Palestinian Power Politics in ChileBy Mike Konrad
Chile overall has had a relatively democratic history for Latin America. With the exception of the Allende/Pinochet era, Chile's history has been a slow progression of liberty over time, as more and more rights were extended down from the ruling classes to the people.
Historically, Chile has been very friendly to Jews. In 1940, it allowed in Jewish refugees from Europe when no one else would -- not even America. The Chilean-born son of one of those Jewish refugees is Don Francisco, who hosts El Sabado Gigante, the longest-running show in TV history with the largest audience in the world. The show started in Chile and moved to Florida only in the 1980s.
Unlike Argentina or Uruguay, which were flooded with European immigrants, Chile's non-Iberian immigrants arrived in far lower percentages. Chile's is almost monoculturally Spanish and Basque. Unlike Argentina's German- and Italian-influenced tango, Chile's national music is the Spanish Cueca. This strong Spanish identity may partly explain its social conservatism.
What Chile does have are Arabs, who are 5% of the population, making them the largest non-Iberian ethnicity in Chile. By contrast, Italian-, French-, and German-Chileans are 1%, 3%, and 3%, respectively, in Chile. Contrast that with Argentina, where Italians alone are 50% of the population.
Even a 5% Arab population would be inconsequential if they were majority Lebanese Maronite-Catholics, who tend to see themselves as part of Western culture and show an eagerness to assimilate. In most Latin American countries, this is the happy case with Arab ethnics, and the Maronites do a yeoman's job of moderating the other Arabs among them. But in Chile, 60% of the Arabs are Palestinian-Christians, and they -- not the Maronites -- set the tone for the Arab constituency. And that tone is very hostile to Israel.
Further aggravating the problem is the relative wealth of Palestinians in Chile. They are an educated, wealthy elite who punch well above their weight. The Palestinians alone, excluding other Arabs, are 3% of the population but 10% of the Chilean Senate. They are captains of industry and banking. They had enough clout, even way back in 1947, to prevent a pro-Zionist government in Chile from voting for the U.N. Partition to create a Jewish state, forcing Chile to abstain.
What is more disturbing is that these Palestinians are second-, third-, and fourth-generation Chilean. More than half are of mixed marriages with other Chileans. Ninety-nine percent or more are Christian. Over half can trace their ancestors' arrival in Chile to before 1930. Their ancestors were Christians Arabs fleeing Muslim tyranny. Yet their present websites and charities are viciously anti-Israel and will often brandish Islamic symbols.
The Palestinian-Chileans have a professional soccer club, Palestino, founded in 1920. This alone would not be disturbing, but some of their fans have boasted of supporting Hamas. The fans chant "Intifada." Nor is this confined to soccer hooligans. Chile's presidents roll out the red carpet for Palestinian leaders. Abbas is feted the way an Israeli prime minister would be in Washington.
The Palestinian-Chilean community runs a charity, the Palestinine Bethlehem 2000 Foundation, which sends medical teams and educational care to Palestine, all under a Christian banner. Their website front page sports a Christian cross. They even mirror the site in English.
Sending out medical teams would seem admirable, but there is evidence that the charity also funnels some of the money through Hamas.
Of course, this is not what is presented in their commericals or the Palestinine Bethlehem 2000 Foundation's polished monthly magazine, Al-Damir. The magazine claims to be a celebration of Arabs in Chile and of Palestinians overall. Quite often the magazine has a priest or bishop on the front cover.
Chilean senators have visited the contested city of Hebron in the company of the Palestinian ambassador to Chile, Mai Al-Kaila, who led them on a very loud shouting match with Hebron's Jewish community. The Palestinians have noticed Chile as their anchor (link in Arabic) in South America.
Most Chileans are descended from people who fought for eight centuries to free Spain from Muslims. After 9-11, there was even a degree of anti-Arab prejudice. There are ony 4,000 Muslims in Chile -- about 0.025% of the population -- and only a few hundred are practicing.
Plus the country has a history of being friendly to Jews.
But the Palestinian-Christians have a lock on politics. Even the conservative president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, begrudingly awarded Chilean recognition to the Palestinian Authority, though he was able to force some stringent conditions on that recognition. The Palestinians are streamrolling Chile by virtue of their economic power -- and, by virtue of Chile's economic power, much of Latin America. This political leveraging is swaying a whole continent.
Chile is what happens when there is no AIPAC or powerful Jewish lobby, leaving Arab money to rule uncontested.
So who is fighting this? No one!
Well, almost no one.
Evangelical Christianity is exploding in Chile -- and in all of Latin America, especially Brazil. They are the only group actively fighting the Palestinians -- and Palestinian-Chilean spokemen are furious about it. These Evangelicals are decidedly pro-Israel.
Today, they are a rearguard action at best, but the South Americans have noticed. Some have joked that when the Evangelicals reach 50% in Brazil -- expected in little more than a decade -- foreign policy will totally flip.
In the meantime, Arab and Iranian Oil Money is flowing into South America to propagandize the whole continent against Israel. And it is working.
The West has ignored Latin America. Right now, it seems that Israel has only Evangelical Christians to support her in the Latin world.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.
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