Chilean Jews concerned over 'imported' Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Tensions are present on soccer fields, in media and universities.

What appears to be a swastika spray-painted on a wall of the University of Chile in downtown Santiago [File] (photo credit: REUTERS)
What appears to be a swastika spray-painted on a wall of the University of Chile in downtown Santiago [File]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A series of recent events in Chile have caused heightened tensions between the Jewish and Palestinian communities there, with the leader of the Jewish community warning that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being imported into the country.
The Jewish community of Chile filed a legal complaint on Friday over alleged virulent antisemitism at a soccer match on June 8, between the Estadio Israelita Maccabi team and Club Palestino as part of the amateur “Superliga.”
The directive board of the Jewish Community of Chile, representatives of Estadio Israelita Maccabi and parliamentarians met with Regional Attorney Manuel Guerra to complain about racist, xenophobic and antisemitic incidents that allegedly took place at the football match.
According to the Jewish community, Guerra expressed concern over the situation and said: “We all seek to live in peace and we do not want acts which aim to intimidate a community. Nothing justifies radicalized acts of violence.
We don’t want this to transform into an escalation that divides two communities that have contributed toward Chile’s progress, therefore the Attorney General’s Office will conduct investigations aimed at clarifying the facts.”
Chilean media reported that the game was suspended and several Club Palestino players were expelled for aggressive and unsportsmanlike conduct, as well as for racist and antisemitic insults against players of Jewish origin.
According to the complaint, a group of some 200 people came to the game seeking to assault the Maccabi players, with racist and xenophobic insults as well as violent threats. It also charges that fans of the Palestinian team called on supporters via social media to attend the game in order to harass the opposing team.
The referees reported that they were also attacked and that a Palestinian fan came onto the pitch brandishing a Palestinian flag which he shoved in an injured Jewish player’s face yelling “this is a flag, not like yours, I clean my ass with yours, we’re gonna kill you, f***ing Jew.” Other antisemitic slurs including Holocaust references were also recorded.
Fans of the Palestinian team reportedly chased the Jewish players to their locker rooms after the game was cut short, kicking and punching them along the way.
Some of the Jewish players reported finding their cars scratched and vandalized with Nazi phrases.
Club Palestino accused the Jewish community of taking advantage of the situation for political means and of exaggerating the incident.
Several days after the match, graffiti was found on the walls of Club Palestino with the words “Arab terrorists,” “Palestine doesn’t exist” and “Am Yisrael Chai” next to a Star of David.
Club Palestino denounced the graffiti, slamming it as a “cowardly aggression.”
In a statement the club called for an investigation into the incident, which it said “seeks only to stigmatize the Palestinian people and their legitimate search for freedom.”
Following the violent soccer match, president of the Jewish Community of Chile Shai Agosin said members of his community “are extremely worried and anxious about situations that have never occurred in our country before and that originate from groups that want to aggressively and violently import a conflict that is thousands of kilometers away.”
According to Radio ADN, the Jewish community also condemned the graffiti, and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian community.
In recent days the imported conflict has also been fought on the pages of major Chilean newspaper El Mercurio. After the Palestinian Community of Chile published a large advert in the paper denouncing “50 years of occupation and apartheid in Palestine,” the Jewish community retaliated Sunday with another advert – in collaboration with the World Jewish Congress – which said “for peace it takes two,” followed by a timeline of proposals the Palestinians rejected.
Another point of contention between the two communities has been Israel’s new policy of barring Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS ) activists from entering the country.
In April Israel barred entry to the executive director of the Palestinian Federation of Chile Anwar Makhlouf, and this month refused entry to a 24-year-old member of the Federation named Omar Salamé, stirring uproar among the Palestinian community. Makhlouf had already traveled to Israel, the West Bank and other countries in the region, but returning to Israel on an El Al flight, authorities accused him of lying about the nature of his trip.
The Chilean Foreign Ministry condemned Israel for having deported Salamé and the Palestinian Federation upped its media campaign for Chile to sanction Israel in response.
The Chilean Community in Israel then sent a letter to Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz, backing Israel’s decision and accusing Salamé of “promoting a boycott of a racist character and inciting hatred against Israel and the Jewish people.”
Muñoz himself denied any involvement in BDS activities and pointed out that he had flown on an Israeli airline.
Agosin told The Jerusalem Post Sunday that while the community does not comment on decisions taken by other countries, “all states have the right to take such decisions.”
Citing a report released last November by news outlet EMOL, Agosin points out that last year over 790 Chileans were deported or denied entry to various countries around the world, but that the Foreign Ministry only protested when the country in question was Israel.
“It’s like Israel is a different country and you have to take different decision when you are talking about Israel,” he remarks.
He highlights that BDS proponents comprise a very small but active group in Chile that “wants to import the problems of the Middle East to our country.”
“We are very worried about the situation between the [Palestinian and Jewish] communities,” he said, expressing concern over the escalating tensions.
Earlier this month, the University of Alberto Hurtado canceled a conference on Israeli archaeology, due to pressure by the BDS movement.
“The problem is that we’re importing the conflict and not exporting peace,” Agosin added, describing Chile as a “peaceful, beautiful country.”