In a letter to Chilean Ambassador Arturo Fernandois, B’nai B’rith International expressed “our grave concern over the outburst of anti-Semitic activity that has occurred in Chile after the arrest of a 23-year-old Israeli backpacker, who is suspected of having accidentally ignited the fire of the Torres del Paine National Park.”
B’nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin also wrote: “Undoubtedly, the fire is a national tragedy, and we share the Chileans’ sorrow for this very unfortunate incident. But blaming the State of Israel or the Jewish people as a whole for the ‘alleged’ actions of a tourist is absolutely unacceptable and irrational.”
In the wake of the fire in Chile’s Patagonia region, the outburst of anti-Semitic attacks and charges included outrageous claims made by Chilean politicians. Incredibly, the vice president of the Christian Democratic party wrote on his Twitter account: “I bet that the Israeli ‘tourist’ that burned Torres del Paine is one of those sent by his State after killing Palestinian children.”
Taunts of “filthy Jew” were reportedly yelled as the suspect was escorted to court.
B’nai B’rith sends its condolences to the families of the seven firefighters who have died battling the blaze. According to a report in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the fires began simultaneously at 50 different locations.
Israel, in keeping with its commitment as a first responder to global catastrophes, offered to send a team of experts in reforestation to help rebuild the area.
In the letter to the ambassador, B’nai B’rith calls on the democratic government of Chile to clearly denounce these malicious and shameful anti-Semitic and anti-Israel accusations.
B’nai B’rith International decries Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming visit to several Latin American countries, signifying a worrisome development to regional security as Tehran continues to infiltrate Latin America, establishing an increased presence in the Western Hemisphere.
Ahmadinejad is scheduled to tour Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador beginning Jan. 8. These countries belong to the “Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas” (or ALBA group), created by Hugo Chavez to advance Venezuela’s influence in the region. Reports also indicate that he might also visit Guatemala, to attend President Perez Molina’s inauguration on Jan. 14, which underscores Iran’s intentions to expand its influence beyond the ALBA group.
“Iran’s overtures to increase its inroads in Latin America—financially, politically and militarily—serve to disrupt efforts to isolate Tehran by strengthening international sanctions,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs.
On state-owned television, Iran has stated that “all-out cooperation with Latin American countries is among the top priorities of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy.”
Iran has been linked to the two bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in 1994, with overwhelming evidence pointing to the direct involvement of high-ranking Iranian officials. Since 2005, Iran has opened six Latin American embassies and signed numerous economic cooperation agreements with the ALBA countries. Some have also pointed to the possibility that Venezuela and Bolivia could be supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program.
“Iran’s increasing efforts to build alliances in Latin America, even beyond the ALBA group, is endangering the peace and stability of the entire region. The United States and its friends in the region must remain vigilant to combat this increasingly negative trend,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.