The Guatemalan president and regional parliamentarians gathered virtually on July 29 to display a united front against anti-Semitism and celebrate ties to the Jewish state.
At the first Central American Forum for Israel, leaders issued a joint statement calling for a united position against the rise of global anti-Semitism, including support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA ) working definition of anti-Semitism, expressing solidarity with the State of Israel following its recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza and urging more decisive action against Hezbollah.
The forum also marked the third anniversary of the proclamation of the Guatemalan Friendship with Israel Law, which establishes Guatemalan schoolchildren to learn about Israel and its historic relationship with the Republic of Guatemala.
Earlier this year, the Guatemalan Congress adopted the IHRA definition, and the country’s parliament showed strong support for Israel during the latest conflict with Hamas in Gaza, passing resolution 042021 condemning Hamas for its attacks. rocket against Israel.
Ahead of the forum, President of the Israel-Guatemala Parliamentary Friendship League, Fidel Reyes Lee, told JNS: âThis is a window of opportunity to present to the world the vision of this region, united by ties and a common history “.
He underlined the particular importance of the Republic of Guatemala as a historical leader in diplomatic relations with Israel, affirming that âthis relation can be multiplied and reproduced at the Latin American levelâ.
Parliaments, he further explained, play an increasingly important role in diplomacy. âThis has been demonstrated by the Guatemala Israel Parliamentary Friendship League, the largest of its kind, which has so far brought together 82 deputies and promoted relations between the two nations in Congress, for example by establishing the Day of the Israel-Guatemala friendship.
Beyond diplomacy, added Reyes Lee, âIsrael is a benchmark for development and industrialization, democracy and freedom in this important region, despite limited resources and barely 70 years of national independence. In contrast, Central America, characterized by its wealth and biodiversity, as well as by two centuries of independence, has not yet reached the level of human development enjoyed by the people of Israel. Therefore, much remains to be done for Israel to become the best trading partner for this region, and for us to conclude development agreements that benefit both peoples economically, politically and culturally.
Organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), the Center for Jewish Impact, the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, the Guatemala-Israel Friendship League and the Guatemalan Jewish community, participants included high-ranking parliamentarians, religious leaders and community figures from Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, United States and Israel.
“Education, a crucial tool in the fight against anti-Semitism and sectarianism”
The forum took place amid an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, including physical attacks and vandalism of synagogues. Organizers reported an unprecedented increase in racist online abuse directed against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, with Israel’s very existence in question.
Roberg Singer, president of the Center for Jewish Impact, argued that in Central America, however, general anti-Semitism is “considerably weak and almost non-existent, especially in the countries that participated in the forum.”
âThere is a real affinity for Judaism stemming from the evangelical religion [Christian] beliefs that have taken hold throughout the region, âhe told JNS. The few cases of anti-Semitism in the region “appear to be either remote or to come from countries like Venezuela which provide material and political support to explicitly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel organizations like Hezbollah.”
During the forum, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stressed: âWe are side by side in the fight against global terrorism. A key step is to ban Hezbollah, all of Hezbollah, and I am grateful to those who have taken the plunge and call on every country to follow suit.
Lapid thanked Guatemala for its historic support to Israel, as well as forum participants from South, Central and North America, noting, âWe are grateful for the recognition of Jerusalem as our eternal capital. It was an honor to open the Honduran embassy in Jerusalem alongside the president [Juan Orlando] Hernandez.
He also spoke of the close cooperation between Israel and the countries of Latin America, and of his pride that Israel was able to share its innovations in the fields of agriculture, water, health care and water. education, training thousands of people in South America through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ MASHAV. program.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei echoed: âWe declare that Hezbollah is an enemy of the state of Guatemala and hope to never receive any investments that could come from groups or countries aligned with Hezbollah.
He also referred to the historic friendship between the Jewish and Guatemalan peoples and the strong bilateral ties that date back to the early days of Israel. He thanked Israel for the help it provided to Guatemala after the Hurricanes Eta and Iota last year, as well as the vaccines the country received from Israel that were used to immunize medical staff against COVID-19. He reaffirmed his commitment to remember and educate about the Holocaust.
Reflecting further on Guatemalan support for Israel, Singer noted: âAs a person who has devoted much of [my] My professional life in Jewish education brings me great joy to know that the Guatemalan educational program will integrate such a pivotal moment in Jewish history. Education is a crucial tool in the fight against anti-Semitism and bigotry, which we both see growing exponentially in Europe and North America. We believe that many other countries in the region recognize the threat of anti-Semitism and will likely follow Guatemala’s lead.
Other speakers highlighted the shared values ââof self-determination, freedom and democracy that underpin Israel’s relations in Central America and strengthened alliances in the region.
âThis forum is a celebration of the strong relations between Israel and Central America and the progress that has been made,â Singer said. âThe countries of Central America supported the creation of the State of Israel, a bond between peoples that continues to this day. For Jews, it is a reminder that even with all that is going on, we are not alone, we have allies who unequivocally defend Israel and fight anti-Semitism. For the countries of Central America, it is the affirmation of a privileged relationship centered on shared Judeo-Christian values ââand a chance to solidify a relationship that has produced tangible humanitarian and economic benefits. But, more importantly, they know they are right in being strong allies of Israel. “
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