Controversy over Effort to Open PLO Office in Argentina

The news media here are devoting an extraordinary amount of space to the Arab propaganda effort aimed at opening a PLO office in Buenos Aires and the subsequent reaction by the DAIA, the representative Jewish body in Argentina, which sought the direct intervention of President Raul Alfonsin in opposing this development.

The World Jewish Congress, in a survey of the media, noted that the traditional morning paper, La Prensa, in its lead editorial entitled “Historic Truth,” speaks out categorically against the introduction of the PLO in Buenos Aires, and believes that the recent propaganda barrage was meant to be a trial balloon.

Ambito Financiero, the main business daily, foresees a confrontation between the Jewish and the Arab communities. It writes: “The Arabs will insist that Argentina grant room for a PLO office, but their pressure does not seem sufficient to make up for the pressure which the Jews will be exerting in the opposite direction.”

According to the Latin American branch of the WJC, arguments in the government in favor of the PLO office are motivated by desire to demonstrate Third World solidarity at a time when Alfonsin is being mooted for chairman of the non-aligned movement. On the other hand, newspapers report that the Radical Party of Alfonsin does not wish to offend the Jewish community, particularly sice it collected the overwhelming majority of its votes in the recent election: in Buenos Aires it is said that 120,000 votes favored the government party. In his meeting with the DAIA earlier this month, Alfonsin pledged there would be no PLO office. (See January II Bulletin.)

Newspapers have expressed surprise that unnamed officials within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have expressed displeasure with “the abstention of Israel in the Malvina (Falkland Island) case,” noting that Argentina had consistantly “spoken up in favor of Palestine in almost all international forums.”

The controversy over the PLO office is being viewed in the context of an Argentine foreign policy of ambivalence and of contradictions in purpose.

Fueling speculation about Alfonsin’s leadership of the non-aligned, is the announcement that the Argentine President will be going to New Delhi at the end of the month, to appear with Rajiv Gandhi, Olof Palme, Miguel de la Madrid, Julius Nyerere and Andreas Papandreou in a public meeting for peace, which will call upon the atomic powers to stop all manufacture of nuclear armaments. He will then travel to Greece and will also stop in Saudi Arabia to see King Fahd.

Despite this, however Alfonsin last week stated that “Argentina has no ambition to lead the nonaligned” and this has further added to a feeling that there is confusion in Argentine foreign policy, the backdrop against which the PLO office controversy rages.

NEXT STORY