Jews Protest Opening of PLO Office in Chile

Jews in Latin America are unhappy with the Chilean government’s decision earlier this month to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization officially and have asked the World Jewish Congress to deplore the move in meetings with Chilean diplomats.

On Jan. 5, the Chilean government approved the opening of a PLO information office in the capital city of Santiago. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the “office of representation” will be headed by Hussein Abdel Khalek, a PLO official.

“In this way, Chile’s government satisfies the wishes of the citizens of Palestinian origin to have an office which will undoubtedly serve as a nexus between them and the land of their ancestors,” the official government statement said.

There are more than 250,000 Palestinians in this country of about 12 million people, where some 17,000 Jews live.

Chile’s Palestinians are active and visible through several communal organizations. There are at least three representatives of Palestinian origin in the Chilean Congress and there is even a professional soccer team, Club Palestino, which plays regularly.

A PLO information office also exists in neighboring Lima, Peru and there is a PLO “embassy” in Brazil.

Following the Chilean government’s announcement in early January, the Latin American Jewish Congress, in agreement with the Chilean Jewish community body, asked the WJC to take up the matter with the Chilean diplomatic representation in the United States.

In a statement issued three days after the government announcement, the Representative Committee of Chilean Jewish Entities said that “it profoundly laments the government’s authorization” and said the “decision does not sit well with its strong, undying commitment to strengthening democracy.”

Some observers recalled that only half a year ago, the country’s vice president, Enrique Krauss, after a meeting with Jewish leaders, strongly denied that the government was about to recognize the PLO.

For his part, Khalek — whom the newspapers identified as a diplomat – said this was “a first step” that should be followed up by giving the PLO “full recognition.”

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