How Latin America’s anti-Zionist Jews are standing against Israel’s war in Palestine

In Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish community, Judies X Palestina (Jews for Palestine) has been active since 2021 but gained momentum during the current conflict. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 April 2024
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How Latin America’s anti-Zionist Jews are standing against Israel’s war in Palestine

  • Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina have the largest Jewish populations in Latin America
  • Israel’s heavy-handed tactics have severely divided Latin America’s Jewish community

SAO PAULO: The war in Gaza has generated unprecedented reactions in Latin America, with the consolidation of broad pro-Palestine coalitions.

As part of such movements, countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico have seen the emergence of anti-Zionist Jewish groups, formed by activists who reject their Zionist upbringing.

In Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish community — estimated at 200,000 at least — Judies X Palestina (Jews for Palestine) has been active since 2021 but gained momentum during the current conflict.




In Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish community, Judies X Palestina (Jews for Palestine) has been active since 2021 but gained momentum during the current conflict. (Supplied)

“There are few anti-Zionist voices in Argentina. Most journalists who used to criticize Israel have been silenced by the Zionist lobby in the media,” group member Ivan Zeta told Arab News, adding that the power of Zionist institutions is high in Argentina so many pro-Palestine Jews are obliged to use aliases to avoid persecution, as he has done.

“The current government (led by right-wing President Javier Milei) is totally aligned with Israel.”

Although he was born and raised as a Roman Catholic, Milei has been studying the Torah, and declared on several occasions his intention to convert to Judaism. His first international trip as Argentina’s president was to Israel.




Argentina's President Javier Milei (R) embraces Israel's President Isaac Herzog during a tour around Kibbutz Nir Oz — one the places targeted by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip during the October 7, 2023 attacks — in southern Israel on February 8, 2024. (AFP)

Zeta said the 2001 economic crisis led many Argentinian Jews to move to Israel. That process further strengthened ties between Argentina’s Jewish community and Israel.

“We know people who used to criticize Israel’s stance on the Palestinians, but due to the fact that they have relatives there, they feared for their families on Oct. 7 (when Hamas attacked Israel) and have partially accepted the idea that Israelis are the victims now,” said Zeta, who has family members who live in Israel.

A distant cousin of his is among the Israelis kidnapped by Hamas.

“That doesn’t affect me in a direct way because I don’t know her, but part of my family supports a stronger Israeli offensive against Gazans because of her kidnap, and I had conflicts with them,” Zeta said.

INNUMBERS

• 60,000 Jews living in Mexico.

• 200,000+ Jews living in Argentina.

• 120,000+ Jews living in Brazil.

Family quarrels are common for most members of Judies X Palestina. Some of them even had to cut ties with all their relatives after taking a pro-Palestinian stance.

Their colleagues try to help them and give them psychological support, Zeta said, adding that verbal abuse is common on social media as well.




Demonstrators take part in a rally in support for the Palestinian people in front of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, on October 9, 2023, after Israel imposed a total siege on the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

The group — formed by more than 50 activists, mostly from Buenos Aires — has been enthusiastically welcomed by other pro-Palestine movements, most of them composed of people of Arab descent and left-wingers.

“They’re grateful for our presence. With us there, marching side by side with them, there are less accusations of antisemitism against them,” Zeta said.

In Brazil, a group called Vozes Judaicas por Libertacao (Jewish Voices for Liberation), formed in 2014, has been galvanized since the start of the current conflict.




Protesters carry posters from Coletivo Vozes Judaicas pela Libertação at the last pro-Palestine event in São Paulo, Brazil. (X: @ajuliaarara)

“Those initial members met again during pro-Palestine marches at the end of 2023. We’re now well-organized, with weekly meetings and several activities,” member Daniela Fajer told Arab News.

About 30 Brazilian Jews are directly involved in the network, mostly in Sao Paulo. In Rio de Janeiro, there is another anti-Zionist Jewish movement.

“Since we released a statement in defense of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (who was condemned by Zionists after he criticized Israel’s military operations and compared the mass killing of Palestinians to the Holocaust), more and more people have been interested in joining us,” Fajer said.




Palestinians check the destruction in the aftermath of an Israeli strike the previous night in the Jabalia camp for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, on November 1, 2023. (AFP/File)

Vozes Judaicas is part of Sao Paulo’s Front in Defense of the Palestinian People, and helps the committee organize pro-Palestine marches and public activities.

“Most members had a Zionist education and visited Israel during school. Most had to break up with Zionist relatives. I only talk to half of my family nowadays,” she told Arab News.

Some activists worked as teachers in Jewish schools and lost their jobs due to their criticism of Israel.

The Jewish community has been continuously attacking the group on social media. “They insult us and call us traitors. It’s like we can’t be Jews and anti-Zionist,” Fajer said.




