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Latin American leaders visit Israel on solidarity mission amid an 'explosion' of antisemitism

A delegation of elected officials from Latin America on a solidarity visit to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement, March 11, 2024. (Photo courtesy CAM)

Six Latin American mayors and governors from Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Uruguay, and Chile came to Israel on a four-day solidarity trip last week. The trip was organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), which was founded in 2019 to fight antisemitism worldwide.

The delegation’s visit was overseen by CAM Advisory Board for Latin America Chair Pilar Rahola and CAM Director of Hispanic Affairs Shay Salamon.

In Israel, the Latin American delegation toured the communities that were devasted by Hamas during the Oct. 7 massacre, including the Nova Music Festival site, Kibbutz Nir Oz. Sderot, and Ofakim, where they met with Mayor Yitzhak Danino. The delegates spoke to the relatives of the murdered victims and visited the Hostages and Missing Families Forum Center in Tel Aviv, where they met with Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir.

The Latin American leaders also met with Israeli diplomats at the Israeli Foreign Ministry and held meetings with United Hatzalah, a volunteer-based emergency medical services organization that helped save lives IN Issrael on Oct. 7.

The visit reportedly made a deep impression on the participants, most of whom had never visited Israel before and had little knowledge about the conflict.  

“We were always told that Israel was the root of the problem. But when you come here, you see that it’s not the case. You realize the truth is different,” said Jose Anibal Flores Ayal, mayor of La Paz, Honduras, at the end of the trip.

“Most people in Latin America only get to learn about what is happening in Israel through news outlets or social media, but never get the full picture,” he added.

Salamon observed that Latin America was undergoing a concerning transformation in terms of rising antisemitism.

“The political transformations we see across Europe have not bypassed Latin America. Even in countries that have traditionally stood by Israel, we note with great concern a change in rhetoric on the part of their elected leaders," said Salamon. 

"The visit of governors and mayors from countries like Chile and Honduras in such challenging days shows the desire for continued cooperation at the municipal level and the burning need to fight the rising antisemitism in Latin America,” he added.  

He said that finding participants to join the delegation was a challenge.

“We sent out over 200 invitations to officials to join this trip, using all of our personal connections,” Salamon said. “It was very sad to see that most of the responses were negative, justified with all sorts of excuses, or only because ‘the situation is complicated.’”

“In these moments, you feel disappointed and you wonder who your real friends are. There are mayors that I have known for years who turned a cold shoulder. It hurts,” he added.

Carla Britannia Garcia Borace, the governor of the Panamá district, the administrative area that includes the capital of the Central American Republic, Panama City said the trip had opened her eyes to the realities of life in Israel.  

“Now we know first-hand what Israelis have to live with,” she said. “We didn’t know that people here can get an incoming rocket alert on their mobile phones at any time, and they have to run for a public shelter. We were all deeply shocked.”

She was astonished by the devastation of the Kibbutz Nir Oz at the brutality of Hamas terrorists.

“They did not care about whether their victims were children, adults, elderly or disabled people, even when they saw their panicked faces and heard their screams. They just killed them, raped them, abducted them,” Borace said.

“People around the world can have distinct political ideologies and religions, but we need to find a way to have a conversation in a framework of dialogue and understanding. We can never tolerate violence,” she added.

Delegation of elected officials from Latin America on a solidarity visit to the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nir Oz, organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement, March 11, 2024 (Photo courtesy CAM)

Honduran Mayor Flores Aya said she would speak up for Israelis on her return to Honduras. 

“When I’m back home, I will be a mouthpiece for Israelis. I will tell people they are very industrious I will speak about the constant tension they live under, and their desire to live in peace. They deserve it. I hope this delegation is not the only one that will come here,” she said. 

Antisemitism in Latin America has grown exponentially, becoming a “daily occurrence” since Oct. 7, Salamon noted.

“It’s something we’d never seen before,” he said and noted that deliberate media assault after the attack.

“Even though we had good tools, the physical assault in the south of Israel came accompanied by a media assault that had been in the making far ahead of October 7. It was not improvised, we know there were bots in Iran and Russia plotting it in parallel with the physical onslaught,” Salamon asserted.

At a recent hearing in the U.S. Congress, the rise in antisemitism in Latin America was described as an “explosion.”

In Brazil alone, there has been a 1,000% increase in antisemitic attacks in the last few months.

In February, the current president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, compared the IDF's military operation in Gaza against the Hamas terrorist group, with Nazi Germany.

In February, Brazilian president Lula da Silva likened the IDF's military operation in Gaza against the Hamas terrorist group to Nazi Germany.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people does not exist at any other historical moment,” said Lula last month, “except when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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