Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZIn kosher stores, synagogues and intellectual circles, Mexico’s small Jewish community condemned the Israeli prime minister’s support for US President Donald Trump’s border wall as disappointing and shameful.
The Mexican government demanded an apology from Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, but the Israeli leader insisted that he was not referring to Mexico in his weekend message on Twitter.
“Netanyahu must apologize to the Mexican people for his disgusting statement,” the prominent historian Enrique Krauze wrote on Twitter.
Calling Netanyahu a “lackey of Trump,” Krauze said he “condemned, deplored and rejected” the prime minister’s tweet.
More than 67,000 people practiced Judaism in Mexico during the last national census in 2010, compared to 92 million Roman Catholics, the country’s main religion.
Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the inquisition first arrived in Mexico with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, but many continued to suffer persecution in their new homeland.
Jews from other parts of Europe migrated to Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th century. Others came from the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Damascus.
Mexico City’s economic development secretary, Salomon Chertorivsky, a descendent of Ukrainian and Polish Jewish immigrants, recalled that the Latin American nation embraced his ancestors by giving their new opportunities.
“For the thousands of stories like family’s story … the prime minister’s tweet is condemnable to me,” Chertorivsky wrote on Twitter.
“I don’t understand how somehow who today governs people who suffered the worst persecution can celebrate the persecution of another population, ours, the Mexicans,” he said.
Another city official, Simon Levy, directed a tweet at Netanyahu, saying “Mexicans seek peace and prosperity. As a Mexican Jew I regret your position. I doesn’t bring peace.”
– Netanyahu’s own wall –
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said the Israeli government should apologize and “correct” its position, adding that his government has supported Israel in the international arena.
US-Mexican relations plunged into the worst crisis in decades last week after Trump ordered the construction of the wall to stop illegal immigration and insisted that Mexico will pay for it.
Israel built a more than 150-mile (240-kilometer) barrier along its border with Egypt, a route previously taken by many African illegal migrants and traffickers.
Trump hailed the Israeli wall as an example last week, prompting Netanyahu to express his support for the new US president’s plans to build a wall.
“President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” Netanyahu tweeted in English, adding the Israeli and American flags.
The Central Committee of the Jewish Community of Mexico said in a weekend statement: “We strongly reject (Netanyahu’s) position.”
On Monday, the Israeli leader denied he was referring to Mexico and he accused “the left-wing media” of attacking him.
– Stay silent –
Netanyahu’s tweet was met with disapproval in the streets of Mexico City’s wealthy Polanco district, home to a vibrant Jewish community, synagogues and kosher shops.
One shop manager, who refused to give his name like many in the Jewish community interviewed by AFP, said Mexican Jews “have nothing to do with the opinion of this man (Netanyahu).”
A 53-year-old Jewish man who headed to a synagogue said: “What Netanyahu said was not very sensitive. It was very unfortunate given what is going on in the world. He lost a great opportunity to stay silent.”