Why Latin America Turned

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Israelis can be excused for wondering why Brazil and Argentina unexpectedly announced they recognize an independent Palestinian state with its capital city in Israel’s capital city. Israelis can be forgiven for being taken by surprise by their move and by the prospect that Uruguay, and perhaps Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and El Salvador, will be following in their footsteps because the Israeli media have failed to report on developing trends in Latin America.

 

And this is not surprising. The media fail to report on almost all the developing trends impacting the world. For instance, when the Turkish government sent Hamas supporters to challenge the IDF’s maritime blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza coastline, the media were surprised that Israel’s ally Turkey had suddenly become Hamas’s ally and Israel’s enemy.

 

Their failure to report on Turkey’s gradual transformation into an Islamic supremacist state caused the media to treat what was a culmination of a trend as a shocking new development.

 

The same is now happening with Latin America.

 

Whereas in Turkey, the media failed only to report on the significance of the singular trend of Islamization of Turkish society, the media have consistently ignored the importance for Israel of three trends that made Latin America’s embrace of the Palestinians against Israel eminently predictable.

 

Those trends are the rise of Hugo Chavez, the regional influence of the Venezuela-Iran alliance, and the cravenness of US foreign policy towards Latin America and the Middle East. When viewed as a whole they explain why Latin American states are lining up to support the Palestinians. More importantly, they tell us something about how Israel should be acting.

 

OVER THE past decade Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has inherited Fidel Castro’s mantel as the head of the Latin American anti-American club. He has used Venezuela’s oil wealth, drug money and other illicit fortunes to draw neighboring states into his orbit and away from the US. Chavez’s circle of influence now includes Cuba and Nicaragua, Bolivia, Uruguay and Ecuador as well as Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Peru. Democracies like Colombia and Chile are also taking steps in Chavez’s anti-American direction.

 

Chavez’s choice of Iran is no fluke although it seemed like one to some when the alliance first arose around 2004. Iran’s footprint in Latin America has grown gradually. Beginning in the 1980s, Iran started using Latin America as a forward base of operations against the US and the West. It deployed Hizbullah and Revolutionary Guards operatives and other intelligence and terror assets along the largely ungoverned tri-border area between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. That staging ground in turn enabled Iran to bomb Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s.

 

Iran’s presence on the continent allowed it to take advantage of Chavez’s consolidation of power. Since taking office in 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has developed strategic alliances with Venezuela and Nicaragua.

 

With Chavez’s assistance, Teheran is expanding its web of alliances throughout Latin America at the expense of the US and Israel.

 

On the face of it, Chavez and Ahmadinejad seem like an odd couple. One is a Marxist and the other is a messianic jihadist. But on closer inspection it makes perfect sense. They share the same obsessions with hating the US and loving power.

 

Chavez has demonstrated his commitment to maintaining power by crushing his opponents, taking control over the judiciary and media, amending the constitution and repeatedly stealing elections.

 

Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks sabotage campaign against the US gave us a first person account of the magnitude of Ahmadinejad’s electoral fraud.

 

In a cable from the US Embassy in Turkmenistan dated 15 June 2009, or three days after Ahmadinejad stole the Iranian presidential elections, the embassy reported a conversation with an Iranian source regarding the true election results. The Iranian source referred to the poll as a “coup d’etat.”

 

The regime declared Ahmadinejad the winner with 63% of the vote. According to the Iranian source, he received less than a fifth of that amount. As the cable put it, “based on calculations from [opponent Mir Hossain] Mousavi’s campaign observers who were present at polling stations around the country and who witnessed the vote counts, Mousavi received approximately 26 million (or 61%) of the 42 million votes cast in Friday’s election, followed by Mehdi Karroubi (10-12 million)…. Ahmadinejad received ‘a maximum of 4-5 million votes,’ with the remainder going to Mohsen Rezai.”

 

There is no fence-sitting along the Iran-Israel divide. Latin American countries that embrace Iran always do so to the detriment of their ties with Israel. Bolivia and Venezuela cut their diplomatic ties with Israel in January 2009 after siding with Hamas in Operation Cast Lead. In comments reported on the Hudson New York website, Ricardo Udler, the president of the small Bolivian Jewish community, said there is a direct correlation between Bolivia’s growing ties with Iran and its animosity towards Israel. In his words, “Each time an Iranian official arrives in Bolivia there are negative comments against the State of Israel and soon after, the Bolivian authorities issue a communiqué against the Jewish state.”

