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2018 Annual Assessment

Anti-Zionism together with the de-legitimization of Israel has become an expanded “transnational ideological package” that symbolizes and codifies the struggle against globalization and U.S. hegemony, so dominant in Latin America. Lately, it has incorporated the narrative and concepts of colonialism (occupation= conquest=domination) relating its meaning to the history of the continent. Post-modern and post-colonial motives co-exist with renewed struggles for modernization.

Anti-Zionism has become a mobilization myth for action and political identification of the anti-globalization left in both local and transnational public spheres. Unlike the balanced criticism of Israel from some Latin American governments, anti-Zionism is a radical mobilization myth of local social movements that combat U.S. globalization and also Israel, perceived as a rogue state refusing to afford legitimacy to the Palestinian national aspirations. This has been augmented by a more open anti-Semitism by right-wing xenophobic groups. While these developments lead to new convergences between seemingly different and even opposing actors – left and right – important progress has been made in the legal measures adopted and applied in combating anti-Semitism.

In a more general vein, one has to point out that Iran has been involved in an active quest for allies in the region to countervail the international community’s pressure against its development of nuclear capabilities. In the recent years, following the elections of left-oriented leaders in the region, Iran has intensified its efforts to find governments sympathetic to its cause. Benefiting from the anti-American climate and discourse, as well as from the recurrent search of a realignment in the region, Iran has extended its trade and energy ventures to create increasingly strategic relations with Latin American governments. Venezuela represents the most extreme and conspicuous case, where convergences in bolstering oil prices by controlling production volume has projected itself into the political arena. Its current crisis has weakened this trend. While Brazil has also developed joint ventures with Iran, its relationship focuses only on economic goals, not endorsing the latter’s “anti-imperialist” position.

Following the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Guatemala and Paraguay were the first Latin American countries to follow suit. The importance of this step should be evaluated in the light of the historical role the region played in the UN deliberations leading to Resolution 181, which approved the partition of Palestine. Out of the then-57 member-countries, 20 were Latin American, which constituted the major bloc. Of them, 13 voted affirmatively, 6 abstained, and only one (Cuba) voted against.

The role played then by the Jewish communities in order to mobilize the governments and societies, and the attention Jewish National bodies (WZO and JAFI) directed to government and communities were determinate.

There was some expectation that Colombia, a close ally of Israel in Latin America, would also move its embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, in a surprising move, the outgoing president of Colombia, Juan Manual Santos, recognized Palestine as a sovereign state. Colombia’s present government, headed by President Duque, is currently reviewing this decision.

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