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Anger at newspaper column that blames ‘the Jew’ for economic troubles

Wilda Rodriguez's piece in Puerto Rico daily El Nuevo Día is criticised as 'practically the definition of antisemitism'

    The column is still available on the newspaper's website
    The column is still available on the newspaper's website (Picture: El Nuevo Día)

    The most widely read newspaper in Puerto Rico has been criticised for an article blaming “the Jew” for the island’s economic difficulties.

    The piece by El Nuevo Día’s columnist Wilda Rodriguez published earlier this week was titled “What does ‘the Jew’ want with the colony?”

    It suggested that the US Congress was under Jewish control and “will finally do what ‘the Jew’ wants, as they vulgarly call the prototype of true power.”

    The column also claimed Israelis proudly recognise “how the Jews control Washington.”

    “For Israelis,” it says, “recognizing Jewish power over the United States is no offense. It is the victory of their diaspora.”

    The Anti-Defamation League has published a protest letter it addressed to the newspaper's editor, calling the column “a collection of classic anti-Semitic assertions.”

    The letter said: “This is not the first time that confronted with an economic crisis Jews are accused of controlling the power and money. Wilma Rodriguez's column published in your diary follows the worst legacies of anti-Semitic regimes that we would like to have left behind in the 20th century.

    “Publishing an article accusing the Jewish people of controlling governments to the detriment of the future of Puerto Rico is practically the definition of antisemitism.”

    The article is still available on El Nuevo Día’s website, with an added message at the beginning from the paper’s board saying “we want to be totally emphatic in that we do not promote content that can be interpreted as anti-Semitic, just as we do not promote content that sponsors hatred or discrimination based on gender, religion or racial ethnicity.”

    An “explanatory note” from Ms Rodriguez has also been added to the article, saying: “I deeply regret that my writing has been interpreted as antisemitic. My path is clear. Prejudice and racial or religious hostility have never been part of it.

    “I can understand the psychic reaction of some to the mere use of the Jewish word. But the intention is not to provoke offense, but to contribute to public discussion.”

    Puerto Rico, which has been a US territory for 120 years, is still suffering from the after-effects of Hurricane Maria, which hit the island in September.

    It has a Jewish community of around 1,500, with a Jewish Community Centre, Conservative and Reform congregations, and a Chabad.

    The community centre, which was relatively undamaged by the hurricane, helped distribute clothing, canned food and thousands of gallons of water to those most affected.

    Israel also sent a disaster relief team to the island to provide first aid.

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