Activists calling for a "Free Palestine" demonstrate in Cali, Colombia, on October 13, 2023, in support of Palestinians amid Israeli air strikes on Gaza in reprisal for a surprise Hamas attack on October 7, 2023. (AFP)

Brazilian journalist Breno Altman knows well how strong Zionist pressure can be. The son of a leftwing anti-Zionist, he saw when his late father’s car was set on fire in 1982 during a protest against the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees.

“My father was leading a demonstration when that attack happened. The criminals were never identified, but we suspected they were far-right Zionists,” Altman told Arab News.

Since October, he has been continuously denouncing Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. The website he founded years ago, Opera Mundi, is hosted by a major Brazilian news portal and disseminates critical views about the Israeli operation — something that the South American country’s press generally fails to do.


READ MORE:

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Altman has been subjected to a hate campaign, and is being sued by a Jewish institution in Brazil for his comments. He has also received threats on social media, including death threats.

“I filed a police report about a threat discovered by a news website. They said they wanted to cut off my fingers and break my teeth,” Altman said.




Journalist Breno Altman (4th from right) is pictured with members of the Articulação Judaica de Esquerda  (Jewish Left Articulation) during an event on April 6 at the Sarau Palestine in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The event also featured the participation of congresswoman Jandira Feghali. (X: @AJEOficial)

Nevertheless, he thinks that more and more people, including Jews, are aware of the “genocide perpetrated in Gaza and of the problems of Zionism.”

He added: “The groups of anti-Zionist Jews are still a minority, but they’ve been able to successfully express their dissenting stances on social media.”

Altman recently published a book called “Contra o Sionismo: Retrato de uma Doutrina Colonial e Racista” (“Against Zionism: A Portrait of a Colonial and Racist Doctrine”), and has been traveling to launch it in a number of cities.

“Many students are attending the events. Some Jews told me things like, ‘I used to be a Zionist, but I changed my mind after seeing your comments,’” he said.




Demonstrators carry the Venezuelan and Palestinian flags during a rally in support of Palestinians in Valencia, Carabobo state, Venezuela, on October 13, 2023. (AFP)

In Mexico, where around 60,000 Jews live, the Zionist movement is not as strong as it is in Brazil and Argentina, Enrique Rajchenberg, a member of Jews for Palestine in Mexico, told Arab News. Nonetheless, he said, he and his colleagues face insults and threats.

Many anti-Zionist Jews are part of pro-Palestine collectives in Mexican universities, and academic movements have been very active in promoting marches, conferences and cultural activities, Rajchenberg said, adding: “We organize talks with students and labor unions.”

Jews for Palestine demands that all university presidents in the country cut ties with academic institutions in Israel




Mexican citizens take part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Mexico City on October 12, 2023, to show their support to Palestinians and against Israel's military operations in Gaza. (AFP)

The group is also asking Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and other progressive counterparts in Latin America, to cancel any military collaboration with Israel.

“Lopez Obrador is among the Latin American progressive leaders with the weakest stances on the genocide in Gaza,” Rajchenberg said.

“Mexico has strong economic ties with the US, and strong condemnation of Israel would certainly create problems for him.”

The new Jewish anti-Zionist movements in Latin America have been seeking and establishing connections with each other and with similar groups worldwide. “Our goal now is to create a Latin American network of anti-Zionist organizations,” Zeta said.
 

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Humanity suffering from ‘extreme heat epidemic,’ UN chief warns

Updated 15 sec ago
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Humanity suffering from ‘extreme heat epidemic,’ UN chief warns

  • UN chief repeats call for humanity to fight “addiction” to fossil fuels amid global warming 
  • UN estimates economic losses from heat stress at work will reach $2.4 trillion by 2030

