Why Milei's visit to Israel marked incendiary anti-Palestine rhetoric

Why Milei's visit to Israel marked incendiary anti-Palestine rhetoric
Fecha de publicación: 
14 February 2024
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Shortly after far-right politician Javier Milei became president of Argentina, he gave a divisive speech at the 2023 Panamerican Maccabee games. It came some two months into Israel's onslaught on Gaza, as Milei pledged his "unalterable commitment to the State of Israel and its people in the fight against Islamic terrorism, for peace and freedom."

Argentina's Islamic Centre (CIRA) quickly offered its "deepest rejection of offensive expressions to the entire Islamic community", where around 400,000 Muslims live while calling for him "to cease his hate speeches".

Martin Omar Saade, CIRA's vice-president of CIRA, in an op-ed, outlined the negative impact on Argentina's Arab and Muslim communities in recent months. He described a "spiral of violence, stigmatisation and discrimination, exacerbated by hate speech and the poor foreign policy decisions of the current government."

According to Martin Alejandro Martinelli, a historian at the Geohistorical Observatory, National University of Lujan and the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), "Milei stated during the campaign that his main allies would be the United States and Israel, hence dollarisation and other key issues such as the Malvinas and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to dominate all Argentine domestic politics."

Milei has previously labelled himself a "fanatic of Israel" and last week followed up on his pledge to visit Israel - a country he says is on par with the US.

His trip to the Middle East came around four months after October 7, when Israel launched a deadly offensive on Gaza that has killed more than 28,400 Palestinians following a surprise attack by the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.

Milei's visit also signalled a departure from the regional pushback from Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba and Nicaragua towards Israel.

According to Martinelli, Milei's visit was "ideological" to back Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, describing Argentina's leader as distancing himself from the BRICS+ who spoke out against the matter, notably Brazil and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) interim ruling that found a "plausible" case of genocide brought by South Africa.

Martinelli says Argentina was invited to join alongside several new countries into BRICS+ while "the non-entry of Argentina and this visit amid the genocide are very notable."

Milei's 'provocation'

Shortly after his arrival to Israel, Milei pledged to move Argentina's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. East Jerusalem, which Palestinians believe should serve as the capital of a Palestinian state, has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.

According to International analyst Sebastian Schulz, Milei's announcement to move the embassy to Jerusalem is "undoubtedly a provocation" towards the Middle Eastern region.

Hamas called it "an infringement on the rights of our Palestinian people to their land, and a violation of the rules of international law considering Jerusalem an occupied Palestinian land". The resistance group demanded Milei "rescind this unjust and wrong decision, which places Argentina as a partner to the Zionist occupier."

Schulz says Milei is seeking to overplay his closeness to Judaism to justify his decision to position Argentina as "a defender of Western Atlantic unipolarism".

"It is the same decision that Jair Bolsonaro had promised (unsuccessfully) in Brazil and that Donald Trump had made. This announcement is opposite to the calls for peace by the countries promoting a multipolar world (mainly BRICS), who have been calling for a constructive dialogue between the countries involved in the 1947 consensus," Schulz tells TRT World.

According to Martinelli, Milei's pledge "seems very demagogic," insisting it is difficult to fulfil the promise of transferring the embassy to Jerusalem - as Bolsonaro could not either.


Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meet at Netanyahu's office in West Jerusalem, March 31, 2019

During Milei's three-day visit, he visited a kibbutz and met the families of Israeli hostages taken on October 7. He also went to the Western Wall in occupied East Jerusalem - where he was filmed dancing with Israeli settlers.


Argentina's President Javier Milei visits the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site during his tour in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City.

Back home in Argentina, some are also raising questions about the purpose of Milei's visit.

"Supporting one part of the conflict without considering the humanitarian consequences and the loss of civilian lives places Argentina in a delicate position since it goes from being a neutral country and long-standing defender of people's rights to becoming a belligerent one," Saade told Perfil.

While in Israel, Milei said he also wished to see Solomon's Temple's reconstruction. Critics say it reportedly implies destroying the site of Al Aqsa Mosque - the third holiest place in Islam.

Milei's 'sympathy'

According to Martinelli, "The government of President Javier Milei unabashedly shows its sympathy not only with the Israeli State but also with the most conservative currents of Zionism. In the case of Brazil, during Jair Bolsonaro's administration, the cocktail between Zionism and evangelism had its greatest splendour."

"These relationships must be interpreted as a political matter," the historian adds.

Reports also suggested that both leaders pushed to deepen their countries' ties, which Martinelli notes historically gained traction amid the dictatorships of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Guatemala, who received weapons from Tel Aviv.


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protest against Argentina's President Javier Milei's visit to Israel and Jerusalem, at the Foreign Ministry building, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, February 5, 2024

"They served not only to assassinate political opponents but also civilians that these regimes ‘marked’ as activists or militants," he says.

Now Martinelli describes the meeting between both leaders as "both symbolic and cooperative," explaining the Israeli regime is increasingly isolated from the world amid what he calls "its genocidal and infanticidal policies".


Protest against Argentina's President Milei's visit to Israel and Jerusalem, in Buenos Aires

More broadly, he sees it as part of the wider efforts of the international Zionist movement.

"The Zionist lobby in Latin America has actions that are coupled with Anglo-Saxon interests, mainly the United States, and secondarily England. This can be seen in relation to how it supports neoliberalism and savage capitalism, and at the same time has large companies," Martinelli says.

In Latin America, he says it stretches over numerous sectors including military companies that provide security systems for public forces and freshwater exploitation companies that often seek to impose or offer their services in the region. He says this entails companies positioning themselves at the forefront of technology, describing the practice as a "mix of militarism, ideology and business."

However, Schulz does not see commercial interests as driving relations between the countries as Milei's motivation to visit Israel, which he says represents 0.37 percent of Argentine exports and 0.25 percent of imports.

Geopolitical implications

The international analyst also considers that there are much larger ramifications to consider.

"Israel's GDP is much lower than the Argentine GDP, so the decision to bring Argentina closer to that country is not pragmatic, nor even merely ideological, but rather deeply geopolitical. Javier Milei (and his political-economic bloc) decided to openly express their support for Israel following the orders of Donald Trump and his North American neoconservative allies as a move to weaken the initiative of the Arab and Muslim powers in the region and block the advance of multipolarism," he says.


Then US President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017

Schulz also sees Javier Milei's visit to Israel as part of an accentuation of geopolitical struggles between global power blocs.

"The US neoconservative bloc in strategic decline is seeking to promote destabilisation situations in the Middle East, with the aim on the one hand of regaining control over the 'global oil tap,'" he says, describing it as the main support for the US dollar's hegemony as the global currency.

In a wider context, he sees it as curtailing the rise of regional powers such as new BRICS members Iran and Egypt alongside Türkiye.

"Israel's advance on Gaza, and the North American bombings on Houthi groups, is part of a policy that aims to reposition Israel as a regional "police force." In the face of this, Milei's visit shows an extremely harmful alignment for Argentina and the region since he positions Argentina as one of the detractors of a multipolar world and a supporter of the declining North American hegemony," Schulz says.

In this regard, he says Milei's visit to Israel "ratifies" Milei's alignment with the North American neoconservative bloc racing to regain the US presidency with Trump as its candidate.

"In the event that Trump can win the US presidency again, this will surely have an impact on a deepening of adjustment policies in Argentina and an advance of the right in the region,” Schulz says.

“Milei, in turn, is weakening the previous alliances built by previous administrations in Argentina, with those emerging and developing powers that are the engines of global economic growth."

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