and stressing that it is an integral part of the Mexican population. “We are with the Mexicans because we are Mexicans,” Ajzen said.
In addition to the community’s official statement, many Mexican Jewish public figures took to Twitter to express their outrage with Netanyahu’s tweet.
“I can’t begin to conceive how @netanyahu, a PM of a historically persecuted nation, can celebrate the persecution of another,” tweeted Mexico City Economic Development Secretary Salomón Chertorivski, who is of Jewish origin.
Mexican academic and commentator Leo Zuckerman appealed to President Reuven Rivlin: “As the state head of Israel, I ask you, as a Mexican, to correct the position of PM @netanyahu about a wall in our border.”
“As a Mexican Jew, grandchild of immigrants: I’m ashamed of this tweet,” wrote author León Krauze, while his father, Enrique Krauze, a well-known historian, wrote, “I repudiate, deplore, reject this infamous statement.”