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December 24, 2021 12:07 pm

Jews in Chile ‘Concerned’ About Future Relations With Israel Under Left-Wing, Anti-Zionist President, Community Head Says

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Victorious Chilean presidential election candidate Gabriel Boric addressing a rally after the vote. Photo: Reuters/Vanessa Rubila

The election of a millennial anti-Zionist as president of Chile has left the Latin American nation’s Jewish community anxious regarding the future of relations with Israel, the community’s head said on Friday.

Gerardo Gorodischer — president of the Jewish Community in Chile (CJCH) — said in an extensive interview that the country’s Jews were were keen to give President-elect Gabriel Boric “the opportunity to effectively show what his thinking is.”

Speaking to the Buenos Aires-based Jewish news agency AJN, Gorodischer emphasized that the “Jewish community is not scared, but it is concerned about what the future of Chile’s relationship with Israel may be.”

Boric, now the youngest leader in Latin America, has a history of inflammatory attacks on Israel, describing it as a “murderous and genocidal state.”

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He has also argued that Chile’s Jews bear a degree of responsibility for Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

In 2019, Boric’s responded to a gift from the Chilean Jewish community in honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, by suggesting that his Jewish fellow citizens were accountable for Israeli actions.

“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.

Gorodischer told AJN that whenever Chilean Jews were conflated with Israel, “a wave of antisemitism or anti-Jewish situations follows.”

The Jewish community head ascribed Boric’s anti-Zionist view to the fact that he leads a left-wing alliance and is “very close to the Communist Party and parties that are from the new left in Chile.”

Gorodischer added that Boric is “very close to the Palestinian cause, given the influence that members of the Palestinian community have had upon the Communist Party.”

More than 350,000 predominantly Christian people of Palestinian descent live in Chile, the largest Palestinian diaspora outside the Middle East. Chile’s Jewish community numbers 18,000 — a mere 0.1 percent of the total population.

Gorodischer pointed out that last September, Boric had met with a group of women from the Jewish community who had impressed upon him the difference between the State of Israel and local Jews.

“He listened to them and understood that there is a difference between the Chilean Jews, the Israelis and the government of the day,” Gorodischer said.

Asked about life for Jews in Chile over the past year, Gorodischer described the situation as “relatively normal.” There had been a marked growth in immigration to Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 50 people departing for the Jewish state in 2020 compared with 25 the previous year. In 2021, the number rose again to 120 emigrants, including 50 who emigrated in June for what Gorodischer described as “religious ideology.”

Asked what about his objective for the community, Gorodischer replied, “We want the Jewish community in Chile — a community that is diverse in itself, because there are people from the right and the left — to live in peace.”

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