Palestinians are constantly urged by their leaders to engage in rage. Indeed, Abbas walked out of the UNSC meeting, not bothering to hear Ambassador Haley’s speech. As the clock ticks with time seemingly not on their side, changing political landscapes in the USA and Europe, frustration by traditional Arab allies nervously watching Iran and with UNRWA being reassessed and seen as part of the problem, Palestinians can only be dismayed as their lives seem to be going nowhere. The less charitable might say they are going down. Unfortunately rage, greed, misappropriation of international aid and ongoing victimization are not policies, let alone providing a promising future for talented Palestinians dreaming of a prosperous and peaceful life.
While experts consider various solutions to the Palestinian problem, ranging from a 2-state solution, land swaps, a single state, a Jordan solution, a Gaza- Sinai solution, population transfer with compensation, and other variants, none of which have satisfied the PA, Chile is an example of what could be possible.
Chile reportedly has the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East, estimated at 500,000 in a total population of nearly 18 million dwarfing the Jewish community of 25,000. Palestinians therefore are a much higher proportion of Chile’s population than Jews anywhere in Europe. In France, there are also about 500,000 Jews, but in a population of almost 67 million.
In addition to the despairing educated millennials in Judea/Samaria, all but forgotten Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria have been impoverished and massacred. On the other hand, Palestinians in Chile continue to enjoy significant success, by any standards.
Palestinians arrived in Chile in the second half of the nineteenth century, mostly poor and illiterate, having embarked on ships from Haifa, Beirut and Alexandria. This occurred during Turkish Ottoman rule, long before Israel’s establishment in 1948.
Initially they were not welcomed. El Mercurio in April 1911 wrote ,”Whether they are Mohammedans or Buddhists, what one can see and smell from far, is that they are more dirty than the dogs of Constantinople.”
A year later, Palestinians established their first Arabic-Chilean newspaper, Muerched.
Yet, some forty years later, this community had acquired substantial economic and political power. They continue to enjoy a high profile in politics, commerce, literature, media, sports and the arts.
While Palestinian bakeries, cafes and restaurants proliferate in Santiago’s Patronato district, this community’s public showcase is arguably the Palestinian Sports Club. The 27-acre Club Palestino boasts state of the art tennis, swimming and dining facilities that are a major source of pride. The Palestinian soccer team is one of Chile’s top teams, with some players also participating in the national team.
The World Bank ranks Chile as a high income country, prosperous and politically stable.
The younger generation of Palestinians are Spanish speaking, many having attended a Palestinian primary and secondary school. About 70% intermarry outside their community. Palestinian families are among the wealthiest in Chile.
Politically, 10% of Chile’s senators and 11% of lower house deputies are of Palestinian background.
The Undersecretary for the Interior and Public Security is Mahmud Aleuy.
Despite the integration of Palestinians in all sectors of Chilean public and private life, astonishingly they consider themselves “stateless.”
This reflects the position of former Peruvian Deputy President, Omar Chehade who maintained that Israel is a “fictitious state,” and that South American Palestinians like himself are “stateless.”
Yet, no one raises questions of dual loyalty let alone accusations about the Palestinian lobby, or Palestinians “controlling” the media and banking.
As Palestinians in Chile continue to assimilate, enjoying power, wealth and success, their ongoing claim and narrative of being stateless refugees could be seen as offensive to their countrymen.
Palestinians in Ramallah, fourteen thousand kms away, can only shake their heads with envy at the lifestyle of their Chilean cousins.
With Israel the most powerful state in the Middle East, underpinned by a vibrant economy based on hi tech innovation, Palestinians have only themselves to blame for decades of corrupt leadership, bad decisions, and a questionable future that seems to get bleaker each year.
Many Palestinians feel they have missed the boat, mistakenly believing that time was on their side. President Trump’s sudden recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to establish the embassy there during Israel’s 70th Independence celebrations, reflects this comfortable but irrational belief. Rather than nation building, they have lived on generous handouts by the US and EU, much of which is spent on pensions for terrorists who are seen as heroes and martyrs. Cronyism which forms part of their kleptocracy became an integral part of Palestinian culture reinforcing scepticism for a viable future.
When Palestinians see that Arab-Israelis dominate the pharmacy industry, are heads of departments in prestigious hospitals, boast the best school graduates, are represented in the Knesset, Supreme Court and military, they must surely realize they have been cheated and lied to. After all, how do you explain success in both Israel and distant Chile, but not the “West Bank” and Gaza despite the international community providing assistance way beyond what Germany received following the Second World War?
Israel is no longer an option for Palestinian “refugees” as might have been decades ago. Many educated Palestinians have been caught up in the cynical agenda of their leadership. They are frustrated and despairing, earning a fraction of what their real worth is.
With Israel continuing to increase its world standing and power, and with the international community tiring of supporting another failed state-in-waiting, Palestinians may well think of Chile as a viable option as their ancestors did 150 years ago.
(Ron Jontof-Hutter is the author of the satire: “The Trombone Man: Tales of a Misogynist”)