AJC slams Chilean senator for slandering country’s Jew

Lawmaker calls member of local Jewish community "activist and militant for the Israeli cause," holding back Chile's recognition of Palestinian state.

Chilean Flag 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Chilean Flag 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A US Jewish group on Monday rebuked a lawmaker in Chile for calling his country’s Jewish community an “agent” of Israel.
The American Jewish Committee issued the statement expressing outrage over remarks by Chilean Sen.
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Eugenio Tuma, who said the country’s Jewish community was responsible for holding back the country’s recognition.
“Sen. Tuma’s bigoted remarks are an affront to all Chileans, and should be wholeheartedly condemned by the highest levels of government and civic society,” AJC executive director David Harris said.
“Inserting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into Chilean politics in such an odious way, and calling into question the loyalty to Chile of some of its most devoted citizens, is contrary to the nation’s democratic and pluralistic tradition. Though he may be surprised, not everyone has to agree with Sen.
Tuma’s views to be an integral part of Chilean society.”
Tuma accused Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who is Jewish, of being “an activist and militant for the Israeli cause.”
He made similar remarks about Gabriel Zaliasnik, president of the Comité Representativo de las Entidades Judías en Chile (CREJ), the Jewish community’s central body and an AJC international partner.
Tuma’s comments came as some Latin American nations weigh whether to join with Brazil, Argentina and a few other countries that in recent weeks have recognized the “Palestinian state.”
Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East, some 300,000. Tuma, who is of Palestinian descent, is pressing the president to recognize a Palestinian state.
“Of course, there is an obvious irony to Sen. Tuma’s posture. As a Chilean of Palestinian origin, he deems it entirely appropriate to take up the Palestinian cause and press it in the corridors of Chilean power. Yet he questions the right of a Chilean Jew, like Mr. Zaliasnik, to affirm his belief in what’s best for Chile’s national interest,” said Harris.
Unlike the other Latin American countries that have recognized a Palestinian state, the current government in Santiago is identified with the Right. If it were to recognize “Palestine” then some believe it may influence other Latin American countries with rightleaning governments to follow suit.