Washington (Jul. 7)
A bi-partisan group of 67 Congressmen has sent a letter to Argentine President Roberto Viola expressing their “concern” over the violation of human rights in his country, particularly as it applies to the Jewish community there. The signatories included 54 Democrats and 13 Republicans.
Rep. Charles Schumer (D. NY), in releasing the letter today, said he organized the move in the wake of revelations by Jacobo Timerman of human rights violations in Argentina. Schumer said a member of his staff spoke to Timerman recently.
The former editor and publisher of the Argentine daily La Opinion who was imprisoned for 30 months without charges or trial, said he considers it “very, very important” to remind the Argentine junta that the U.S. Congress is watching not only how the government itself acts, but also when it fails to prevent abuses of human rights, Schumer said.
CRUX OF THE DISPUTE
Rep. Henry Waxman (D. Calif), one of the signatories of the letter, issued a statement on “Anti-Semitism in Argentina” several days ago in which he noted that Timerman “does not hesitate to liken Argentina to the Third Reich. His detractors take him to task for exaggeration. Surely, Argentina is not Auschwitz, they indignantly state. Jews are not being systematically killed on a mass basis, they protest. That Argentina is not yet Nazi Germany is a point on which most observers agree.”
Waxman’s statement added: “What is really central to the dispute is the validity of inferring from the fact that Argentina is not Nazi Germany, that it is, therefore, not a virulently and dangerously anti-Semitic society. I would hate to see us reach the point where we became indifferent to manifestations of anti-Semitism which fall short of the ‘standards’ set by Hitler. It should not be necessary for Jacobo Timerman to prove that Argentina is in a pre-Holocaust situation to convince us that Argentine anti-Semitism is dangerous.”
PREDICTS OPPOSITION TO ARMS SALES
Schumer, in releasing the letter, noted that the Reagan Administration’s effort to lift the ban on U.S. arms sales to Argentina will face stiff opposition in the House because of the human rights situation in that country.
The Congressmen noted that they “welcome the commitment” the Viola government has made to strengthen the democratic process in Argentina but expressed their “particular concern for the continued well-being and safety of the one-half million-member Jewish community in Argentina. They said they “have been deeply disturbed by attacks on a number of Jewish institutions, including the bombing of the Jerusalem Synagogue in Buenos Aires and the desecration of tombstones in the Liniers Jewish Cemetery in the summer and fall of 1980.”
The letter said, “We are alarmed at the marked increase in the public availability of anti-Semitic and Nazi literature; the journals ‘Papeles’ and ‘Cabildo’ are two of the most blatant examples of this disturbing development. We are also concerned that no information has been forthcoming about the fate of several hundred or more Jewish citizens who have been listed as ‘disappeared’ since 1978.”
GREATER VIGILENCE URGED
The letter also strongly urged the Argentine government “to exercise greater vigilence in actually combatting anti-Semitic acts and in repeatedly condemning anti-Semitic propaganda in whatever form they take. The continued livelihood of the Jewish community in Argentina is of great importance to us as elected representatives of the people of the U.S. and to the citizens of our entire nation. We trust that you will take all necessary steps to foster an atmosphere in which this community may live and flourish without fear.”
The Congressmen stressed that “a deeply committed defense of human rights and human dignity by your government in Argentina will greatly contribute to improving relations between our two countries.”