Small extreme right groups such as Partido Nuevo Triunfo and Partido Nacionalista
Constrtucional lost most of their popular support and became relatively isolated in 1997. Jewish
communal leaders suspected discharged policemen of the Buenos Aires police force of being
responsible for the vandalism at the La Tablada and Liniers cemeteries in late December. Some
progress was made in the investigation into the AMIA bombing.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
With 230,000 Jews out of a total population of almost 34 million, Argentina has the largest
Jewish community in Latin America. About 80 percent of the Jewish population live in Buenos
Aires and its environs. Smaller communities may be found in most of the cities, including Rosario
(25,000), Córdoba (10,000) and Santa Fé (5,000).
The Jewish community has been well-organized for decades, maintaining many educational, cultural
and religious institutions, including a Hebrew and a Yiddish press, publishing houses, and an
educational system from kindergarten through university. The major political organization is
DAIA (Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas), which represents all communities and
organizations to the authorities and is responsible for safeguarding the rights of members. AMIA
(Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) is the community's main internal organization
representing the Ashkenazi community. The Sephardi community has three organizations of its own.
The Vaad ha-Kehilot is the umbrella organization of all the communities in the provinces.
ANTI-SEMITIC ACTIVITIES AND HATE GROUPS
The trends present in 1996 in extremist movements and hate groups in Argentina continued into
1997. Small groups, such as Partido Nuevo Triunfo (New Triumph Party) and Partido
Nacionalista Constitucional (National Constitutional Party) lost most of their popular
support and became relatively isolated.
Violence and Vandalism
The repeated desecration of Jewish cemeteries was the most evident manifestation of anti-Semitism
in 1997. In the Jewish cemetery of Rosario on the eve of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, September
29 and October 4, many tombs were desecrated. When the president of the DAIA branch in Rosario,
Dr. Gustavo Issak, denounced these acts, the police detained one adult and four youngsters.
Thirty-five graves were vandalized on the night of December 24 in the La Tablada cemetery, and 19
in the Liniers cemetery on the night of December 31. The DAIA leadership suspected local Buenos
Aires policemen who had been discharged from the force with its reform following revelations of
police corruption. (see Why Argentina?).
There was no increase in the extremist literature produced by nationalist right-wing groups.
Vehemently anti-Semitic material, published by the Verdad y Justicia (Truth and Justice)
movement, was uncovered when four people were arrested for the cemetery desecration in La
Tablada on October 19, 1996. Other cases initiated by the DAIA will come to trial under
Anti-discrimination Law No. 23,592 of the Argentine penal code.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
Argentina's Catholic Church paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and of terrorist bombings in Buenos Aires, in April. Cardinal Primate Antonio Quarrachino unveiled a Holocaust memorial in one of the chapels of the National Cathedral. Quarracino said that discriminating against Jews was a sin against the laws of God and man. Holocaust memorials were also being erected in the provinces of Chaco and Tucum?n.
Jewish Assets and Nazi Gold
The DAIA participated in the efforts of the World Jewish Congress to investigate and recover
funds stolen from Jews during the Holocaust and deposited in Swiss banks. The DAIA was also an
active member of the new commission set up in Argentina by the government and the foreign
ministry to investigate Nazis who entered Argentina during and after World War II. Their bank
accounts are to be investigated also in the search for Nazi gold. DAIA president, Rubén Beraja,
who also serves as president of the Latin American Jewish Congress (CJL), was one of forty
delegates from various countries who participated in the London Conference on Nazi Gold which was
convened by the British Foreign Office, in December 1997. The DAIA is a member of the committee
set up by the Ministry of Education to plan the construction of a national monument to the memory
of the Holocaust.
This project, launched by the DAIA in 1992 and operated though their Centro de Estudios Sociales,
received a fresh impetus in the last year. The aim of the project is to investigate the history
of Argentina in the period between 1930-60, including the Nazi penetration of the country, their
source of funds, their activities, and the aid they received from government officials. Other
aspects concern the rejection of, and discrimination against, Jews and the reaction of the public
during this period. A book containing the findings of the investigation was due to be published
in 1998. An archive is also to be established.
RESPONSES TO EXTREMISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM
The Case of the Israeli Embassy
During the course of 1997, the DAIA broke off relations with the special court investigating the
bombing of the Israeli embassy in 1992, charging that the court was wasting time in the pursuit
of unlikely theories raised by some of the judges, such as that right-wing Jewish extremists were
implicated. The DAIA tried to convince the court of a link between the bombing of the embassy and
that of the AMIA Jewish community building in 1994.
On October 22, 1997, the Argentinean ambassador in Beirut in 1992 and another embassy official
confirmed the tentative findings of the investigation concerning the origins of the money, in
American dollars, for buying the car used in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in March 1992.
The ambassador and the official also confirmed that two days after the bombing in Buenos Aires,
they sent a fax with the principal facts to the Lebanese press, and that a statement of the
Islamic Jihad accepting responsibility for the bombing appeared in the newspaper An Nahar.
This new information put the investigation of the embassy bombing back on track, with the focus
on two directions: extremist Islamic terrorism, and local Argentinean connections and help.
The AMIA Case
Developments in the AMIA bombing investigation again revealed the links between corruption,
ant-Semitism and terrorist acts. Progress in this investigation was made only in mid-1997, when
four police officers were arrested. One of them, Juan José Ribelli, a former police commander,
was charged with supplying the van used in the attack (see Why
Argentina?) In September, the DAIA gave Judge José Galeano a document entitled "La Denuncia,"
in which the people involved, directly or indirectly, in the attack were denounced, as well as
those who, actively or passively, obstructed the advance of the investigation. As a result, the
federal police set up a special anti-terrorist commission to work closely with Judge Galeano, and
the government gave priority to the issue as a national problem.
The governor of the province of Córdoba refused to let Jews take the Jewish holidays which fall
in September-October, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as paid vacation days from their workplaces.
In an interview which took place just after the governor's declaration, DAIA President Dr.
Victor Sevilla reminded him of the provisions of Law No. 24, 571, article no. 1, which states
that for all inhabitants of Argentina who practice the Jewish religion, the Jewish New Year (two
days) and the Day of Atonement, (one day) are to be considered holidays. The governor apologized
to the Jewish community.