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What are Israeli Army Reconnaisance Teams doing in Patagonia ?

by Kawther Salam

A picture with Israeli soldiers in Villa O'higgins

In January I went for vacations to the Chilean Patagonia, expecting some time far away from the bad news in the media. I found a Land of a wild beauty almost impossible to describe, but I also found my old acquaintances from Hebron, the IDF soldiers. It was as if the same people occupying my city had been transplanted to Patagonia after their genocidal rampages. The second rather strange thing which called my attention in Patagonia is that "foreigners" are buying up large swathts of land in Chile and in Argentina.

By far the most controversial figure among the "foreigners" is Douglas Tompkins; a conservationist who bought approx. 330.000 hectares north of Chaiten, and who also owns land at other locations in Chile and Argentina through his Conservation Land Trust. But there are also others, rich persons and corporations, buying land throughout Patagonia. The controversy around the many foreigners who buy land is almost always a conversation topic with the locals: "Have you heared about the gringo?" ("Gringo" is a slang word for "American" widely used in Latin America) was a recurring question from locals between Chaiten and Villa O"Higgins.

In a Land where the only growth industry is Tourism, I heard several Chileans commenting that foreigners always seem to receive more leniency from the government than they themselves. Others comment the buyout of Patagonia by foreigners as the prelude to the foundation of a new state. No wonder, they see Israeli military exploring their country since the early 1980"s and even before.

I saw the IDFs myself: first on the ship from Puerto Montt to Chaiten, and then everywhere until Candelario Mansilla, 1.200 Km. to the south. They always travel in groups of 5-7 persons, always one or two women among them, every group has an officer, and they reduce contact with locals and others to the necessary minimum. A Chilean with some knowledge in these matters told us that they travel in configurations which would correspond to missions of "reconnaisance and insertion" in military terminology. This person confirmed to us that the exploration of the Patagonia under guise of tourism has been going on since 1976, intensifying after about 1982.

While the incessant incursion by the IDF has piqued the curiosity of the Chileans, it remembers me of what happened in my Homeland Palestine since the late 1920s and early 1930s, when massive waves of Jews immigrated as "farmers". Jews began buying large extensions of land in Palestine through frontmen and front companies. At that time the Palestinians were the majority and owned most land in Palestine. I asked myself if the future of Patagonia will look like the history of Palestine...

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