Leer en Español
El American spoke with Rosa Reigía, Director of Institutional Relations of the association ACOM (Action and Communication on the Middle East). ACOM is an organization that seeks to defend and generate spaces free of anti-Semitic discrimination. During the interview, we talked about the recent rise of anti-Semitism in Latin America, Europe, and the United States.
Do you think that anti-Semitism in the U.S. is something marginal? How do you analyze the accusations of anti-Semitism that have been made against some congress members such as Ilhan Omar?
Historically, anti-Semitism in the United States has been less or perhaps better fought than in other parts of the world. The American Jewish community, as well as American society in general, knows the importance of political activism and the involvement of civil society in the causes that each group advocates. And this has helped enormously to mitigate the irrational hatred against Jews and reduce it to very marginal spaces.
But for some years now the American left has been radicalizing and characters like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and the great majority of the most important activists of the socialist wing of the Democratic Party, have already shown this dark side with their demonizing eagerness of the only Jewish State in the world.
The most radical left is the main promoter and supporter of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, which is not as powerful in the United States as in Europe, but whose influence is deeply felt in institutions that are in the hands of the radical left, such as universities. It is no coincidence that the platform of the “Black Lives Matter” movement is anti-Israel when it is an issue that has nothing to do with violence against African-Americans, which is what that movement is supposedly fighting.
In the United States, there is still a counterweight in civil society, both within your party establishment and among the vast majority of the opposition, that puts the brakes on this unbridled anti-Semitism. But as the left-wing increases its influence among Democrats, the effectiveness of that counterweight will wane and it will become less able to stop the left’s anti-Semitic agenda.
On many occasions, this “new left” wants to disguise their anti-Semitism by claiming to be anti-Zionist. But this is nothing more than a crude trap originally designed by the communist regime of the Soviet Union in order to be able to express their anti-Semitism in another way.
Anti-Zionism is a modern form of classical anti-Semitism. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism clearly states that discriminatory behavior against the Jewish State and attempts to delegitimize and demonize its state, its citizens, and its friends is anti-Semitism.
And it is precisely the kind of actions that are promoted by the BDS movement and the discourse promoted by the anti-Semitic left worldwide. It is hatred that ancestrally was against the Jew that is now against the collective Jew that has its maximum representation in the only Jewish country and where half of the world’s Jews live and which is the spiritual homeland for the majority of those who live outside of it.
It is important that we do not let the radical left–that Chavist and Castro-like left–strengthen its axis. Those of us who believe in the rule of law and democracy cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated, whether we are Jews, Christians, or Muslims.
What is your analysis of anti-Semitism in the Hispanic world?
In general terms, the region faces the same challenges to combat anti-Semitism as the rest of the West, such as the growth of a radicalized and deeply anti-Semitic left, the increase of hate speech against the Jewish minority in social media, vandalism against places of worship and a resurgence of these discriminatory ideas from student and university movements.
But each country has its peculiarities; for example, there is the case of Guatemala where despite having a very small and not very influential Jewish community, the Guatemalan State has very fluid relations with Israel. Being the first country, after the United States, to recognize the State of Israel, and was the first after Washington’s move with the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Or countries like Panama, with an important and very consolidated Jewish community where there has even been a Jewish president.
A completely different case is Argentina given that it is one of the largest Jewish communities in the region, prosperous and perfectly integrated in society, but it was also where many Nazis went into exile after the end of World War II, and therefore, that anti-Semitism was transferred in certain social circles and obviously that has generated a greater presence of that hatred against Jews.
As it usually happens, anti-Semites look for any excuse to accuse Jews of the evils of the world, and during the pandemic, we are living examples of this; with accusations of world domination or Zionist conspiracy theories that are expressions of anti-Semitic hatred in the most classic style.
And then there are cases such as Chile, where anti-Semitism is increasing and where the discriminatory BDS movement is gaining weight, mainly due to the rise of the radical left that we have already mentioned. But Chile is also home to the largest Palestinian community on the continent. Originally it was mainly Christian and had cordial relations with the Jews. But over time it has been dominated by a more extremist Muslim minority and has veered towards radical positions that are causing an increase in Judeophobia.
For many, it seems impossible that an idea that produced so much pain and so many deaths can regain strength in the West, do you think there are places where anti-Semitism has already captured government institutions and has become much more than a despicable comment from an isolated group?
Yes, in Spain there has been a phenomenon that I don’t think has occurred to the same extent as in any other democratic country in the world. While it is true that recently a terrible event has occurred in Spain with a neo-Nazi demonstration in which they dared to shout without regard: “the Jew is to blame”, it should be clarified that these are marginal and irrelevant groups and, above all, without any parliamentary representation. On the other hand, the same is not true of the Spanish anti-Semitic left.
ACOM (Action and Communication on the Middle East), has been denouncing for years this serious situation that began in 2015 when the political party Podemos, which is led by Pablo Iglesias and has been financed by the Iranian regime of the Ayatollahs, reached the Spanish, national, regional and local institutions.