United Nations, United States: Humanity is suffering from an “extreme heat epidemic,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday, calling for action to limit the impacts of heat waves intensified by climate change.
“Billions of people are facing an extreme heat epidemic — wilting under increasingly deadly heat waves, with temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius around the world,” he said. “That’s 122 degrees Fahrenheit. And halfway to boiling.”
According to the European Copernicus network, July 21, 22 and 23 were the three hottest days ever recorded worldwide, with July 22 holding the absolute record of 17.16 degrees Celsius (62.9 degrees Fahrenheit).
Guterres repeated his call for humanity to fight its “addiction” to fossil fuels.
“Today, our focus is on the impact of extreme heat. But let’s not forget that there are many other devastating symptoms of the climate crisis: ever-more fierce hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Wildfires. Rising sea levels. And the list goes on,” he said.
“To tackle all these symptoms, we need to fight the disease. And the disease is the madness of incinerating our only home. The disease is the addiction to fossil fuels. The disease is climate inaction,” he stressed, calling in particular on G20 countries to take action.
While 2023 was the hottest year on record, and 2024 could set a new record, temperatures well above 40C (104F) are increasingly common.
In the space of a year, the 50C threshold has even been exceeded in at least 10 places, from Death Valley in the United States (53.9C on July 7) to Agadir in Morocco, and also in China and India.
The intense heat, often less visible than other devastating impacts of climate change such as storms or floods, is nonetheless more deadly.
This “silent killer” is responsible for around 489,000 deaths per year between 2000 and 2019, compared with 16,000 deaths per year from cyclones, according to the UN’s “Call to Action” document published on Thursday.
Extremely high temperatures also have an economic impact, with the UN estimating economic losses from heat stress at work will reach $2.4 trillion in 2030.
According to a report by the International Labor Organization published on Thursday, more than 70 percent of workers were exposed to excessive heat in 2020, 8.8 percent more than in 2000.
“The good news is that we can save lives and we can limit its impact,” Guterres said Thursday.
The UN has called for the world community to first act to protect “the most vulnerable” — including young children, the elderly and also humanity’s poorest.
In this context, early warning systems should include extreme heat, warning populations of the arrival of heat waves and informing them of the precautions to take, the document says.
The call to action also recommends an “increase (to) equitable access to and scale up (of) low-carbon cooling.”
This would involve investing in passive cooling systems — which include climate-sensitive urban design measures, reflective surfaces and natural cooling systems — and the phase-out of climate-warming gases that are used in many cooling systems.
 


UK Afghanistan war crimes probe lifts jail threat on former minister

Updated 48 min 58 sec ago
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UK Afghanistan war crimes probe lifts jail threat on former minister

  • Johnny Mercer said “multiple officers” told him about alleged murders and subsequent cover-up during Afghan conflict

LONDON: Britain’s former minister for veterans has “provided further information” to a public inquiry into claims of war crimes by special forces in Afghanistan, a spokeswoman said Thursday, after he was threatened with jail.
Johnny Mercer has said that “multiple officers” told him about alleged murders and a subsequent cover-up during the Afghan conflict, but he refused to divulge their identities.
The Independent Inquiry Relating to Afghanistan, which is examining the claims, gave him until 4:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Thursday to provide the names, insisting the information would be in confidence.
The judge-led inquiry had previously issued Mercer with an order under Britain’s Inquiries Act 2005 warning him he could be fined, imprisoned or both if he did not comply.
“Mr Mercer has provided further information in response to the Section 21 notice and agreed to assist the inquiry further,” an inquiry spokeswoman said.
“The inquiry team will be taking this forward. For the time being, the chair will not be taking further action in relation to the Section 21 notice or making further comment.”
Mercer, a former British Army officer who served three tours of Afghanistan, repeatedly refused to disclose the names when he gave evidence at the inquiry in February.
The inquiry is examining claims that between 2010 and 2013 a British special forces unit executed Afghan males of “fighting age” who posed no threat.
The former minister, who lost his seat at this month’s general election, said in response to the latest development: “My position remains unchanged from the beginning of the year.”
“I will always do all I can to assist this important inquiry. I will not betray those I served who have confided in me, whatever the cost,” he wrote on social media.


UN demands action on extreme heat as world registers warmest day

Updated 52 min 26 sec ago
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UN demands action on extreme heat as world registers warmest day

  • “Extreme heat is the new abnormal,” Guterres said
  • “The world must rise to the challenge of rising temperatures”

LONDON: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Thursday for countries to address the urgency of the extreme heat epidemic, fueled by climate change — days after the world registered its hottest day on record.
“Extreme heat is the new abnormal,” Guterres said. “The world must rise to the challenge of rising temperatures,” he said.
Climate change is making heatwaves more frequent, more intense and longer lasting across the world.
Already this year, scorching conditions have killed 1,300 Hajj pilgrims, closed schools for some 80 million children in Africa and Asia, and led to a spike in hospitalizations and deaths in the Sahel.
Every month since June 2023 has now ranked as the planet’s warmest since records began in 1940, compared with the corresponding month in previous years, according the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The UN called on governments to not only tamp down fossil fuel emissions — the driver of climate change — but to bolster protections for the most vulnerable, including the elderly, pregnant women and children, and step up safeguards for workers.
Over 70 percent of the global workforce — 2.4 billion people — are now at high risk of extreme heat, according to a report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) published Thursday.
In Africa, nearly 93 percent of the workforce is exposed to excessive heat, and 84 percent of the Arab States’ workforce, the ILO report found.
Excessive heat has been blamed for causing almost 23 million workplace injuries worldwide, and some 19,000 deaths annually.
“We need measures to protect workers, grounded in human rights,” Guterres said.
He also called for governments to “heatproof” their economies, critical sectors such as health care, and the built environment.
Cities are warming at twice the worldwide average rate due to rapid urbanization and the urban heat island effect.
By 2050, some researchers estimate a 700 percent global increase in the number of urban poor living in extreme heat conditions.
This is the first time the UN has put out a global call for action on extreme heat.
“We need a policy signal and this is it,” said Kathy Baughman Mcleod, CEO of Climate Resilience for All, a nonprofit focused on extreme heat.
“It’s recognition of how big it is and how urgent it is. It’s also recognition that everybody doesn’t feel in the same way and pay the same price for it.”


