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Antisemitic Meme in Ad for Discount Liquor Causes Outrage in Chile

Jewish community leaders in Chile have expressed outrage at the publication of a newspaper advertisement for cut-price liquor that featured a notorious antisemitic meme.

The advertisement that appeared in the Monday edition of the journal Las Últimas Noticias displayed the “Happy Merchant” — an internet meme depicting a bearded Jewish man with a hooked nose and a sly smile rubbing his hands with glee — alongside discounted bottles of whiskey and rum. The ad was placed by Arbol Verde, an alcohol distribution company located in the city of Valparaiso.

In a statement carried on its Twitter account, the Jewish Community of Chile denounced the advertisement for reviving a “classic stereotype of Nazi propaganda” that had led to “the genocide of six million Jews” during the Holocaust.

A spokesperson for Arbol Verde told local news outlet BioBioChile that it had used the illustration to highlight the discounts for customers paying in cash, and that there had been no intention of causing offense to the Jewish community.

Responding in support of the Jewish community’s tweet, the Israeli Embassy in the capital, Santiago, scoffed at the distribution company’s answer, remarking: “Not having the intention to offend does not explain or reduce the seriousness of the facts.”

Separately, Gabriel Silber — a former member of the Chilean parliament and a Jewish community activist — lamented the general lack of condemnation of the advertisement. “It’s not in the press of Nazi Germany, it’s in the Chile of today,” Silber tweeted, adding that “antisemitic caricatures in other countries would result in cross-communal repudiation.”

The watchdog group StopAntisemitism tweeted the ad was “horrifying”.

A 2018 study by scholars examining memes displayed in various online communities determined that the ‘Happy Merchant’ was among the most popular memes on both 4chan and Gab, two major online outlets for alt right expression.”

Approximately 18,000 Jews live in Chile, which is also home to the largest Palestinian diaspora outside of the Middle East. Antisemitism has been a persistent problem; during the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May 2021, Palestinian activists and their supporters gathered outside the Israel Embassy with signs denouncing a “Palestinian Holocaust” and accusing Israel of practicing apartheid.

Last December, the country elected a far-left president, Gabriel Boric, with a record of stinging attacks against Israel. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Boric complained that the world’s attention was focused on Moscow’s onslaught, while “Palestine has been occupied for a long time, and we do not know much about what is happening there.”