 

Udler also warned that, “there is information from international agencies that indicate that uranium from Bolivia and Venezuela is being shipped to Iran.”

 

That was in October. With Iran it appears that if you’re in for an inch you’re in for a mile. This month we learned that Venezuela and Iran are jointly deploying intermediate range ballistic missiles in Venezuela that will be capable of targeting US cities.

 

THERE IS no doubt that the Venezuelan-Iranian alliance and its growing force in Latin America go a long way towards explaining South America’s sudden urge to recognize “Palestine.” But there is more to the story.

 

The final trend that the media in Israel have failed to notice is the impact that US foreign policy in South America and the Middle East alike has had on the positions of nations like Brazil and Argentina towards Israel. During the Bush administration, US Latin America policy was an incoherent bundle of contradictions. On the one hand, the US failed to assist Chavez’s opponents overthrow him when they had a chance in 2004. The US similarly failed to support Nicaraguan democrats in their electoral fight against Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in the 2007 elections. On the other hand, the US did foster strong alliances with Colombia and Chile.

 

Under the Obama administration, US Latin American policy has become more straightforward. The US has turned its back on its allies and is willing to humiliate itself in pursuit of its adversaries.

 

In April 2009 US President Barack Obama sat through a 50-minute anti-American rant by Ortega at the Summit of the Americas. He then sought out Chavez for a photo-op. In his own address Obama distanced himself from US history, saying, “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations.”

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Unfortunately, Obama’s attempted appeasement hasn’t done any good. Nicaragua invaded neighboring Costa Rica last month along the San Juan River. Ortega’s forces are dredging the river as part of an Iranian-sponsored project to build a canal along the Isthmus of Nicaragua that will rival the Panama Canal.

 

Even Obama’s ambassador in Managua admits that Ortega remains deeply hostile to the US. In a cable from February illicitly published by WikiLeaks, Ambassador Robert Callahan argued that Ortega’s charm offensive towards the US was “unlikely to portend a new, friendly Ortega with whom we can work in the long-term.”

 

It is not simply the US’s refusal to defend itself against the likes of Chavez that provokes the likes of Brazil’s President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva and Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to embrace Chavez and Iran.

 

They are also responding the US’s signals towards Iran and Israel.

 

Obama’s policy of engaging and sanctioning Iran has no chance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And just like the Arabs and the Europeans, the South Americans know it. There is no doubt that at least part of Lula’s reason for signing onto a nuclear deal with Ahmadinejad and Turkey’s Reccip Erdogan last spring was his certainty that the US has no intention of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear arms.

 

From Lula’s perspective, there is no reason to participate in the US charade of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. He might as well be on the winning side. And since Obama doesn’t mind Iran winning, Iran will win.

 

THE SAME rules apply for Israel. Like the Europeans, the Arabs, the Asians and everyone else, the Latin Americans have clearly noted that Obama’s only consistent foreign policy goal is his aim of forcing Israel to accept a hostile Palestinian state and surrender all the land it took control over in 1967 to the likes of PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. They see that Obama has refused to rule out the possibility of recognizing a Palestinian state even if that state is declared without a peace treaty with Israel. That is, Obama is unwilling to commit himself to not recognizing a Palestinian state that will be in a de facto state of war with Israel.

 

The impression that Obama is completely committed to the Palestinian cause was reinforced this week rather than weakened with the cancellation of the Netanyahu-Clinton deal regarding the banning of Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. The deal was to see Israel banning Jewish construction for an additional 90 days, in exchange for a US pledge not to ask for any further bans; to support Israel at the UN Security Council for a limited time against a Palestinian push to declare independence without peace; and to sell Israel an additional 20 F-35 fighter jets sometime in the future.

 

It came apart because Obama was unwilling to put Clinton’s commitments – meager as they were – in writing. That is, the deal fell through because Obama wouldn’t make even a minimal pledge to maintain the US’s alliance with Israel.

