Argentine Military Welcomes Jews, in Reversal of Its Former Practice

The Argentine military, long a bastion of anti-Semitism, is now welcoming Jews, in response to lobbying from the Argentine Jewish community.

“The Jewish community, like any other, has to be a part of the armed forces,” the Argentine Joint Chiefs of Staff commander, Adm. Emilio Osses, told Jewish leaders at a recent meeting.

Given the long exclusion of Jews from the officers corps, the very fact of the meeting between Argentina’s top military leader and the DAIA, the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations, marked a sharp departure.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff brings together the heads of Argentina’s army, navy and air force, and its function has been revitalized since the restoration of democracy in 1983.

The Argentine navy was part of the allied coalition that enforced the blockade against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.

“We have to move toward being a normal country where we can live together,” Osses told the Jewish leaders.

Observers viewed the meeting as a first step toward a new relationship between the Jewish community and the still influential armed forces.

Dr. Ruben Beraja, president of the DAIA, said further meetings with representatives of the armed forces were planned.

Few believe there will be a dramatic increase in the number of young Jews choosing a military career. Memories of Jewish prisoners being singled out for torture and beatings under the previous military dictatorship are still too fresh.

But the new attitude of the military was symbolically reflected in a benefit concert for the Israeli city of Ramat Gan last week when a regimental band stationed in Buenos Aires played a mix of Argentine and Israeli music to a delighted audience.

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