News media can fan the flames of antisemitism, especially in Latin America, where a number of news services are controlled by Iran, says a Chilean-Israeli activist.
Ahead of a conference on antisemitism at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv where he was a participant, Gabriel Colodro shared his thoughts on the Latin twist to the age-old hatred. Colodro is the founder and president of the Chilean Community of Israel, which represents 10,000 Israelis of Chilean descent.
Colodro was very straightforward that Iranian propaganda is grabbing the hearts and minds of millions of people across Central and South America.
“Iran is physically there and it’s well known. The Iranian presence in Latin America is the most transparent presence of a foreign country on the continent since the Cold War. Everybody knows the Iranian presence through Venezuela has a clear network of drug smuggling and drug dealing. Iran doesn’t hide anything,” said Colodro.
The Iranians spread their propaganda through HispanTV, whose programming reaches Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, among other countries.
“Their journalists are guided by the Ayatollahs,” said Colodro. “Their reporting is antisemitic, pro-BDS, and directly anti-Israel. They directly portray Israelis as murderers. It’s explicitly antisemitic. For example, during the last [military] operation in Gaza, they didn’t even hide that rockets were being fired at Israel’s civilian population, they embraced it. The Chilean and Venezuelan reporters encouraged it and call it “resistance.”
Coldro explained that HispanTV hires local journalists in every single country where it operates. “In Chile, the College of Journalists, which is an association of journalists, has been led by people who are hired by Iran. We’ve seen this before. It’s not a new thing,” he said. “The influence of Iran has risen very quickly in the past five years.”
One particular complication with fighting antisemitism in Chile is President Gabriel Boric, who has been harshly critical of Israel.
Colodro recalled one incident which sent shockwaves through Chile’s Jewish community in 2018. When Boric was a member of the Chamber of Deputies, Jewish leaders sent all the lawmakers greetings on the holiday of Rosh HaShanah, which marks the Jewish new year, along with a small jar of honey.
Boric posted a video on Twitter expressing his appreciation for the gesture, then adding, “But they could start asking Israel to return the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.”
Said Colodro, “It’s against the main definition of antisemitism to hold the Jewish community of Chile responsible for Israel’s actions.”
In a separate incident, Boric snubbed Israel’s ambassador during an official ceremony, which Chile’s Foreign Ministry apologized for.
Colodro shared with TPS his own unfortunate encounter with Boric.
The Knesset was working on legislation to recognize medical credentials and Colodro brought a copy of the bill to Santiago show Chilean lawmakers in 2018.
“I’m sitting in the lobby of the parliament building and Boric arrived and he’s beside me, so I introduced myself,” Colodro recalled. “He looks at me and says, ‘You are committing Palestinian genocide. You’re stealing Palestinian land,” He was raising his voice as he talked and people stared. I told him, ‘I represent the Chilean community abroad, not Israel, and that you should represent us.”
“He said ‘I don’t represent you, I represent the ideologies of the world.’ Somebody heard him yelling, took him by the arm and took him to a different room. At the time, he was only a member of parliament. We never thought he’d become president of the state.”
Another source of antisemitism, says Colodro, is Chile’s “Palestinian” community. Around 400,000 “Palestinians” live in Chile, making it the largest “Palestinian” community outside the Middle East. For comparison, the Jewish community is 18,000-20,000.
“The Palestinians move tens of thousands of people to the streets to demonstrate against Israel during military operations in Gaza,” Colodro explained. “That gave them influence with politicians.”
Colodro said the “Palestinians” routinely introduce resolutions calling on the president to take steps such as recognizing the 1967 ceasefire line as the border of a Palestinian state, campaign for the release of “Palestinian” terrorists imprisoned in Israel, and boycotting Israel.
“When the election campaign was on, Boric signed an agreement with the Palestinian community to endorse and support the BDS [Boycott Divestment and Sanctions] bill in parliament,” Colodro said. “It’s a general bill that doesn’t mention Israel but it criminalizes the import and distribution of goods and services from occupied territories. When it was brought to a committee, it was introduced with Palestinian flags and an anti-Israel reason of being. They didn’t hide it, even though it doesn’t mention Israel specifically.”
For now, the BDS bill doesn’t appear to be going anywhere as the majority of lawmakers in both houses of Chile’s Congress support Israel. “But the bill’s still in committee and you never know what might happen in the future.”