Chilean Jewish Community Apprehensive as Hardline Anti-Zionist Gabriel Boric Wins Presidential Contest
Chile’s Jewish leadership on Monday put on a brave face as it responded to the election of a committed anti-Zionist as the Latin American nation’s new president.
In a statement acknowledging the victory in Sunday’s vote of left-wing candidate Gabriel Boric — who at the age of 35 becomes the youngest leader in Latin America — the Jewish Community of Chile (CJCH) offered congratulations and wished him “every success” in government.
“We will work together for a Chile that is democratic, diverse and respectful of minorities,” the CJCH pledged, following confirmation that Boric, the head of a left-wing ticket backed by the Chilean Communist Party, had won 56 percent of the ballots in a contest that saw a record turnout by Chilean voters.
But concern about Boric remains widespread among Chile’s 18,000 Jews, especially as he has directly implicated the community in his harsh rhetorical attacks upon the State of Israel.
As crowds of Boric supporters celebrated in the center of Santiago, Chile’s capital, on Sunday night, both pro-Palestinian and Jewish groups shared snippets of the president-elect’s bombastic statements regarding the Middle East on social media.
One pro-Palestinian group proudly tweeted a clip of a TV interview in which Boric was asked whether he stood by a previous description of Israel as a “genocidal and murderous state.”
“I maintain that,” Boric replied.
Several Jewish groups posted screenshots of Boric’s response to a gift from the Chilean Jewish community in October 2019 in honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in which he suggested that his Jewish fellow citizens were accountable for Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.
“The Jewish community of Chile sent me a jar of honey for the Jewish New Year, reaffirming its commitment to ‘a more inclusive, supportive and respectful society,'” Boric tweeted at the time.
“I appreciate the gesture, but they could start by asking Israel to return illegally occupied Palestinian territory,” he continued.
Boric has also drafted legislation in Chile’s parliament imposing a boycott of goods and services produced by Jewish communities located in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. During his election campaign, Boric enthusiastically reaffirmed this position at a meeting with leaders of the 350,000-strong Palestinian community in Chile — the largest Palestinian diaspora outside of the Middle East and one with heavy political clout.
Among those who backed Boric’s candidacy was his former rival Daniel Jadue — a one-time communist mayor of Santiago of Palestinian origin who was widely viewed as the left’s presidential candidate before he was upstaged by Boric in the presidential primaries last July. Boric went on to beat the right-wing candidate José Antonio Kast — himself the subject of controversy arising from revelations about his father’s Nazi German past — in Sunday’s vote.