 

This policy signals to the likes of Brazil and Argentina and Uruguay that they might as well go with Chavez and Iran and turn their backs on Israel. No one will thank them if they lag behind the US in their pro-Iran, anti-Israel policies. And by moving ahead of the US, they get the credit due to those who stick their fingers in Washington’s eye.

 

When we understand the trends that led to Latin America’s hostile act against Israel, we realize two things. First, while Israel might have come up with a way to delay the action, it probably couldn’t have prevented it. And second, given the US policy trajectory, it is again obvious that the only one Israel can rely on to defend its interests – against Iran and the Palestinians alike – is Israel.

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 
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10 Comments

  • Marcel 12/10/2010 at 13:49

    It was written many many millenium ago.
    The whole world turns,but always remember; ISRAEL plus God are an unbeatable majority.
    ‘From Lula’s perspective, there is no reason to participate in the US charade of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.’
    C.G.
    Israel has wasted 17 years and allowed itself to be continually restrained and weakened while the threat’s from within and without have grown one thousand fold, all by following the US led peace charade.
    It seems Lula lives in the real world as opposed to Israel’s fantasy world which still revolves around her Washington pimps of abuse and treachery where peace is not to be found.
    Why does the prostitute not leave her pimp is the $64 thousand dollar question ?
    It is again obvious that the only one Israel can rely on to defend its interests – against Iran and the Palestinians alike – is Israel. C.G.
    Israel has forgotten how to defend her interests as she has spent her heart and soul defending the interests of her inglorious American pimps by cutting off needed body parts for nothing.
    Israel is now rewarded for her incredible loyalty to the Empire and it’s Doctrine of Delusions.
    Welcome back to the real world where ISRAEL’s God lays out the only Foreign Policy agenda which matters:
    “I will gather all the nations And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat
    Then I will enter into judgment with them there
    On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,
    Whom they have scattered among the nations;
    And they have divided up My land.”
    Joel 3:2
    “Therefore [earnestly] wait for Me, says the Lord, [waiting] for the day when I rise up to the attack [as a witness, accuser, judge, and a testimony].For My decision and determination and right it is to gather the nations together, to assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them My indignation, even all [the heat of] My fierce anger; for [in that day] all the earth shall be consumed with the fire of My zeal and jealousy.”
    Zephaniah 3:8
    Only when Israel arises to her calling from God as a Prince and throws off the failed and cursed secular Jewish vision and drive to appease His enemies will the tide turn.

    Reply
  • Amy 12/10/2010 at 15:43

    Caroline, I lived in Latin America for a few years and I can assure you that Jews and Israel are not well liked there. Iran’s influence is simply intensifying their antipathy and making it more overt. That’s all.
    They hate the US, and the perception that the US and Israel are on the same camp gives them the political excuse to oppose Israel.
    Another point: You say, quite accurately, that the Israeli media are not good at gauging other countries’ attitudes towards Israel. Some of them are still in denial that the US government has turned against Israel.
    We can go even further and say that some Israelis are quite clueless about their own “partners in peace”, their feelings, their intentions, and the inevitable chaos that will ensue if they are given a state of their own.
    Some Israelis are so out of touch with security threats within their own country that in the aftermath of that giant conflagration in the Carmel region they turned their rage on the religious Jews! The news and Op Ed pages were filled with animosity against the Orthodox, but strangely silent regarding the arsonists themselves. Go figure!

    Reply
  • Sue 12/10/2010 at 18:39

    A line has been drawn in the sand. The God of Israel is asking the nations- and individuals- “On which side of this line will you stand, for Israel or against her? Make your decision.” We are watching the nations make their choice, lining up against Israel. Watch. The God of Israel has no intention of letting this go unanswered. Israel, take heart. Be fully encouraged to stand tall and know that the God of Israel is on your side.

    Reply
  • Charles Smyth 12/10/2010 at 18:43

    Looking on the bright side: A lack of US commitment to choose sides, leaves Israel in the perfect position to take preemptive measures against Iran, and push through with intensity, to establish a Greater Israel hegemony in the region. The UK has an aircraft carrier and a bunch of Harrier jump-jets, going cheap. Seize the day!

