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Israel and Chile are partners in the oppression of their indigenous populations

April 3, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Israel is continuing its decades-long strategy of exporting its military violence to Latin America. Last month, the Chilean Armed Forces website revealed that the governments of Chile and Israel signed an agreement for cooperation in military education, training and doctrine during an official visit to the country by Israeli Major General Yaacov Barak.

Barak’s trip also included interaction with specialist army brigades. At the military camp of La Reina in Santiago, the Israeli general presented an exhibition called “A strategic vision of the situation in the Middle East and the Israel Defence Forces’ operations in the area”.

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It is clear that the legacy of Chile’s former right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet keeps influencing government decisions. This agreement with Israel has been signed within the first few weeks of Sebastian Piñera’s presidency, which has already mapped out a vision of neoliberal policies targeting Chilean society, in particular with regard to education, collective memory and the Mapuche. The latter – Chile’s indigenous population – have been dispossessed through colonial, state and neoliberal violence, and their resistance has been criminalised by governments since Pinochet’s fall by using the Anti-Terror Laws which Piñera is seeking to refine in order to increase surveillance and the army’s targeting of the community.

Today, the International Air and Space Fair (FIDAE) opens its doors to another exhibition of military, defence and security systems, in which Israel will be participating along with other countries. The event is organised by the Chilean Air Force and supported by the government. Israel will be represented by the companies Elbit, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, Israeli Military Industries (IMI) Systems and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). Elbit already provides surveillance technology to the Chilean Armed Forces. The other companies are expected to display maritime surveillance equipment, cyber-security technology and precision missiles.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Chile has issued a statement denouncing FIDAE and the “commercialisation of Israeli weapons”. It noted the correlation between Israel’s field-testing of weapons upon the hostage Palestinian population and the targeting of the Mapuche in Chile, as well as the repression of social protests, in which protestors are regularly dispersed with extreme violence ordered by the Chilean state.


Yaakov’s visit and FIDAE portray the normalisation of violence under the pretext of security, to the point that the political agenda is obliterated. Of the Palestinians annihilated, maimed and tortured by Israeli weapons, there is no mention at the Fair. Such exhibitions, far removed from the environment in which blood is actually spilt, are a means to absolve oppressors of their crimes by way of dissociation.

In another example of the normalisation of, and dissociation from, the results of military violence, Piñera’s government recently communicated a statement, reported by La Tercera, that called for “an end to violence” and for the restoration of dialogue “between the two peoples that are friends of Chile.” A group of Chilean senators from across the political spectrum, however, have submitted a letter to the president calling for an end to “equating the oppressor with the oppressed.” How far the rhetoric will go in terms of influencing action is another story. As on other occasions, it tends only to be the atrocities publicised by the media that elicit a temporary awakening of consciousness. For the Palestinians and the Mapuche, meanwhile, the collusion between Israel and Chile remains a perpetually-open wound.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.