At that moment they started a very aggressive campaign through their political representatives who began to enact declarations and municipal regulations adopting the BDS policy, which implies discrimination against Jews in Spain and by extension against those who support them. This means, for example, that if an art exhibition or an orchestra of Israeli origin arrives in Spain, the local authority could boycott it because they would not rent a public space to it, just because it is an artist or orchestra of Israeli nationality.
And to make it clear that this is not a theoretical accusation that remains in what one can get to interpret such motions, the terrible thing is that we have countless examples, two of the most recent are: the one that took place in Barcelona with the Israeli women’s water polo team, which was boycotted by the public institutions of the town in which the competition should take place, and had to move and be behind closed doors for security reasons, after the harassment they received.
Or, as happened in Cadiz when the mayor of Podemos, José María “Kichi” González, canceled a cycle of Israeli cinema for the same reason after having approved one of these motions in the plenary session of the city council. And it is even more scandalous that Pablo Iglesias himself, the current vice-president of Spain, on Spanish public television called Israel an “illegal and criminal regime” or stated on another occasion that “The Holocaust was a mere bureaucratic problem” and did not even apologize for such an anti-Semitic expression.
As you can see, it is not something that remains in the realm of ideas, but rather they exercise a real action of discrimination and that is what we fight against on a daily basis and in which we have been tremendously successful so far in our legal strategy, with more than 80 pronouncements by judges giving us the reason in this regard, thanks to the strong rule of law that protects us.
This situation has worsened even more since the Government of Spain depends on the support of Podemos and where the party financed by Iran holds a vice-presidency and several ministerial portfolios. Podemos is a party that aims to destroy the Spanish democratic system from within; they have already attacked the judiciary, the Constitution, territorial unity, state forces and security, the education system, and all this in complicity with the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers Party which has fully embarked on this radical drift.
Do you believe that anti-Semitism has a clear political association (left or right)?
Honestly, no. What I believe is that this irrational and unhealthy hatred exists in both extremes. Both the extreme right and the extreme left are deeply anti-Semitic, this kind of hatred is one of those points where the extremes embrace each other.
But what is striking is that when anti-Semitism is evident in the extreme right, a social alarm is triggered, perhaps because fortunately in the social imaginary has permeated the horror suffered by Jews in the past by those forces of fascist cut that today represents the extreme right. But it is intolerable that society and, above all, the media do not denounce with the same intensity and fuss when this aggression comes from the left and, even worse, when in Spain they try to take over the institutions of all Spaniards to promote discrimination and hatred.
Let’s talk a little about international politics, do you think it is important that the governments of the West make alliances with the Government of Israel?
It is absolutely fundamental and necessary. First of all, because Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country in the region where women have the same rights as men, where there is full freedom of expression, where people’s sexual orientation is not condemned and, above all, where Muslims, Christians and Jews can live together on an equal footing and with equal rights.
Israel already has great bilateral alliances with many countries and it is obviously important and very positive that they grow, are encouraged and consolidated. But what Western governments really need to be decisive in is to condemn and act against the actions of some organizations of the international community that deliberately harass and judge Israel’s decisions with double standards.
I am referring, for example, to the voting and actions of the UN Human Rights Council, which, to anyone’s astonishment, counts among its member-countries such as Cuba, China, or Venezuela. Or regarding the financing of such perverse institutions as UNRWA. Or even regarding the European Union’s stance on censorship against products with Judea and Samaria labeling.
Sovereign countries that want to contribute to regional stability in the Middle East must condemn and take sides in such situations.
Particularly in the case of Latin America, we have seen left-wing ties with Iran and Middle Eastern terrorist groups, how important is cooperation with the State of Israel for this region?
It is tremendously important to be aware of this and, in my opinion, almost all political forces fighting against the radical left in The Americas are aware of the alignment of the latter with the enemies of Israel. The infiltration of Iran and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in the region is very worrying. Hezbollah, for its part, is the richest terrorist organization in the world, with annual revenues of $1.1 billion.
We have seen this in attacks such as the AMIA bombing in Argentina, the largest in the history of that country, which was organized by Hezbollah and the Iranian government, or with the domination of drug trafficking and organized crime networks in the region by these groups. Iran’s links with Cuba, with the FARC and with Venezuela have been known for years, but the big problem is that they have not stopped growing and represent a serious threat to freedom and democracy in the hemisphere.
But in addition to fostering collaboration with Israel, it is important to understand that all these criminal networks are being indirectly financed by many Western countries. The strategy of these criminal gangs is to create a network of organizations that help them to finance themselves legally with aid and subsidies.
It is essential that the international community and supranational organizations such as the European Union, fight and control in every possible way that these subsidies do not get into the wrong hands, either with tighter controls on the final destination of aid, as in the work of investigation and denunciation: expanding and deepening the lists of terrorist organizations and individuals who compose them.
Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.