Anti-Semitism in Argentina

This is 21st-century Argentina, an ostensibly free, democratic and developed nation that has worked hard to distance itself from the horrible legacy of the 1974-1983 “Dirty War.”

May 6, 2015 22:57
4 minute read.

A citizen wears an Argentina flag during a peaceful demonstration honouring late Argentine state investigator Alberto Nisman outside the Argentina Embassy in Santiago. (photo credit: REUTERS)

All the elements of classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory are there: Jews who made their money charging “usurious” interest; powerful gentile politicians “bought” with Jewish money; local Jews working surreptitiously for international Jewish banking interests.

This is not 19th-century Czarist Russia, where The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was fabricated. Nor is it one of the Arab countries where the Protocols are considered a legitimate reflection of reality.

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This is 21st-century Argentina, an ostensibly free, democratic and developed nation that has worked hard to distance itself from the horrible legacy of the 1974-1983 “Dirty War.”

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The controversy surrounding the mysterious death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, however, has revealed the anti-Semitic underbelly of Argentinean society.

For more than a decade, Nisman had been investigating the horrific 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 and wounded hundreds. He was convinced that Iran and Hezbollah had planned and carried out the car bombing – which was identical to bombings that had rocked Lebanon. And he had come to believe that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and others close to the government were working to cover-up Iran’s involvement in the terrorist attack, as part of a major trade agreement that included swapping cheap Iranian oil for Argentinean grain. But on January 18, the evening before Nisman was slated to present his case to a committee in Argentina’s Congress, he was found dead with a single .22 caliber gunshot to the head.

Three months later, Javier De Luca, prosecutor before Argentina’s Court of Appeals, said there was not enough evidence in Nisman’s investigation to warrant a probe.

Political corruption, a murky underworld of powerful intelligence officials and mind-numbing ineptitude have come together to mar every important criminal investigation in Argentina’s recent history.

Was De Luca bribed or blackmailed? We may never know for sure. What we do know is that more than a hundred days after he was found dead, Nisman’s death remains a mystery.

And after more than two decades, no one has been prosecuted in the AMIA bombing.

Now, in what appears to be an attempt by the Fernández government to discredit Nisman, who was Jewish, and to shift media attention away from her government’s corruption, she and Timerman have lashed out against Argentina’s Jews, US financiers and right-wing American politicians “owned” by Jewish interests, as well as the CIA and the Mossad.

In tweets and a long blog post, Fernández summed up an article penned by Jorge Elbaum, a former executive-director of the Delegation of Argentinean Israelite Associations (DAIA) and a present Fernández ally, that the pro-government daily Página/12 published around the time of De Luca’s decision.

Titled “Vultures, Nisman, DAIA, the Money Route,” the article claimed right-wing Jewish “vulture” fund managers who made their fortunes by charging “usurious” interest and to whom Argentina owes millions of dollars, have bought US Republican congressmen to put pressure on Buenos Aires to end all ties with Tehran.

Nisman, who Fernández claimed was an agent of Israeli and right-wing Jewish American interests, was said to have offered hedge fund money to DAIA so that it would be immune to the government budget cuts expected to be imposed by the Fernández government as punishment for defying it on Iran.

In the latest chapter in this saga, Timerman, who is Jewish and is the son of Jacobo Timerman, a newspaper editor who was kidnapped during the “Dirty War” and later escaped to Israel, publicly resigned as a member of AMIA.

In his resignation letter, Timerman reiterated claims made by Fernández and Elbaum that “vulture funds” that had “mounted a campaign in the US” were exploiting the bombing to end Argentina’s relations with Iran, in particular a memorandum of understanding the two countries signed in January 2013 that an Argentinean court later ruled unconstitutional.

Timerman also accused AMIA of obstructing attempts by the government to bring to justice those responsible for the AMIA bombing.

Representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations recently traveled to Buenos Aires and met with AMIA’s leaders. They expressed concern over the anti-Semitic comments made by “authority figures,” noting “Words lead to actions.”

We hope they are wrong.

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