Israel warns France of Iranian threats at Olympics Games

Updated 25 July 2024
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Israel warns France of Iranian threats at Olympics Games

  • “There are those who seek to harm the festivities of this joyous event,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz told his French counterpart
  • “We currently have assessments of potential threats from Iranian terror affiliates“

JERUSALEM: Israel warned France on Thursday of potential threats from Iran-backed groups against Israeli athletes and tourists in Paris during the Olympic Games.
“There are those who seek to harm the festivities of this joyous event,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz told his French counterpart in a letter, copies of which were released to the media.
“We currently have assessments of potential threats from Iranian terror affiliates and other terrorist organizations aiming to carry out terror attacks against members of the Israeli delegation and Israeli tourists during the Olympics.”
France has mounted a vast security operation to ensure the Olympics are safe. Around 18,000 French troops have been deployed to secure the Games in addition to regular police.
All Israeli athletes at the Paris Games, which start officially on Friday, will have round-the-clock personal security provided by elite French police, both inside the Olympic village and every time they leave the compound in northern Paris.
In an address to the US Congress on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a global alliance against the Iranian “axis of terror.”
He argued that the United States and Israel “must stand together” against Iran and its proxies.
Iran had hailed the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel but said it was not involved in it.
Tensions have soared during the war sparked by the attack, drawing in Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
Yemen’s Houthis, along with the Hezbollah group in Lebanon and former Iran-backed paramilitaries in the Iraqi armed forces, are part of a Tehran-aligned “axis of resistance” that supports Hamas against Israel and its allies.
Iran has reiterated support for the groups but insisted they are independent in their decision-making and actions.
On April 13-14, Iran carried out an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel, days after an air strike widely attributed to Israel levelled Iran’s consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.


UK uses Rwanda flights for Vietnam, East Timor deportations

Updated 25 July 2024
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UK uses Rwanda flights for Vietnam, East Timor deportations

  • Home Secretary Yvette Cooper: ‘Today’s flight shows the government is taking quick and decisive action to secure our borders and return those with no right to be here’
  • Cooper called the Rwanda scheme, intended to deter migrants making the Channel crossing in small boats from northern France, ‘the most shocking waste of taxpayers’ money’ she had seen

LONDON: Britain’s new Labour government on Thursday said it had deported 46 people to Vietnam and East Timor, after ditching the previous Conservative administration’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda.
Home Secretary Yvette Cooper this week said flights initially intended to fly undocumented migrants to the east African nation would instead be used to deport foreign criminals and immigration offenders.
The chartered return flight, which took off on Wednesday and arrived on Thursday, is the first ever to East Timor and the first to Vietnam since 2022, her department said.
“Today’s flight shows the government is taking quick and decisive action to secure our borders and return those with no right to be here,” added Cooper.
Labour, elected in a landslide election win this month, has scrapped the Tories’ Rwanda plan, which had been deemed illegal under international law by the UK Supreme Court.
Former prime minister Rishi Sunak had aimed for the first flights to take off this month, after legislating to designate the African nation a safe third country.
Cooper this week called the Rwanda scheme, intended to deter migrants making the Channel crossing in small boats from northern France, “the most shocking waste of taxpayers’ money” she had seen.
The Tories had spent £700 million ($900 million) on the scheme but only four migrants had relocated to Rwanda — and they went voluntarily.
She also told parliament Sunak’s government planned to spend more than £10 billion on the scheme in total.
Labour’s approach is to prioritize returns of failed asylum seekers to designated safe countries to ease a huge backlog in the claims system.
It also wants closer cooperation with European partners to “smash” the people-smuggling gangs behind the Channel crossings, which so far this year have seen nearly 16,000 people brought ashore.
Vietnamese nationals accounted for 20 percent of undocumented migrants intercepted making the journey between January and March this year, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory said.
In March this year, Sunak’s government launched a global social media campaign, aimed at Vietnam in particular, to deter people from using the route.
On Wednesday, a gang of British people-smugglers were jailed after trying to hide two Vietnamese migrants in a hidden compartment of their campervan as they traveled between France and the UK.
Eleven people have been convicted in the UK in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants who were found in the back of a lorry in 2019 after being smuggled from northern Europe.