While Palestinians have no state, one of their diaspora members in Chile has a chance of winning the presidential elections in November, according to polls.

The consequences of decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine are many. From expulsions to home raids, torture and imprisonment, Palestinians live a life full of dangers and many end up leaving their homeland behind to build a new life away from brutal violence Israel has been carrying out to erase the Palestinian identity. 

Daniel Jadue's existence as a Palestinian-Chilean politician is largely shaped by his Palestinian heritage. Chances are high that Jadue might win Chile’s November presidential elections, according to recent polls. The success of people like Jadue, a communist, who has been a fierce defender of Palestinian rights and statehood since his college days, indicates that no matter how many Palestinians are driven out of their homes by occupational forces, their migration makes the case for an independent Palestinian state stronger than Israel and its founders could have ever imagined. 

Israel’s founders and their allies have long espoused the idea of driving Palestinians out of their homes with the ultimate aim of changing the demographics of the Holy Land by populating it with Jewish people. 

But Jadue's rise in Chile's national politics reflects that his political views were shaped by the idea of justice, which in his case is rooted in the Palestinian struggle for independence. 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jadue was the president of General Union of Palestinian Students. As a Palestinian independence activist, he later became the general coordinator of the Palestinian Youth Organization of Latin America and the Caribbean. 

In the picture, Daniel Jadue, Chile's presidential hopeful of Palestinian descent, plays dabke, a traditional folk dance popular among Palestinians.
In the picture, Daniel Jadue, Chile's presidential hopeful of Palestinian descent, plays dabke, a traditional folk dance popular among Palestinians. (Vijay Prashad/Daniel Jadue / Mondoweiss)

His relationship with Palestine is not based on his cultural interest but it informs his worldview. 

“If you are Palestinian, but if you don’t know which side of the wall you are on, then you are not Palestinian,” he said, during an extensive interview this month, referring to Israel’s erection of the wall to separate the West Bank from Jerusalem. His position on the conflict is clear — that Israel is an aggressor which needs to be called out for its draconian measures against Palestinians. 

After an emotional trip to Palestine in 2009, he wrote a book, Palestine: Chronicle of a Siege, recounting his ancestral land’s tragic separation from the world. 

Now, as the presidential elections in November approach, he will be one of the biggest contenders to win the top office with the strong support he receives from the country’s leftist movements. 

Who is Jadue? 

Jadue’s Palestinian ancestors arrived to the South American country in the first half of the 20th century when Israeli occupation in Palestine forced many Palestinians to flee, seeking refuge in safe areas like Chile.

Outside of Middle Eastern countries, Chile hosts the biggest Palestinian community in the world. Most of them are Christians like Jadue’s ancestors, who were originally from the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian enclave. Jadue’s Arabic name is Faruk. 

Like Jadue, Chile’s powerful Palestinian community continues to have a deep connection with its motherland. The country’s football culture is a testament to those ties. During recent escalations in Palestine, Club Deportivo Palestino, a premier league team established by Palestinian immigrants in 1920, paid its respects to the resistance, donning keffiyehs, a traditional Palestinian headgear, before the kick-off in May. 

Players of Club Deportivo Palestino wore keffiyehs to show their solidarity with Palestine before the match against Colo-Colo in Santiago in 8 May, 2021.
Players of Club Deportivo Palestino wore keffiyehs to show their solidarity with Palestine before the match against Colo-Colo in Santiago in 8 May, 2021. (Francisco Longa / Twitter/@CDPalestinoSADP)

Jadue studied both engineering and sociology. He showed great interest in socio-political issues in his early years of youth. He eventually became a professor at the Architecture and Urban Sociology at the University of Chile. He has run a number of projects on both urban development and community management, garnering a lot of experiences and knowledge on unemployment and poverty. 

After some unsuccessful attempts in his political bids in the 2000s, he finally won the race for the mayor of Recoleta, a working-class district in the capital, Santiago, in 2012, partly thanks to the endorsement of a left-wing coalition. Since then, the 53-year-old politician has been the district’s mayor. 

Among other public projects, he has been particularly credited for successfully running a public pharmacy program, in which people can receive affordable medication from the municipality-run drugstores. 

Political views

While Jadue is a member of the Communist Party of Chile, he is also critical of past communist conduct under the Soviet Union, which he describes as both a "state capitalism" and a "brutal failure". He thinks the private sector needs to exist, but fair competition should also be ensured by government’s monitoring institutions. 

In some sectors like the nation’s pension system, copper, and water, he defends nationalisation. In other sectors, he also defends an increasing role of government institutions. 

On taxes, he is also a big defender of taxing the rich, seeing it as a moral necessity. "We need a country that ensures a decent life, it cannot be that families have to go into debt to be able to eat," he said in April. 

But for Jadue’s opponents, his views of Israel matters much more than his economic vision on taxes or nationalisation. Pro-Israeli groups have long accused that his views regarding Israeli occupation of Palestine amount to anti-Semitism. 

Last month, when Israel attacked Gaza and enabled expulsions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, Jadue organised a protest in front of the Israeli embassy in Santiago, shaking Chile’s Jewish community. 

Members of the Palestinian community in Chile are seen during a peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstration in Santiago, Chile, April 3, 2002. The poster reads
Members of the Palestinian community in Chile are seen during a peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstration in Santiago, Chile, April 3, 2002. The poster reads "Chile is in Solidarity with the Palestinian People," and "For Life and Peace in Palestine." (Santiago Llanquin) / AP Archive)

Last month, when Israel attacked Gaza and enabled expulsions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, Jadue organised a protest in front of the Israeli embassy in Santiago, shaking Chile’s Jewish community. 

He is also a strong supporter of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel. His use of the word ‘Zionist’ to describe pro-Israeli groups angered some Jewish human rights groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which put him in its yearly list of top ten worst antisemites last year. 

“Using municipal funds to finance pro-BDS and anti-Israel activities, Mayor Jadue targets the Jewish community with pernicious smears echoing the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’” the organization said on its website. 

Pro-Israeli groups have a tendency to label people or organisations, who support the BDS, as anti-Semites. While they have been also annoyed by the use of the word Zionism, the official ideology of Israel is Zionism, a version of secular Jewish nationalism. 

Interestingly, Chile’s Jewish community leaders find Jadue’s description of the country’s Jews as Zionist offensive, according to a report by Haaretz. But later in the report, one of the leaders said that “almost 99 percent” of an estimated 18,000 Jews living in Chile “identify” themselves “as Zionists”. 

For others, who think that Israeli conduct in Palestine amounts to acts of an Apartheid regime, his criticism of Tel Aviv is a fair evaluation of what’s going on across the Holy Land. 

"It is inconceivable that critique towards the State of Israel, which has created a reality of apartheid in the occupied territory, be understood as a form of antisemitism," a group of Jewish academics and organizations said in a statement in December last year, backing Jadue’s political positions. 

Jadue distances himself from antisemitism. Despite having some issues “with Zionists”, Jadue previously said that he gets “along very well with Jews”.   

“There is nothing in my history to suggest anything like antisemitism,” he said in another interview. “You cannot be for human rights outside Palestine and against human rights for the Palestinians.”

Source: TRT World