If you thought the sordid row in 2017 over the contention that women who support Israel have no place in the feminist movement was a low point for the far left, you might perhaps want to reconsider that view.
Daniel Jadue is the mayor of the Recoleta district in the Chilean capital of Santiago. A product of Chile’s Palestinian community—numbering 300,000, they compose the largest Palestinian diaspora outside of the Middle East—he was the Chilean Communist Party’s candidate in the 2021 presidential election that was eventually won by another far-left contender with equally extreme anti-Zionist credentials, Gabriel Boric.
Last week, Jadue delivered a speech at an event in Santiago to launch a screed titled “Zionism: The Ideology of Extermination” by a writer named Pablo Jofré, who contributes to HispanTV, the Iranian regime’s Spanish-language broadcaster, and Russia Today, the official broadcaster of Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. The title of Jofré’s offering is also revealing, in that it conjures unpleasant memories of the stream of books and pamphlets published at the height of the Soviet Union’s antisemitic campaign with such titles as Beware: Zionism!
Jadue’s target on the evening in question wasn’t Zionism or its followers, however. Eschewing the code words of the pro-Hamas left, he spoke unambiguously about Jews. “For me, it is a contradiction to be on the left and assume yourself Jewish, because being Jewish is part of a conception that has to do with a supremacist conception of being part of a chosen people,” he stated. “So if you are already part of a chosen people, you do not believe in the equality of all human beings before anything, right?” He then went on to add the observation, with regard to Zionism, that “we are dealing here with an ideology that is the most Nazi that I have seen in my life.” More Nazi, apparently, than the Nazis themselves.
The reaction to Jadue, at least from Chile’s small Jewish community of 16,000, was swift and harsh. Two veteran members of the Communist Party, both Jews, issued a wounded statement reminding him of the number of struggles and campaigns he had participated in alongside Jewish comrades. “The Communist Party of Chile is proud of having had in its ranks many people of Jewish origin who, in some cases, gave their lives for the noble cause they supported throughout their lives,” they said.
A separate statement signed by more than 200 Jewish leftists accused Jadue of displaying “manifest conceptual ignorance and intellectual poverty” in an attempt “to erase the historical contribution that Jews have made for centuries … in the fight for a more humane, just, and united world.” Asserting that their left-wing stances are anchored in Jewish values, the group also charged that Jadue was legitimizing the wave of antisemitism that has not spared Chile just as it hasn’t spared other countries.
Meanwhile, an opinion piece in the Chilean daily El Mostrador (titled “Comrade Daniel Jadue, Shalom!”) asserted that Jadue’s comments had regurgitated classic antisemitic tropes about Jews. “Jadue does not need to be reminded that there are left-wing Jews. What he seeks, as part of the more traditional antisemitic thinking, is to create a division between ‘good’ Jews and ‘bad’ Jews,” wrote the author of the piece, Professor Daniel Chernilo, who teaches in the government department of the Adolfo Ibáñez University in Santiago. “Both were present in medieval Christianity: while the good decided to convert to Catholicism—out of fear, conviction, or strategy—the latter stubbornly maintained their religious practices.”
Jadue has remained unrepentant, asserting that his invocation of Nazism was not a slight against left-wing Jews, only Zionist ideology as distorted and defamed by his friend Jofré! Anyone familiar with his record will know that this is hardly surprising. In 2020, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) included him on its list of the top 10 antisemites of that year, citing his inflammatory statements against Chile’s Jewish leaders (“agents of Israel”) and provocative comments (“I get along very well with Jews; it’s Zionists I have a problem with”).
Actually, Jadue has a problem with Jews qua Jews, as his comments at the Santiago event made painfully clear. It should also be remembered that in 2021—when Jadue spent much of the year as the Chilean Communist Party’s frontrunning candidate for the presidency before being edged out by Boric—he was the subject of a parliamentary resolution that condemned him as an antisemite. The trigger was the emergence of Jadue’s high school yearbook, which contained an entry, written in a humorous and affectionate style by Jadue’s fellow students, noting his desire to “cleanse the city of Jews” and suggesting that a suitable gift would be “a Jew for him to use as target practice.”
Yet the problem is bigger than just Jadue himself. The aftermath of the Oct. 7 pogrom in southern Israel carried out by the rapists and murderers of Hamas has bolstered the dehumanization of Jews and Israelis on the far left, a process that was already underway across more than two decades. In this milieu, Jews are seen as “colonists” who have stolen the land of the indigenous Palestinians in the name of a racist, supremacist ideology. Victims of the Hamas atrocities, including the untold number of women who were raped, are dismissed as having fabricated their recollections of what happened. As Chernilo outlined in his opinion piece, more traditional antisemitic tropes are easily imported into such discourse, leaving its audience, and especially its uninitiated members, with the abiding belief that Jews are not so much a people as they are a destructive cabal. “The Jews are our misfortune!” the Nazis used to whine; that slogan now belongs to the far left.
Jadue’s words also tap into an older tradition of Communist antisemitism. Karl Marx, the founder of communism, famously argued in favor of Jewish emancipation on the grounds that this was the equivalent of the “emancipation of society from Judaism.” His argument was that the advent of capitalism had preserved the Jews in an economic role as moneylenders and bankers (“hucksters” was his phrase). Once socialism was installed, he maintained, there would be no need for a separate community identified as “Jews.”
We had, of course, hoped that such noxious ideas had been left behind in the 20th century. In the last three months, they have returned with a vengeance. Right now, Jadue may seem like an extreme example, but he can equally be regarded as an early adopter of an ideology combining antisemitism with a loathing of Zionism that is increasingly prevalent on a political left less and less concerned with being tarred as antisemitic.