ADL Outraged by Anti-Semitic Conspiracies Circulating in Connection with Tragic Fire in Chilean Patagonia

New York, NY, January 5, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed outrage over the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories circulating on Chilean web sites blaming Jews and the State of Israel for “deliberately setting” the tragic fire in the environmental preserve of Torres del Paine Park in the Chilean Patagonia.

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire and an Israeli tourist was questioned by authorities.  He has denied any involvement in starting the fire.  Hate-filled comments have been posted on Chilean news web sites linking the fires to a 19th century anti-Semitic conspiracy theory known as the “Andinia Plan.”  The conspiracy theory suggests Jews want to gain control of the land in the Patagonia region and are carrying out that plan by destroying the ecological preserve.

Fueling the latest conspiracy theories were remarks by Senator Eugenio Tuma, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chilean Senate and member of the Party for Democracy, who blamed Israel for financing and sending military personnel to the Chilean Patagonia as therapy for post-traumatic stress associated with their belligerence against the Palestinians.  Congressman Fuad Chahin, a member of the Christian Democratic Party, posted a comment on Twitter questioning whether the alleged perpetrator was indeed a tourist and suggesting that he was sent by the State of Israel after “killing Palestinian children.”

There have also been reports that some local hostels are now carrying signs that read “no Israelis allowed,” and of a televised hearing where people shouted anti-Jewish expletives. 

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

The outrageous and bigoted scapegoating of Jews and Israel in the Patagonian fires needs to stop right now.  Irrespective of whether or not the Israeli individual was responsible for the fire, there is absolutely no justification for these kinds of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories have absolutely no place in Chilean society and no place in the blame game that’s being waged in the aftermath of the fires. It is shocking that the fires are breathing new life into age-old conspiracy theories about Jews wanting to take over Patagonian land, and it is even more troubling that some of these anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are apparently being fueled and spread online by members of the Chilean parliament who hold positions of authority. Once again, at a time of tragedy, we see that anti-Semitism is being brought to the surface in Chilean society, and it is the responsibility of Chile’s leadership to speak out and to condemn it forthrightly as unacceptable.

We welcome the statements made by the Presidents of the Party for Democracy and the Christian Democratic Party who distanced themselves from the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements made by the parliamentarians belonging to their parties.  We urge other politicians and civic leaders to speak out so that anti-Semitism does not rule the day.

We express solidarity to the Jewish community of Chile and stand by them in calling on the Chilean parliament to pass anti-discrimination laws that would provide a legislative platform to condemn these anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.