    Reply
  • pkskymt 12/11/2010 at 16:02

    Latin America is Catholic. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the “left” or the “right” in Latin America, you are going to be Catholic first and Israel doesn’t have any friends in the Catholic countries any more than it has friends in the Muslim ones.
    And it’s hard to see where there have ever been any allies of the US in Latin America either. The only time we were ever worried about Latin America was when it was a playing piece for the advancement of global communism as sponsered by the Soviet Union. And the opponents to communism we sponsored in Latin America were not any better than the communists, in some cases they were worse. In many cases, they were drug barons, a role largely commanded now by the militant left, who really have nothing else left to do.
    I can’t believe that Argentina isn’t at the back of the mind of many Israelis. Recall that Argentina is popularaly understood as a target for immigration for Nazis fleeing the fall of Nazi Germany. Legend has it that Hitler himself faked his suicide and spent his last years there.
    And you naglect an obvious connection between Venezuela and Iran, which is oil. They probably have a lot to talk about regarding oil production and pricing and maybe even Iran’s need for refining and refined petroleum products. Notice also the absence of cultural aggression by Islam in Latin America. The only place that Islam is able to be aggressively expansionist is in Protestant countries, or secular countries like France, any place where the Catholic Church has ever considered itself to be confronted in some way. Mosques spring up like mushrooms in places in Europe and the US, but we aren’t hearing about anything like that in Latin America.

    Reply
  • marcel 12/11/2010 at 18:51

    ‘They hate the US, and the perception that the US and Israel are on the same camp gives them the political excuse to oppose Israel.’
    Israel seems to be the last nation to understand what God is doing and why.
    When God turns against a nation,it’s all over except for the funeral.
    “Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
    You are greatly despised.
    3″The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,
    You who live in the clefts of the rock,
    In the loftiness of your dwelling place,
    Who say in your heart,
    ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’
    4″Though you build high like the eagle,
    Though you set your nest among the stars,
    From there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.
    15For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations
    As you have done, it will be done to you
    Your dealings will return on your own head.
    16″Because just as you drank on My holy mountain,
    All the nations will drink continually.
    They will drink and swallow
    And become as if they had never existed.
    17″But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape,
    And it will be holy And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions.
    18″Then the house of Jacob will be a fire
    And the house of Joseph a flame;
    But the house of Esau will be as stubble
    And they will set them on fire and consume them,
    So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,”
    For the LORD has spoken.
    Obadiah 1

    Reply
  • naomir 12/11/2010 at 21:54

    Shavuah tov Caroline. What you write is old news only more of it and increasingly ominous. Trying to appease our enemies has only brought us disrespect and threats of annihilation. Israel’s best offense is to act in her own defense always keeping in mind that G-d is beside us always.

