Quō vādis, Palestinians; envious of your brethren in Chile yet?

Op-Ed: Chile has the largest Palestinian Arab community outside the Middle East – 500,000 out of nearly 18 million – where they have prospered & successfully integrated into all avenues of society, yet 2.5 million of their mid-east brethren, destined to be manipulated, exploited and punished to yet another generation of indoctrination,  suffer as puppets to their kleptocratic leaders, who perpetuate the status quo for their personal self-enrichment and that of their families.

By Ron Jontof-Hutter


Palestinian Arabs are constantly urged by their leaders to engage in rage. Indeed, Abbas walked out of the UNSC meeting, not bothering to hear Ambassador Haley’s speech. As the clock ticks with time seemingly not on their side, changing political landscapes in the USA and Europe, frustration by traditional Arab allies nervously watching Iran and with UNRWA being reassessed and seen as part of the problem, Palestinians can only be dismayed as their lives seem to be going nowhere.

The less charitable might say they are going down.  Unfortunately rage, greed, misappropriation of international aid and ongoing victimization are not policies, let alone providing a promising future for talented Palestinian Arabs dreaming of a prosperous and peaceful life.

While experts consider various solutions to the Palestinian Arab problem, ranging from a 2-state solution, land swaps, a single state, a Jordan solution, a Gaza- Sinai solution, population transfer with compensation, and other variants,- none of which have satisfied the PA – Chile is an example of what could be possible.

Chile reportedly has the largest Palestinian Arab community outside the Middle East, estimated at 500,000 in a total population of nearly 18 million dwarfing the Jewish community of 25,000. Palestinian Arabs therefore are a much higher proportion of Chile’s population than Jews anywhere in Europe. In France, there are also about 500,000 Jews, but in a population of almost 67 million.

In addition to the despairing educated PA millennials in Judea/Samaria, all but forgotten Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon and Syria have been impoverished and massacred.  On the other hand, Palestinian Arabs in Chile continue to enjoy significant success, by any standards.


Palestinian Arabs arrived in Chile in the second half of the nineteenth century, mostly poor and illiterate, having embarked on ships from Haifa, Beirut and Alexandria. This occurred during Turkish Ottoman rule, long before Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Initially they were not welcomed. El Mercurio in April 1911 wrote ,”Whether they are Mohammedans or Buddhists, what one can see and smell from far, is that they are more dirty than the dogs of Constantinople.

A year later, Palestinian Arabs established their first Arabic-Chilean newspaper, Muerched.

Some forty years later, this community had acquired substantial economic and political power. They continue to enjoy a high profile in politics, commerce, literature, media, sports and the arts.

While ‘Palestinian’ bakeries, cafes and restaurants proliferate in Santiago’s Patronato district, this community’s public showcase is arguably the ‘Palestinian’ Sports Club.  The 27-acre Club Palestino boasts state of the art tennis, swimming and dining facilities that are a major source of pride. The ‘Palestinian’ soccer team is one of Chile’s top teams, with some players also participating in the national team.

The World Bank ranks Chile as a high income country, prosperous and politically stable.

The younger generation of Palestinian Arabs are Spanish speaking, many having attended a Palestinian-run primary and secondary school. About 70% intermarry outside their community. Palestinian Arab families are among the wealthiest in Chile.

Chile reportedly has the largest Palestinian Arab community outside the Middle East, estimated at 500,000 in a total population of nearly 18 million, dwarfing its Jewish community of 25,000.


Politically, 10% of Chile’s senators and 11% of lower house deputies are of Palestinian Arab background.

The Undersecretary for the Interior and Public Security is Mahmud Aleuy.

Despite the integration of Palestinian Arabs in all sectors of Chilean public and private life, astonishingly they consider themselves “stateless.”

This reflects the position of former Peruvian Deputy President, Omar Chehade who maintained that Israel is a “fictitious state,” and that South American Palestinian Arabs like himself are “stateless.”

Yet, no one raises questions of dual loyalty let alone accusations about the Palestinian Arab lobby, or ‘Palestinians controlling” the media and banking.

As Palestinian Arabs in Chile continue to assimilate, enjoying power, wealth and success, their ongoing claim and narrative of being stateless refugees could be seen as offensive to their countrymen.

Palestinian Arabs in Ramallah, fourteen thousand kms away, can only shake their heads with envy at the lifestyle of their Chilean cousins.

BDS victory against Israel….at the expense of the Palestinians. SodaStream closes their West Bank factory to relocate in the Negev.

With Israel the most powerful  state in the Middle East, underpinned by a vibrant economy based on hi tech innovation, Palestinian Arabs have only themselves to blame for decades of corrupt leadership, bad decisions, and a questionable future that seems to get bleaker each year.

Many Palestinian Arabs feel they have missed the boat, mistakenly believing that time was on their side. President Trump’s sudden recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to establish the embassy there during Israel’s  70th Independence celebrations, reflects this comfortable but irrational belief. Rather than nation building, they have lived on generous handouts by the US and EU, much of which is spent on pensions for terrorists who are seen as heroes and martyrs. Cronyism which forms part of their kleptocracy became an integral part of Palestinian Arab culture reinforcing scepticism for a viable future.

When Palestinian Arabs see that Arab-Israelis dominate the pharmacy industry, are heads of departments in prestigious hospitals, boast the best school graduates, are represented in the Knesset, Supreme Court and military, they must surely realise they have been cheated and lied to.

After all, how do you explain success in both Israel and distant Chile, but not the “West Bank” and Gaza despite the international community providing assistance way beyond what Germany received following the Second World War?

Israel is no longer an option for Palestinian Arab “refugees” as might have been decades ago. Many educated Palestinian Arabs have been caught up in the cynical agenda of their leadership. They are frustrated and despairing, earning a fraction of what their real worth is.

Additionally, many anxiously await the demise and exit of Abbas.  Likely, more of the same but with factional bloodshed in pursuit of the “stable democracy” they want the world to believe.

With Israel continuing to increase its world standing and power, and with the international community tiring of supporting another failed state-in-waiting, Palestinian Arabs may do well to think of Chile as a viable option as their ancestors did 150 years ago.


Ron Jontof-Hutter is the author of the satire: “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist.”

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