Assessment for Jews in Argentina
|Publisher||Minorities at Risk Project|
|Publication Date||31 December 2003|
|Cite as||Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Jews in Argentina, 31 December 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3a551e.html [accessed 27 May 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Argentina's Jews at times face a difficult situation, as some of the more virulent forms of anti-Semitism have migrated across the Atlantic. While several Argentine presidents (post-1983) have made good-faith efforts to address such problems, their effectiveness has often been handicapped by corrupt and racist mid-level officials. Moreover, attacks on Jews and Jewish
cultural symbols have persisted, despite official efforts to eradicate them. Finally, though the economic decline has affected all Argentine citizens, it has also appeared to feed jingoist tendencies in the broader society, as demonstrated by the reappearance of neo-Nazi groups in Buenos Aires. However, barring a wholesale regime change (such as another period of military rule), direct attacks on Argentina's Jewish community appears unlikely.
Argentine Jews live primarily in urban areas (GROUPCON = 1), with majority living in Buenos Aires; other urban areas with a concentrated Jewish population include Rosario, and Cordoba. The majority of these Jews are Ashkenazi, only 15% are Sephardic. The Ashkenazi majority includes Orthodox, Conservative and Reform groups (RELIGS1 = 9) - nearly all speak Spanish.
Jews are active throughout Argentine society, and have achieved prominence in many sectors, including journalism and the arts. Jewish immigration to Argentina occurred in three great waves: first, discovery of the Americas coincided with the expulsion of Jews from Spain; three centuries later, the liberal immigration policies of a newly independent Argentina (1810) brought many French Jews; finally, a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th
century (TRADITN = 3) spurred yet another migration wave from that region.
Reports of anti-Semitism were rare in Argentina before the first World War, but the 1918 Russian Revolution inspired attacks against Argentina's recent Russian immigrants. During a general strike in 1919, many Jews in Buenos Aires were robbed, beaten, or had their properties burned. After Juan Peron was elected president in 1946, Jewish immigration was officially ended and the country became a haven for Nazi fugitives. Despite this, Peron later established diplomatic relations with Israel; more than 45,000 Jews have since emigrated there. During the "dirty war" of 1976-1983, the military was accused of targeting Jews, though they represented only one percent of the total population, one in nine kidnapping or torture victims were Jewish (ATRISK1 = 1). During that
period, an estimated 20,000-30,000 Jews emigrated.
In 1983, Raul Alfonsin was elected president with strong support from the Jewish community; he later appointed many Jews to high positions within the new government. In the final year of his administration, the Argentine parliament passed a law banning racism and anti-racism. After
Carlos Menem's election in 1989, he visited Israel, offered to mediate the Arab-Israeli peace process, and ordered an investigation into Argentina's role as a haven for Nazi war criminals. Despite such efforts to include Jews in Argentine society and politics, the Israeli Embassy was bombed in 1992, killing 32. Two years later, the headquarters of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing more than 100, and wounding at least 200 more. Local police officers were suspected of collaborating with Iranian militants in the attack, though none have been convicted of the crime. Anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi activities have occurred sporadically from 1990 to 2003, and including desecration of cemeteries and symbolic attacks (INTERCON02 = 1), such as throwing soap bars at a Jewish soccer team in 2000 (an allusion to the Holocaust).
The economic decline of Argentina in the 1990s has deeply impacted the middle classes, including Jewish society. Many Jewish business owners have lost their shops and are unable to pay membership or tuition fees to local Jewish institutions and synagogues. These communal institutions now face declining membership and budgets to maintain their activities and services. As result of the economic downturn and its associated political upheaval, many Jews have emigrated to Israel, Canada and the United States (DMEMEC01-03 = 2; DMEMPO01-03 = 1). However, there is no evidence that Jews have suffered from this downturn more than other Argentines; for the most part, they are political and economic equals, despite persistent social prejudices. Although isolated incidents do occur and anti-Semitic literature is not uncommon, anti-Semitism has greatly decreased since the return of civilian government in 1984.
Argentine Jews has one principal political organization, the Delegacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DIAI), founded in 1939 to protect Jewish rights (GOJPA03 = 2). Both the Anti-Discrimination Institute (INADI) and DIAI were active in 2003. It has been claimed that there are more Jewish organizations per Jewish inhabitants in Buenos Aires than in any other city in the world. The most well-known is the AMIA, which serves the health and human services needs of Ashkenazi Jews. All in all, Argentine Jews are seen by the majority of the population, and see
themselves, as a well-differentiated minority (COHESX9 = 5). While well-represented in the country's arts community, Jews are absent from the military's higher ranks and the judicial branch.
Historical content based in part on "The Virtual Jewish History Tour: Argentina" (Weiner 2001), available at
U.S Department of State Human Rights Reports - Argentina 2001-2003.
Canadian Jewish News, October 23, 2003, v.33(42) O 23'03 pg 16; ISSN: 0008-3941, 5877239, 447 words, Argentine families celebrate Toronto (Record in progress). http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/ Date accessed: 11/29/2004.
Canadian Jewish News, August 28, 2003, v.33(34) Ag 28'03 pg B9-B10; ISSN: 0008-3941, 5840844, 1638 words, Hopeful Argentine immigrants settle in Toronto. http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/ Date accessed: 11/29/2004.
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