By Andres Kogan Valderrama
HAVANA TIMES – Following the killing of a Palestinian minor in Israel, Gabriel Boric opted not to receive the Israeli ambassador who was coming to present his credentials in Chile. Due to this, he’s been the object of unfair criticism on the part of some sectors.
He was rapidly painted as antisemitic by the Comunidad Judia de Chile [Jewish Community of Chile], as well as called “judeo-phobic” by some public figures, such as attorney Ricardo Israel.
These accusations seem to me deeply slanderous, pronouncing a judgement of such a serious nature on someone who has never sustained any kind of hate speech against the Jewish people, or anybody else. To the contrary, he’s defended human rights on a limitless scope, in many different places in the world.
A brief review of the criticisms that Gabriel Boric has issued of different governments in the world for human rights violations reveals that these are in no way limited to the State of Israel. Examples include Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia, The United States, Iran, China and Chile itself, as he recently did in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly.
For this very reason, the Chilean Jewish Community may disagree with Boric’s criticism of Israel for acting in a colonial and racist manner against the Palestinian people – although it’s an opinion many of us share – but to go from there to calling him an antisemite seems to me nonsensical.
Such accusations trivialize the concept of antisemitism and empty it of contents. Doing this is nothing less than an offense to the memory of millions of Jews who have been discriminated against, humiliated, persecuted and assassinated throughout their history, for the mere fact of being Jewish.
Examining the concept more closely: while anti-Judaism has historic roots that stretch back to the beginning of Christianity and the idea that the Jews betrayed Christ, modern antisemitism originated in Europe in the 19th century, in the face of the formation of the modern nation-states, with certain special characteristics.
The rejection of the Jews in the modern era has nothing to do with a religious rejection as such. It’s an essentially racist reaction, backed by the idea that the Jews were a stateless, impure and untrustworthy people, who endangered the national sovereignty of a country by destabilizing the existing order through control of the economy, the media, and the money, using these things for their own benefit.
If we review the racist and conspiratorial discourses of the Tsarists in Russia, or the National Socialists in Germany, for example, both accuse the Jews of being responsible for the existing crises, for all that’s wrong, and of wanting to control the world. These elements can easily be seen in Protocols of the Elders of Zion [a fabricated antisemitic text, first published in Russia in 1903] or Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
The paradoxical thing in all this is that from precisely that racist and homogeneity-seeking western nationalism that was born in Europe in the 19th century and imposed on the rest of the world to the detriment of the Jews and other people, a parallel Jewish nationalist movement called Zionism was born. Following the genocide and horror of the Holocaust, this movement would culminate in the birth of the State of Israel.
From there on, the creation of the Israeli State was based on denying the existence of Palestine. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes in the Nakba of 1948, and with the 1967 occupation, Israel practically colonized their entire territory.
That Israeli colonialism hasn’t ceased, right up until today, and has even deepened, with innumerable violations to international rights that have received repeated condemnations from the United Nations, as former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has reiterated on a number of occasions.
This isn’t saying that the Jews of the world don’t have the right to form their own State and live within secure borders, as certain speeches from Islamic fundamentalists have proposed. However, that doesn’t justify the colonialism of settlements and apartheid that Israel has imposed on the Palestinian territories.
Gabriel Boric does very well, then, to question the State of Israel for its colonial character, a criticism that has nothing to do with being an antisemite, as the Jewish Community of Chile baselessly accuses. The Israeli government has thrown out the same accusation when facing any political criticism of this type from anyone.
It could be said that certain critics of the State of Israel mix in antisemitic remarks from certain sectors of the antizionist left, when they refer to a supposed Jewish plot in Chile, as the mayor of the Recolecta community, Daniel Jadue, has postulated repeatedly; however, Gabriel Boric has never couched his criticism in that racist form.
In conclusion, as a person whose last name is of Jewish origin, and whose father is Jewish, I’m greatly ashamed that antisemitism should be used as an argument to discredit any critic of the State of Israel. Both Jews and non-Jews have a duty to defend human rights and to oppose racism, no matter where it comes from, as Gabriel Boric has been doing for all these years.