Argentines Have Favorable Views About Jews, New Survey Indicates

A survey on discrimination and anti-Semitism conducted in Argentina at the end of last year shows that 69 percent of those polled favored a multiethnic society while just 28 percent said they preferred one that is homogeneous.

Results of the poll of 1,900 persons in different parts of the country, which covered several other aspects of public opinion, were presented last week to Argentine President Carlos Menem by a delegation from the American Jewish Committee.

Menem told members of the AJCommittee fact-finding mission, which was accompanied by local Jewish leaders, that he “will continue working toward securing the climate of tolerance that we are now living in this nation.”

The poll, sponsored by AJCommittee and the DAIA, the umbrella group representing Argentine Jewry, also showed that 82 percent of those questioned said that the national origin or religion of the people they had contact with in their jobs or neighborhood were unimportant.

The survey, conducted by a local consultant, Edgardo Catterberg & Associates, indicated a generally positive attitude toward Jews.

“While Argentina is widely perceived as a country in which anti-Semitism is endemic, this survey comes up with a much more positive picture,” said David Singer, director of research for the AJCommittee.

“Negative attitudes toward Jews clearly exist, but they are far outweighed by favorable sentiments,” Singer added.

COMPARISONS TO OTHER MINORITIES

The poll sought to compare popular attitudes toward Jews with those toward Argentina’s other minorities, such as Italians, Koreans, Arabs and Paraguayans.

When questioned about which group had within it the “spirit of progress,” Jews came out ahead, with Italians, Koreans, Arabs and Paraguayans behind in that order.

In terms of dedication to family, Jews ranked second behind the Italians and ahead of Koreans and then Arabs.

Although 15 percent of those polled said they thought Jews provoke hostility, those questioned put Koreans slightly higher in this category, at 16 percent. Paraguayans (13 percent), Arabs (11 percent) and Italians (5 percent) followed.

When asked about which group had “more money,” 74 percent ranked Jews in the first place.

Questions about how well-integrated into society the different groups are showed that only Koreans are perceived as being less integrated into Argentine society than Jews.

More than 70 percent of those polled said they did not mind having Jewish neighbors, but 8 percent were against it.

About 18 percent said they were against intermarriage with Asians. Some 14 percent said they were against intermarriage with Jews, but 80 percent said they would accept it.

In general, the AJCommittee delegation said it was pleased with the poll results.

“The inquest’s findings were better than those in Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Russia,” Singer said, referring to countries in which AJCommittee has conducted similar surveys.

The AJCommittee delegation, which was on a tour of various Latin American countries, expressed its gratitude to Menem because he was one of the few leaders who “reconciled his sentiments with his actions,” said delegation head Lawrence Thorpe.

Menem, who is of Syrian origin, is the first Argentine president ever to have visited Israel in an official capacity and to have received an Israeli president while in office.

The AJCommittee delegation held high-level discussions with other top officials and diplomats during its stay in Buenos Aires.

It met with Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella and discussed the government’s decision to open the state’s secret files on Nazi war criminals who were given refuge in Argentina.

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