New Chilean president bitterly criticizes Israel, whose victory worries many local Jews
JTA – Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old left-wing lawmaker who has sharply criticized Israel and the Chilean Jews who support it, was elected President of Chile in a landslide victory over the weekend.
Boric, who rose to prominence as a student leader, won with 56% of the vote, 12 points over his conservative rival José Antonio Kast, a right-wing pro-Israel politician.
The election left many Chilean Jews uneasy because they had to choose between Boric, who encouraged Chilean Jews to press for Israeli land concessions, and Kast, whose father was likely a Nazi and who defended the legacy of Augusto Pinochet, the leader of Chile’s military dictatorship who killed thousands of dissidents in the 1970s.
Most Jews appeared to side with Kast, telling the Jewish Telegraph Agency last month that their community was feeling “a sense of siege.” Of the 111 Chileans living in Israel who voted from abroad, 73 voted for Kast, compared to just 33 for Boric, according to Chile’s National Elections Database.
In his victory speech, Boric vowed to “fight steadfastly against the privileges of the few” as he seeks to advance his vision for Chile’s future.
“I guarantee that I will be a president who cares about democracy and does not risk it, listens more than he speaks, seeks unity and responds to the needs of the people on a daily basis,” he said.
The Jewish Community of Chile, a non-profit organization representing communal interests, congratulated Boric in a brief statement, wishing him and his government “much success” and welcoming the transparency of the elections in the country. He concluded: “We will continue to work for a democratic and diverse Chile where minorities are respected. “
The official group representing Chile’s roughly 18,000 Jews has a complicated relationship with Boric. In 2019, he sent her a Rosh Hashanah gift accompanied by a note expressing the desire for a “more inclusive, respectful and united society”.
“I appreciate the gesture, but they could start by asking Israel to return the illegally occupied Palestinian territory,” Boric wrote after posting a photo of the gift on Twitter.
The Comunidad Judía en Chile envied me a tarrito of honey for el año nuevo judio, reaffirming su Compromise cn “una sociedad más inclusiva, solidaria y respetuosa”. Agradezco el gesto pero podrían to leave por pedirle to Israel que devuelva el territorio palestino ilegalmente ocupado. pic.twitter.com/rtb1dt8QRP
– Police Gabriel Boric (@gabrielboric) October 2, 2019
Boric’s criticism of Israel goes back a long way. As a lawmaker, he supported a bill proposing to boycott Israeli products from the Golan Heights, West Bank settlements and areas of Jerusalem that were under Israeli control in 1967.
And during the campaign, many in the community expressed concern about it, as well as what they said was a tendency to demand that local Jews condemn Israeli policies.
“We are of course prepared to accept reasonable criticism of Israel, but what we are hearing from Boric is that Israel is a ‘genocidal’ and ‘murderous’ state,” said Gabriel Zaliasnik, a prominent member of the Chilean Jewish community, in the Israeli daily Haaretz. the week. “To make matters worse, he blames our Jewish community for Israel’s actions. “
A letter opened in July to Boric by 500 Chilean Jewish women said that “we don’t think it is fair or correct for you to detain the Jews. […] responsible for the policy of a government in power in Israel. History is replete with examples of unfair accusations or massive blame against our people. “
Some Chilean Jews fear that Boric intends to promote his supporter, Daniel Jadue, a member of the Chilean Communist Party of Palestinian origin, who has refused to explain why his high school yearbook calls him “anti-Semitic” who ” will cleanse the city of the Jews. He called the Jewish community in Chile the ‘Zionist community in Chile,’ and Chilean Jews called him an anti-Semite. Jadue denied the accusation, arguing that he himself is a Semite because he is Arab. .
Contacted by Chile’s Jewish community last summer for comment on Jadue, Boric replied that he would respond when community leaders “oppose Israeli policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to the letter, signed by some of Chile’s most prominent Jewish personalities. women.
Juan Melamed contributed reporting.