Police in Chile guard Jews after anti-Semitic attacks

Many leftists in Latin America have become more vocal in their criticism of Israel.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
August 18, 2010 04:14
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

Anti-Semitic graffiti. (photo credit: Illustrative photo)

 
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The president of Chile’s Jewish community has been given police protection following a spike in anti-Semitic attacks across the country.

Gabriel Zaliasnik told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that his house was being guarded by a police detail after he and his son had received threats of violence.

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“I am 43 years old, and I don’t recall something like this,” he said. “We’ve had eight different anti-Semitic events in different parts of the country.”

In recent weeks, schools, synagogues and cemeteries in the cities of Santiago, Concepcion and Temuco have been vandalized and desecrated, according to the American Jewish Committee, which has been monitoring the situation.

In Santiago, Chile’s capital, unknown vandals scrawled “Juden Raus” (German for “Jews out”) on the walls of the Chaim Weizmann school. In a separate incident, a video was posted on the Web showing a group of people urinating in a Jewish cemetery in the city.

While law enforcement has not yet determined who is behind the attacks, there are strong indications that the perpetrators are neo-Nazis.

Last week, the AJC and the Anti-Defamation League both issued statements urging the Chilean president to crack down on anti-Semitism.



“The systematic campaign of vandalism of Jewish institutions throughout Chile, as well as personal threats against the community’s leaders, is of paramount concern to us,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“We trust President [Sebastian] Pinera’s government will take the necessary actions to strengthen security for the Jewish community, and apprehend those responsible for the anti- Semitic attacks.”

Zaliasnik said attacks on Chile’s 20,000 Jews were relatively rare in comparison with other Latin American countries, but that there had recently been an outburst of anger against Israel following its interception of the Gazabound flotilla, an incident that left nine activists dead two months ago.

Public opinion in Chile is often influenced by the country’s politically powerful 200,000 Palestinian immigrants and their descendents.

“The Palestinian community is to Chile what the Jewish community is to the US,” Zaliasnik explained.

In addition, many leftists in Latin America have become more vocal in their criticism of Israel after Iran allied itself with the governments of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.


Zaliasnik said the rise in attacks showed the importance of the passage of a bill currently being debated in the Chilean parliament that would allow stiffer sentences against hate crimes, including anti-Semitic attacks.

“I spoke to members of parliament, and they said they understood the bill’s importance,” Zaliasnik said. “Sometimes bills take a lot of time, sometimes it’s going fast. Now we are asking them to go fast and give tools in legislation to be able to prosecute this kind of behavior.”

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