(JTA) — The question of where countries keep their embassies in Israel has become a debate that perpetually attracts controversy around the globe. In Paraguay, ahead of a national election on Sunday, the question is far from decided.
Since former President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, a few other countries have followed suit, agreeing with much of Israel’s political establishment that the latter city, despite international and Palestinian opposition, is Israel’s sole capital. Israeli conservatives, such as those currently in power, have looked to court more countries to move their embassies and have counted each example as a historic victory.
The government of Paraguay, a country of around seven million people sandwiched in between Brazil and Argentina, has been back and forth on the Israel embassy issue. Shortly after Trump’s move, Paraguay’s president at the time, Horacio Cartes, moved his embassy as well. That year Guatemala did the same, and a few years later, Honduras and Kosovo followed suit.
But only one month after being elected, in September 2018, Cartes’ successor Mario Abdo announced he would be moving the country’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. Despite being a member of the same conservative party as Cartes, Abdo felt that for “broad, lasting and just peace” among Israelis and Palestinians, Paraguay’s embassy should be in Tel Aviv. Critics of Trump’s decision say declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s sole capital hurts the chances of a two-state solution, as the Palestinians would look to claim part of Jerusalem as their future state capital.
Abdo’s move quickly resulted in pushback. In Paraguay, pro-Israel protesters demonstrated outside the president’s residence in Asuncion. Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence “strongly encouraged” Abdo to reconsider his decision, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went beyond rhetoric: he closed Israel’s embassy in Paraguay. It hasn’t reopened since.
Election day on Sunday could bring the debate back to the fore.
One of the two leading presidential candidates is 44-year-old economist Santiago Peña of the Colorado Party, Paraguay’s right-wing political party which has ruled the country for nearly 80 consecutive years (save for the period between 2008 and 2013). The party has been plagued by corruption allegations, and Peña has been tied to these scandals: he was finance minister under Cartes, who was recently sanctioned by the United States for undermining Paraguay’s democracy by “making cash payments to officials in exchange for their loyalty and support.”
Thanks in part to those corruption allegations, a non-Colorado candidate now has a serious shot of winning the presidency this year. Efraín Alegre is a more centrist candidate from Concertación, a coalition of political parties who came together to oppose Colorado’s domination. Earlier this month, polling from Encuesta Atlas had Alegre leading by a few percentage points, though other polling has found Peña in the lead.
In March, in a meeting with the Paraguayan-Israeli chamber of commerce, Peña announced that if he wins the election, one of his first actions as president will be to order the move of the Paraguayan embassy to Jerusalem. He said that Paraguay “recognizes that city as the capital of the State of Israel.”
Efraín Alegre’s last statement on the issue of Paraguay’s embassy came in 2018, shortly after Paraguay initially moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Alegre argued that the move would fuel the conflict.
In a statement provided exclusively to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Alegre confirmed that he would keep Paraguay’s embassy in Tel Aviv.
“Fundamentally, Paraguay is a country that respects international law. In its resolutions 181 of 1947, 478 of 1980, and 2334 of 2016, the United Nations Security Council has made clear the status of Jerusalem, not accepting its annexation or its declaration as the capital of Israel. This position is shared by all nations with only a few exceptions,” he wrote. “There is great potential for exchange and cooperation between Paraguay and Israel, and Paraguay will continue to defend Israel’s right to a peaceful existence. In fact, there is a long relationship of friendship between our nations. Paraguay’s vote at the United Nations in 1947 was the one that gave the majority for the recognition of Israel as an independent state. These close ties were not, nor are they now, subject to the status of Jerusalem.”
The Comunidad Judía del Paraguay, an organization which encompasses all the Jewish institutions in the country , remains apolitical but fervently Zionist, similar to Jewish organizations in other Latin American countries. The community of around 1,000 Jews is mostly affiliated with the Conservative movement and is concentrated in Paraguay’s capital of Asuncion. The city contains a local chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, a Jewish day school and a Hebrew Union that organizes religious and athletic activities.
“We as a community have maintained very good relations with all governments and we will continue to work with whoever is elected,” said Mariano Mirelman, executive director of the Comunidad Judía del Paraguay.
But it is possible that if Peña is elected and moves the embassy, the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will re-enter public discourse in Paraguay. And this has the potential to fuel antisemitic attitudes, according to research by the Latin American Jewish Congress (or LAJC), an arm of the World Jewish Congress.
In Paraguay, serious antisemitism incidents are rare, but according to the LAJC, antisemitism in Paraguay does appear online, especially related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a yet-to-be- released 2022 study by the LAJC’s Observatorio Web program of more than 42,000 tweets in Paraguay related to Jews, Israel or the Holocaust, 6.45% of them were antisemitic and included making comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, which constitutes antisemitism according to the LAJC.
If Paraguay’s embassy does move back to Jerusalem, that would mean that more than half of the embassies in Jerusalem are from Latin America, joining Honduras and Guatemala.
According to Bishara Bahbah, author of “Israel and Latin America: The Military Connection,” it’s not an accident that the majority of these countries are from Central and South America. Although ideologically they may not feel strongly about the embassy issue, they know they can curry favor with the United States by strongly supporting Israel.
“Latin American countries view Israel’s special relationship with the United States as a critical element of their relationship with Israel,” Bahbah tells JTA. “Because if they are in need of U.S. support in one or two or three areas, they tend to lean on Israel to convince the U.S. government to provide them whatever they are seeking.”
Due to its size and lack of regional power, Paraguay’s potential decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem will likely not have a domino effect, Bahbah said. Further, although the Biden administration has left the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, it has shown no signs of pressuring Latin American countries to move their embassies the way the Trump administration did.
Regardless of what happens with Paraguay, Netanyahu has not given up in his fight to have Jerusalem recognized as Israel’s capital worldwide. As he said while visiting Italy last month: “I believe the time has come for Rome to recognize Jerusalem as the ancestral capital of the Jewish people for three thousand years, as the United States did with a gesture of great friendship.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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