NEW YORK, Dec. 27, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is outraged by Chilean Senator Eugenio Tuma's accusations that prominent Jews, including the country's Interior Minister, are, in effect, agents of the Israeli government. Tuma charged that Chilean Jews are responsible for holding back the country's recognition of a Palestinian state.
"Senator Tuma's bigoted remarks are an affront to all Chileans, and should be wholeheartedly condemned by the highest levels of government and civic society," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Inserting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into Chilean politics in such an odious way, and calling into question the loyalty to Chile of some of its most devoted citizens, is contrary to the nation's democratic and pluralistic tradition. Though he may be surprised, not everyone has to agree with Senator Tuma's views to be an integral part of Chilean society."
Senator Tuma accused Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who is Jewish, of being "an activist and militant for the Israeli cause." He made similar remarks about Gabriel Zaliasnik, president of the Comite Representativo de las Entidades Judias en Chile (CREJ), the Jewish community's central body and an AJC international partner.
Tuma's outrageous comments came as some Latin American nations weigh whether to join with Brazil, Argentina and a few other countries that, in recent weeks, have declared recognition of a Palestinian state. Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community, some 300,000, outside the Middle East. Senator Tuma, who is of Palestinian descent, is pressing the president to recognize a Palestinian state.
"Of course, there is an obvious irony to Senator Tuma's posture. As a Chilean of Palestinian origin, he deems it entirely appropriate to take up the Palestinian cause and press it in the corridors of Chilean power. Yet he questions the right of a Chilean Jew, like Mr. Zaliasnik, to affirm his belief in what's best for Chile's national interest," said Harris.
"Recognizing a state that has yet to be created through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations does not help the peace process. To the contrary, it sets it back by replacing bilateral talks with unilateral measures, a process, which, if unchecked, could affect many other countries embroiled in territorial disputes," concluded Harris. "If Senator Tuma is truly interested in Arab-Israeli peace, he should be pressing President Abbas to return to the table and pursue direct, face-to-face talks with Israel."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee