August 2, 2018 — Santiago, Chile
An AJC delegation has just concluded a three-day visit to Santiago.
The delegation, led by AJC CEO David Harris, met with senior Chilean officials, including a private dinner with Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero, and separately with Minister of the Interior and Public Security Andrés Chadwick; Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hernán Larraín; President of the Senate Carlos Montes; and Members of Parliament.
The delegation also met with key diplomats stationed in Chile, including U.S. Ambassador Carol Perez and Israeli Ambassador Eldad Hayet.
The visit featured numerous discussions with members of the Chilean Jewish Community, with which AJC has enjoyed a long-standing association agreement, along with the Federation of Jewish Students and Jewish business leaders, as well as with Chilean alumni of AJC Project Interchange and Dr. Ennio Vivaldi, President of the University of Chile.
Among the principal topics discussed were: (i) the rise of anti-Israel attitudes in Chile; (ii) challenges in relations between the Jewish and Palestinian communities of Chile; (iii) Chilean-Israeli and Chilean-U.S bilateral ties; and (iii) legislative efforts to counter incitement and hate speech, as well as possible terror-related activities, in Chile.
“We are always delighted to see our friends in the Chilean Jewish community,” said Harris, who has paid regular working visits to Chile over the past 30 years. “While the community remains impressively vibrant, we are concerned that it feels increasingly vulnerable.”
Chile is home to approximately 350-400,000 people of Palestinian Arab descent, almost all of whom are Christians who immigrated over a century ago, as the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. The community is reportedly the largest outside of the Middle East. The once cordial ties between the Jewish and Palestinian populations have become increasingly discordant, as anti-Zionist, pro-BDS sentiment in the principal Palestinian organization has intensified.
“In meetings with government officials, we conveyed the need to pay close attention to the impact of sometimes hostile, even intimidating, behavior on the lives of Chilean Jews, including on campuses,” said Harris. “As a vital part of the fabric of Chile, the Jewish community should not be made to feel insecure for expressing its support for the State of Israel.”
In response to their growing concern, AJC initiated a petition calling on President Piñera to take action. The petition has gained more than 6,000 signatures.
AJC partners with the Chilean Jewish Community regularly to bring Chilean political and media leaders to Israel through Project Interchange. In addition, AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs maintains close contact with Chilean diplomats serving abroad.
The delegation was comprised of Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA); Mario Fleck, Chair of BILLA; and leaders of the Chilean Jewish Community.