Special Interview Argentine Foreign Minister Denies Anti-semitism Exists in His Country

Argentine Foreign Minister Oscar A. Montes claimed there that no discrimination by race or religion exists in his country. He declared that proof of the absence of anti-Semitism there is in a statement of the DAIA, the Argentine Jewish community’s organization.

Montes, who is in Washington for the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, (OAS), met with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week at the Argentine OAS mission offices in an interview initiated by the Argentine Embassy here.

The American Jewish Committee closed its offices in Buenos Aires a year ago after its representative said he faced threats of violence from anti-Semites. Numerous Jews have been jailed or have disappeared and manifestations of anti-Semitism have frequently been reported in connection with them. Nazis fleeing from justice for war crimes have been traced to Argentina. United States officials have reported indications of anti-Semitism in their visits to Argentina and as a result the U.S. Department of Justice is expected soon to announce it will begin a parole visa program to enable 500 Argentinians, Chileans and Uruguayans who are victims of political repression to enter the U.S.

Montes, who holds the rank of vice admiral, responded to questions on various aspects of this reported situation in Argentina. On the general subject of prevailing anti-Semitism, he declared that one should “not take my personal word by the declaration of the DAIA that anti-Semitism has not existed before and does not exist now.” He emphasized that if some Jews are in jails they are there for the same reason as are Catholics, Protestants or Orthodox Christians. “They are there only and exclusively because of their participation in terrorist activities–not for their religious activities, ” he stressed.

Asked if the DAIA, as an organization of Argentine citizens, would be expected to show deference and support for their national government, Montes replied that the DAIA statement was “clear and broad enough to include the government and all the inhabitants of a free country like Argentina.”

CALLS JEWS ‘ISRAELIS’

Asked why Jews in Argentina seem identified as Israelis, Montes responded that “to me, Israelis are Jews and Jews are Israelis.”

When it was remarked that a top State Department official had said that Jewish prisoners are subjected to religious epithets and treated with scorn, humiliation and derision because they are Jewish, Montes said that this was “categorically untrue” and no American official had ever said that to him.

Montes pointed out that “every person in jail has the right” to request emigration. The procedure, he said, is for his application to be sponsored by the ambassador of the country which he asks to enter. “In that way, the Argentine government is assured that the person will be received by that country,” he said. Monies said that the application is submitted to a commission made up of military and civilian officials which investigates the applicant’s background and “takes account of conditions of the country receiving the arrived person because some countries don’t accept terrorist people.”The commission, which is appointed by Argentina’s governing junta, has the final decision on such applications. The procedure to emigrate was put into effect four months ago. Since then, nearly 20 persons have left Argentina under this measure. He named Sweden and England’s recipients but did not remember if any went to the United States.

‘HOLOCAUST’ NOT SEEN ON ARGENTINE TV

With the NBC-TV series “Holocaust” being available for showings abroad, the JTA has been informed that the negotiations for its presentation in Argentina are “at a standstill, ” according to those handling the film transactions. On this matter, Montes said he has not seen “Holocaust” and had no information about showing it in Argentina. He emphasized that any Argentine TV station is “completely free” to show it. Every TV channel in Argentina has an administrator appointed by the government for managing the channel but “in no way does that mean any kind of restriction is involved on freedom of the press and expression in Argentina, “he said.”The producers are in the private sector.”

On Argentine-Israeli affairs, Montes said “Argentina has very good diplomatic relations with Israel as it has with Arab countries.”He pointed out that “as a good friend of both, Argentina votes in favor or against Israel or the Arabs” on a proposal in the United Nations on the basis of its impact on the maintenance of peace in the region. Argentina was one of 32 countries that abstained on the 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism.

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