Argentina is known to have a tremendously complicated history with its Jewish citizens. Infamous as a former-Nazi haven, Argentina welcomed a significant number of fugitive Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann- who was eventually taken to Israel to face trial, against Argentine wishes. All the while, there were more than 310,000 Jews living in the Latin American nation.
After 1955, with the rise of first a fascist movement and then a junta government, more than 45,000 Jews immigrated to Israel due to intensified anti-Semitic attacks. The reports I read through of torture and disappearances were too horrifying for words.
I think that the most disturbing and poignant point in Argentina’s Jewish history came in the 1990s. First with March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy, which killed 29 people. Then the July 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 200. Strikingly, neither of these attacks were resolved. Under the current president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina decided to conduct a “joint probe” of the AMIA bombing with Iran. Yes, Iran. Kirchner then criticized the Jewish community for not supporting the pact with Iran.
No it comes as little surprise to find that The Anti-Defamation League has given Argentina a 24% anti-Semitic index rating in their 2014 poll.
In the wake of Argentina’s history, it doesn’t seem that the recent rash of anti-Semitism is treated with the gravity it deserves. Only recently an Argentinian man was arrested in Buenos Aires under suspect that he was planning to attacks the Jewish Center. Rashes of anti-Semitic graffiti calling to kill Jews has been met with general disregard. In fact, anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled in 2014.
I won’t fault the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA). They have made considerable efforts to change the status quo of Argentine governmental response. In November the group presented their annual report on anti-Semitism, which called for vigilance and had a special focus of graffiti. But Argentina has a deeply rooted anti-Semitism problem, and though the group is admirably active, the climate they work in is rather difficult.
Perhaps they already understand this –and if so, I applaud them- but the time has come for DAIA to take a more creative approach in the fight against anti-Semitism. Now is the time to formulate and use new tools to influence and educate the community.
For example, Paraná, “Argentine students from four non-Jewish schools joined forces with the local Jewish community, the national political Jewish umbrella and the municipal government to paint over anti-Semitic graffiti.”
Not all news is bad news.