    Reply
  • Tuvia 12/12/2010 at 6:38

    In her essay, Column One: Why Latin America Turned, Dec 10, 2010, Ms Glick looks at decisions and actions of some Latin American leaders as they have apparently chosen to recognize ‘Palestine’ as an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. She believes that the Israeli media has failed to report on developing trends in Latin America. She believes also that Israel’s media fail to report other developing international trends.
    Reaction to her column seems to focus exclusively on her topic—Latin America’s growing animus towards the US and Israel.
    Personally, I wonder about Ms. Glick’s other concern– the media.
    Yes, the Israeli press could be better.
    Right now, Latin America is not the only topic that seems to be regularly ignored here: as Ms Glick suggests, there appears to be no one consistently and predictably tracking UN, EU, UK, and Russian diplomatic and economic developments on a daily or weekly basis, in a format that is easily recognizable as one dedicated to that/those topic(s). Instead, what we get is the headline, ‘Today the you-know-what has just hit the fan. Here’s the story.’
    Such headlines do indeed grab one’s attention–modern adults seem not to have outgrown their pre-pubescent fascination with the scatological– but they also provoke Ms Glick’s criticism: all we see in our media is ‘after-the-fact-look-at–that-blood-on-the-floor’ reporting.
    With Israel facing the kind of existential threat it currently faces, perhaps such after-the-fact drama isn’t a ‘best practice’ standard.
    The good news is, no one has to re-invent the wheel to improve; and, more important, it is not too late to change.
    Even if one were to focus only on web news reporting, we can see that change is both inexpensive and doable. After all, I believe that we all understand that an on-line news outlet has enormous range, virtually little or no space limitations, and an almost infinite ability to feed news into pre-established news ‘silos’ that could be labelled however one pleases– UN or EU or US or Latin America or Russia or India, etc.
    I see no reason why a paper, especially a paper in electronic format, should avoid having a daily (or even three days a week) architecture to load news into each of these silos. In today’s internet world, the Jerusalem Post can easily develop a format(based on its pre-existing web superstructure)so that all of us can learn what’s going on in each of these news areas.
    The number of silos available is practically without limit.
    This is not rocket science. Each silo could be written in a ‘news brief’ format, with small, perhaps 75 -200 word summaries about what’s happening on the diplomatic, economic and religious fronts in each of these ‘news areas’.
    This architecture even works with the print medium.
    The paper can choose from a variety of topics:
    -internal political developments in selected countries;
    -anti-semitic attacks;
    -pro-Israel happenings;
    -new trade agreements signed or cancelled;
    -what’s going on in the NGO world—who’s going where, saying what, to whom;
    -what Israel-related issue is the UN talking about or meeting about this week (and what are they saying, who’s participating, etc);
    -which diplomats in which countries have signed what agreements between whom, today;
    -what are Muslim activists around the world doing.
    It’s possible that, properly done, this format could make the Jerusalem Post a premier international news outlet, helping to make diplomatic and economic intercourse more transparent. The format would certainly make it premier in Israel.
    Only the Post’s imagination and news-gathering technology would limit the number of topics they track.
    If the Post wants to be seen as an international paper, they can do so easily. They can develop a reputation for bringing information to us from all over the world, on current news and on ‘backround’ stories that might have a larger impact in the future. For example, who is Iran talking to now, which Iranian ambassador is going where today or, who is Russia meeting with ,or, what is Israel scientific technology doing to help wean us from dependence on oil. etc.
    Then, of course, there is the biggest future news of all—China.
    Which major news outlet in Israel is presenting day-to-day snippets of news from China that might be of interest to Israel and the West?
    Are we to conclude that, because we see so little ongoing reporting from and about China, that there is no news at all from China?
    If Ms Glick is concerned that we in Israel will see more shocks because of poor media ‘performance’, one need think only about the Goliath of the East: if you want a real surprise, we should therefore make every effort to continue to make believe that China is that expensive dishware you order for the young bride, instead of what it really is–the financial underwriter and (possibly) future owner of America, Inc.
    This format is, simply enough, news reporting at its most basic.
    There need be no extra opinion pieces—the Post already has those; no new editorials—the Post already has those, too; and the Post would need no new technologies to purchase—it already has what it needs to run a news website.
    It’s just basic, ‘here’s what we see today’ reporting with, one might add, additional pages for advertising.
    Of course, this format may not fully address Ms Glick’s concerns (for example, her criticism may be referring to analysis, not reportage), but I believe that this approach would be a good start, one that is not extraordinarily expensive to implement.
    As Israel faces a world that appears increasingly hostile, don’t Post readers have a right to see what’s happening around that world?
    Perhaps Ms Glick is right. Maybe the Israel media can improve.

    Reply
  • Amy 12/12/2010 at 23:08

    YOUR SPEECH AT HEBRON
    Dear Caroline, I just watched the video of your speech at Hebron. It was posted by David Wilder on his Israel National News blog, and also on Hebron’s web page.
    It was powerful and inspiring.
    This video deserves a column of its own, Caroline.
    I encourage everyone to watch it at either of these sites.
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Blogs/Blog.aspx/9
    http://www.hebron.com/english/gallery.php?id=374
    Thank you, Caroline, for everything you’re doing.

    Reply
  • Leib 12/13/2010 at 23:13

    One missing piece is the role of Russia which is Venezuela’s patron and Iran’s patron. The activities in the Middle EAst and Latin America are part of Russia’s moves on the global chess board. The START treaty is another key element as that treaty if supported by the Senate will give escalation dominance at the nuclear level to Russia (tactical weapons and ICBMs since Russia under Yeltsin deployed the Topol and Putin deployed the mobile Topol M while the US has done nothing to modernize its nuclear forces and the treaty will slow down or halt US missile defense work). The Russians have been moving on our strategic rear since 1960 but accelerated its activities in the 1990s. See Lawrence Kohn in Midstream Dec 2000 Russia, Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority.

    Reply

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