Guatemala, Israel and Latin America: More than friends - family

Guatemala made history this week, becoming the second country to announce the decision to return its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Guatemalan activists wave Israeli flags near the "Plaza of Israel" in the country's capital, 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Guatemalan activists wave Israeli flags near the "Plaza of Israel" in the country's capital, 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The friendship ties between Israel and Guatemala go back years. When in 1947 the UN voted for the resolution that led to the establishment of the modern State of Israel, Jorge Garcia Granados, Guatemalan ambassador to the UN that year, was a key figure in the adoption of that resolution.
As part of the Special Committee for Palestine, Granados worked for other countries to give their vote in favor of Israel, and Guatemala became the second country to recognize the new state after its creation.
Guatemala made history once again this week, becoming the second country to announce the decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
In doing so, the Guatemalan people sent a clear message that should not be ignored: Israel has sister nations in Latin America. Apparently, this was just the beginning; it is believed that two other Latin countries have begun the process of moving their embassies to Jerusalem.
Since the beginning of the State of Israel, the Latin countries have been fundamental for the international recognition of Israel. Thirteen of the 33 countries that voted in favor of the partition plan in the UN were Latin countries. Many of them kept their embassies in Jerusalem until the 1980s and today they continue to support the Jewish state.
Beyond financial and diplomatic interests, relations between the Jewish people, Israel and Latin America represent a brotherhood among peoples.
For a mostly Christian people, such as the Latinos, respecting and loving the Holy Land is natural and it is not strange to find expressions of support for Israel in these countries. Historically, our ties go back to that time when Simon Bolivar, the freedom fighter who fought for the independence of five Latin countries in the 1820s, sought refuge in Curacao. It was a Jewish family who took Bolivar in and gave him the support he was looking for. In recent history, when the Jewish people went through the darkest time in its modern history – the Holocaust – some Latin American countries opened their doors to welcome those escaping the genocide.
While this brotherhood with Israel is the situation in some Latin American countries, in others, we sadly find the opposite scenario.
Motivated by racism and commercial interests, some Latin governments decided to start a hate campaign against Israel. Using the mask of anti-Zionism, they have promoted antisemitic messages, which has led to the closure of embassies, attacks on religious centers and a massive emigration of Latino Jews, leaving because they found their identity was under attack.
Guatemala’s decision represents a historic moment, especially for those of us working to educate and to bring more understanding of and friendship with Israel globally. We cannot let go of this opportunity. Guatemala has already done its part, reminding us the friendship that exist between our nations. Now we must take the initiative and show the truth about Israel to other countries and especially in places where governments have tried to destroy centennial-long ties with the Jewish nation.
We must remind all loudly that: Israel and Latin America are more than just friends – we are family!
The author is director of StandWithUs Latin America.