NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
While blatant anti-Semitic material continues to appear on newsstands in Argentina, the ruling military junta led by President Leopoldo Galtieri has assured a delegation of representatives from the American Jewish Committee that his Administration will pursue its policy to eliminate anti-Semitic tracts and apprehend anti-Semitic vandals.
Moreover, according to Howard Friedman, chairman of the Board of Governors of the AJCommittee, who acted as the principal spokesman for the delegation at a news conference here today after having recently returned from their 15-day study mission to four South American countries, the delegation departed with the impression from discussions with leading officials in Argentina that they are “being truthful” and “realize the image” Argentina has among United States public opinion.
The purpose of the seven – person delegation, which visited Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina, was to “renew our relationship” with the Jewish community and at the same time obtain information on conditions in these countries through discussions with government officials and representatives; Israeli and United States officials; and representatives of the Jewish community.
The general perception, Friedman said, was that the Jewish community in South America is “strong and vibrant” which possesses good schools, institutions and communal life and activities, “which could be a model in this field.” He noted Uruguay as a country with a “particularly vibrant” Jewish community, young and involved in governmental affairs. But he added that there continues to be some instances of anti-Semitism in Uruguay.
CONCERN OVER DISAPPEARED PERSONS
Of particular concern to the delegation was the situation in Argentina, focusing on its record of repeated human rights violations and those persons the government has listed in the past years as “disappeared.”The delegation said that upon presenting a list of 13 Jewish individuals listed in this category, the Interior Minister told them that “several” on the list were scheduled for release. According to information reaching the AJCommittee offices here today, four persons on the list presented to Argentine officials are about to be released.
Friedman said that sooner or later there will have to be an accounting done on the reported 9,000-10,000 people who have “disappeared” over the past years. But he said that according to information the delegation received, the miIitary will not allow “a Nuremberg to occur in Argentina.” He said there were “substantial numbers of Jews among” the missing persons reported in Argentina.
In discussing anti-Semitism, Friedman said it has become a “reality” in the life of Argentina’s Jewish community, adding that it has also become “deeply embedded” in the military. In noting this, he pointed out that there were no Jews to speak of in the military or foreign service. He said anti-Semitism is an “endemic feature of Argentine life but it is not finding expression” on the government level.
In their discussion with President Galtieri, whom they met for an hour, Friedman said that the delegation brought to his attention that anti-Semitic material continues to be disseminated freely throughout Buenos Aires. But according to Galtieri, despite this, the Jewish community is fully secure and functions without interference from the government.
CITES CONTINUED FAILURE OF POLICE OFFICIALS
The delegation brought to the attention of Galtieri the continued failure of the police officials to apprehend anti-Semitic vandals, particularly those responsible for the desecration of the main Jewish cemetery in Mar del Plata, Argentina’s major seaside resort some 250 miles south of Buenos Aires, more than two months ago.
Friedman said the delegation pointed out that if the government would arrest and prosecute such vondals, “a message that could never be approximated by words” would be sent from the government to deter other incidents.
Because the Reagan Administration has become less vocal on the issue of human rights, a drastic turn from the previous Carter Administration, the delegation was informed by government officials in both Chile and Argentina that relations with the U.S. are improving. Friedman noted that the Chilian government officials, particularly the Foreign Minister, stressed that human rights was not the business of Washington.
GOOD RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL
Friedman said that the countries the delegation visited have good bilateral relations with Israel while the same could not be said when it came to multi-lateral relations. But he pointed out that there was expressions of sympathy and support for Israel. He said the four South American countries did not appear to have a desire at the moment to establish an office for the Palestine Liberation Organization. But he said there was an effective PLO “functionary” operating out of the Syrian Embassy in Brazil.
The AJCommittee mission members, in addition to Friedman, were: Maynard Wishner, president, who led the delegation during its South American tour; Theodore Ellenoff, chairman of the national executive council; Philip Hoffman, honorary president; Bertram Gold, executive vice president; Rita Hauser, chairperson of the foreign affairs committee; and Jacobo Kovadloff, director of South American affairs.