Chilean senator calls country’s Jews Israeli ‘agents’


(JTA) — A Chilean senator has charged that prominent Jews, including the country’s interior minister, are agents of the Israeli government.

Eugenio Tuma, who is of Palestinian descent, also said that Chilean Jews are responsible for holding back the country’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Five Latin American countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador – have recognized a Palestinian state in recent weeks.

The Palestinian community in Chile is believed to be the largest outside of the Middle East. At least 300,000 Chileans are of Palestinian descent, according to reports.
Senator Tuma accused Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who is Jewish, of being “an activist and militant for the Israeli cause.” He made similar remarks about Gabriel Zaliasnik, president of the Comité Representativo de las Entidades Judías en Chile, the Jewish community’s central body.

“Senator Tuma’s bigoted remarks are an affront to all Chileans, and should be wholeheartedly condemned by the highest levels of government and civic society,” said American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris. “Inserting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into Chilean politics in such an odious way, and calling into question the loyalty to Chile of some of its most devoted citizens, is contrary to the nation’s democratic and pluralistic tradition."

“Of course, there is an obvious irony to Senator Tuma’s posture," Harris said. As a Chilean of Palestinian origin, he deems it entirely appropriate to take up the Palestinian cause and press it in the corridors of Chilean power. Yet he questions the right of a Chilean Jew, like Mr. Zaliasnik, to affirm his belief in what’s best for Chile’s national interest.”

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