Daniel Jadue is the Palestinian candidate for Chile’s presidency
Chile is home to half a million Palestinians, including Daniel’s parents who trace their roots to the Palestinian town of Beit Jala
Daniel Jadue is looking around his office for a photo album. I asked him about how he became the mayor of Recoleta, a municipality of Chile’s capital Santiago, and about his run for the presidency. He became distracted. He wanted to show me something. We had stumbled onto the fact that Daniel comes from a Palestinian family, and that he had spent a part of his youth working with the General Union of Palestinian Students. He opens a cupboard, looks in a drawer, and then, fortunately, finds what he has been searching for – an album with a treasure trove of clippings and pictures. The one he is eager to show me is of his dabke troupe. There’s Daniel, the leader of the troupe, dancing to the beat of a culture that resonates in his heart.
“To be Palestinian is not to eat Palestinian food and to dance the dabke,” he says crisply. “I danced dabke for twenty years. I was a teacher of dabke. But that is not enough. If you are Palestinian, but if you don’t know which side of the wall you are on, then you are not Palestinian.” The wall he refers to is both the wall erected by Israel to garrison the West Bank, and it is the wall in our consciousness that prevents us from seeing the elementary fact of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the apartheid conditions of Palestinians in Israel and in exile. “You cannot be for human rights outside Palestine and against human rights for the Palestinians,” he said.
Chile is home to half a million Palestinians, including Daniel’s parents who trace their roots to the Palestinian town of Beit Jala. His mother, Magaly del Carmen Jadue, made clothes, while his father – Juan Fariz Jadue – left home when Daniel was only three, leaving barely a mark on his son. When Daniel became involved in left politics, his father – who turned out to be a Pinochet follower – reappeared to try and school his son away from radicalism. It was too late. Daniel, who took his lessons from his working-class single mother, went into the politics of Palestinian liberation and Communism.
In 2020, the Simon Wiesenthal Center added Daniel to its “Top Ten Global Anti-Semitic Incidents.” Daniel and Maurice Khamis (the President of the Palestinian Community of Chile) rebutted the charges. The essence of the case made by the Center is that such an important politician is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign. That was intolerable to the Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that the possibility that Daniel might win the 2021 Chilean Presidential election is “shocking.” When he was asked about the charge of antisemitism, Daniel told El Mercurio in November 2020, “I get along very well with Jews; I have some problems with Zionists.” “There is nothing in my history to suggest anything like antisemitism,” Daniel told me. “I am for human rights. But for human rights that includes the rights of the Palestinians.”
Someone with the fortitude of Daniel Jadue does not merely talk about the rights of this or that person. They do something about it. At the age of 11, Daniel got involved in the General Union of Palestinian Students. The first picture of Daniel at a protest is from the outrage against the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila (Beirut, Lebanon).
From 1987 to 1991, Daniel led the General Union and from 1991 to 1993 he coordinated the activities of the Palestinian Youth Organisation in Latin America and the Caribbean. His Arabic name is Faruk, one who is able to distinguish between good and evil. During this period, Daniel traveled to Lebanon and Syria, meeting with a range of Palestinian political leaders, developing his sense of politics and possibilities in these interactions. As he talks about his work with the students and youth of Palestine, I suggest that this will be a liability for him in the presidential election. “Yes,” he agrees. The Zionists will use that 2020 Simon Wiesenthal list to discredit him as an antisemite; their attack, he forecasts, will be more vicious than that of the Pinochet-era far right.” “Everything I’m telling you I have said one time or another in public,” he says. “I want my entire record to be visible because I have nothing to hide.”
As Daniel’s candidacy for the presidency became clear, the attacks began. The focus is on his role with the PFLP, one that he has never hidden. Several Western countries placed the PFLP on their terrorism lists, but this was after Daniel had left the organization. Besides, the erasure of the PFLP as a legitimate political organization comes alongside the general “politicide” – as Baruch Kimmerling put it – of the totality of Palestinian politics. None of these facts matter to those who want to paint Daniel Jadue as a dangerous man.
In 2009, Saed Erekat organized a visit to Palestine by prominent people from the diaspora. When Daniel was asked if he would join the trip, he jumped at the opportunity. It was his first time to visit Palestine, including the home of his ancestors. When he returned to Chile, Daniel wrote a book about his experiences – Palestina: crónica de un asedio [Palestine: Chronicle of a Siege] (2013). No genuine book about Palestine fails to cover the basic facts, the land grabs, the terrible indignity of the checkpoints, the brutal reminder of the occupation with the wall around the West Bank.
But there is a great deal more to Daniel’s book than the hideousness of apartheid. There is the passion of being in his homeland, the interactions he has with Palestinians from different social classes, and the joy he has in being surrounded by the certainty that liberation is possible. Even dabke makes a cameo. He saw the faces of his fellow Palestinians marked by a certain “learned hopelessness,” but this hopelessness dissipated as he observed a protest at Bil’in, a village of great resilience against the daily indignities of the occupation.
The signs around the mayor’s office in Recolleta indicate his commitment to Palestine. There is the Handala drawing on the wall, and there is a book about Palestine on the table. “Why did you stop working with the Palestinian organizations in 1993,” I ask him, his resume in my notes before me. “When I heard about the Oslo Accords,” he said, “I was disheartened. It seemed like a surrender.” It was out of the feeling of frustration with the Palestinian leadership,
Daniel recalls, that he deepened his involvement with the Communist Party of Chile. Born in Recoleta in 1967, two weeks after the Six-Day War ended, Daniel now returned to home with his politics. In 2012, running on the ‘Por un Chile justo’ slate, Daniel became the mayor of Recoleta. Over this past decade, Daniel has earned a reputation for running a government that puts people before profits, with a public pharmacy program that has proved essential during the pandemic.
This year, on the strength of his work in Recoleta, he hopes to become the President of his country. “I want to take Chile away from the remains of the dictatorship and of neoliberalism,” he says.
Daniel will not be the first Palestinian head of government in Latin America. He is following in the footsteps of Carlos Facussé (Honduras, 1998-2002), Antonio Saca (El Salvador, 2004-2009) and Nayeb Bukele (2019-present). What separates Daniel from these three Central American leaders is his strong commitment to Palestinian freedom. It is, in fact, what defines him.
DISTRIBUTED BY PAJU (PALESTINIAN AND JEWISH UNITY)