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Anti-semitism in Latin America

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Jews in Latin America feel a deepening sense of unease because the traditional anti-Semitism of the Right has been supplemented in recent years by anti-Semitism from the Old Left and the New Left, stimulated by Arab League propaganda efforts and closer commercial ties between some Latin American countries and the Arab oil-producing states. These conclusions were expressed here this weekend at the 68th annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee, by Jacobo Kovadloff, director of the South American office of the AJ Committee in its headquarters in Buenos Aires.

Kovadloff stated that patterns of anti-Semitic behavior had been cropping up in Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia. In many of these countries, he reported, newspaper articles and editorials had appeared portraying the Arab side of the Middle East conflict in more sympathetic terms than heretofore and viewing the Israel position in an increasingly hostile light. Specifically. Israel was frequently seen as a vanguard of “Western imperialism” while the Arabs were seen as representing the “Third World Liberation” elements.

This attitude, Kovadloff explained, reflects the increased politicalization of the intellectuals and the academic community, with a greater element of New Left strength visible in these circles. In addition, trade union elements in some Latin American countries are increasingly sympathetic to the Arab cause, he declared.

Kovadloff reported that there was little or no overt governmental anti-Semitism on the continent but in some countries Arab League propagandists and other anti-Semitic elements were able freely to whip up hostility against Jews. This was sometimes masked as anti-Zionist or anti-Israel, but its long-range effect was to instill fear and hatred of Jewish citizens among the general public, he declared.

According to Kovadloff, local Jewish communities in several major countries, particularly Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil, had reacted strongly to such attacks and had vigorously defended the rights of Jewish citizens. On an official government level, Kovadloff revealed, the Arab states had succeeded in arranging lucrative commercial deals with many Latin American governments, using the oil weapon to penetrate the various countries’ economies. Just as the Arabs have been successful in exploiting Europe’s oil needs for their own economic benefit, he said, so they have accomplished similar gains in Latin America, with important political overtones.

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