'Chilestinian' resistance: how Chile became home to half a million Palestinians

Chileans are taking to the streets to call for Palestine's liberation

Chileans protest for Palestinian liberation
Thousands of people with Palestinian heritage live in the Latin American nation
(Image credit: Cristobal Basaure Araya/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Despite being separated by more than 8,000 miles and a vast ocean, Chile has become one of the most vocal Palestinian supporters. 

The Andean nation is "home to the largest Palestinian population outside of the Middle East", Al Jazeera reported. An estimated 500,000 Chilean citizens can trace their lineage back to the state. 

The Gazan conflict has "hit close to home" for Chileans, who have "threaded" Palestinian culture into their everyday lives. This group of invested Chileans, and their allies, are now putting increased pressure on their government to act.

'Roots run deep'

Chile has become one of the "loudest regional voices" in Latin America condemning Israel's bombardment of Gaza, said NBC

"Roots run deep" in Chile for the Palestinian community, with immigration to the nation beginning in the late 19th century, "when Christians fled the faltering Ottoman Empire", the broadcaster explained.

Despite most Chileans with Palestinian heritage identifying as Christian, this in "no way diminishes the national feeling" of support for the majority-Muslim state, the Morning Star said.

Support for Palestinians has extended outside of Chilean politics, seeping into other influential spheres in the South American nation. 

Grammy-nominated artist Ana Tijoux has been involved in fundraising through "one of the country's largest pro-Palestinian rallies to date". The nation's "history of violence and displacement" resonates with her, said Al Jazeera.

Football also plays a "major role in the 'Chilestinian' community", said Scene Arabia in 2019. And this is manifested in the Palestino football team, which has been "their voice" since 1948. 

The club's place in the Chilean Primera Division provides an opportunity to "braid together Palestinian activism with football fandom", said Al Jazeera. The club's colours of red, white, black and green reflect the Palestinian flag.  

Community 'clamoring' for a ceasefire

The "visibility" of Chile's Palestinians "in some of the highest government offices" has impacted foreign policy in recent weeks. "Powerful" pressure groups are urging the government to act on Palestinian "human rights", with the public conversation taking a "more long-term historical perspective", reported Foreign Policy's Catherine Osborn. 

This ultimately resulted in the nation's President Gabriel Boric speaking out to not only condemn Hamas, but also the "indiscriminate attacks against civilians carried out by the Israeli army in Gaza". The nation has also withdrawn its ambassador from Israel.

But for Chilean Palestinians, the fight will not stop until the people of Palestine are liberated. The community is "clamoring" for a ceasefire, said NBC, holding rallies and pushing for boycotts, as the conflict continues.

In an act of unity, Georges Abed, a Syrian-born priest in central Santiago, "the original landing zone for Palestinians in Chile", invited Chilean Muslims and the Palestinian ambassador to his mass. At the service, "keffiyehs, hijabs and Palestinian flags were sprinkled throughout the pews".

"Though we are completely separate geographically," ambassador Vera Baboun told the network, "you feel their presence, their connection to the land."

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