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Argentine Jews claim police behind anti-Semitic incidents

BUENOS AIRES, Jan. 8 (JTA) — The Argentine Jewish community has asked a federal judge to look into allegations that police officials have been involved in recent major anti-Semitic incidents. Ruben Beraja, president of the Argentine Jewish umbrella organization DAIA, said this week that community leaders suspect that police were involved in October’s desecration of a cemetery near Buenos Aires and in November’s failed bombing of the Ezrah Hospital in the capital. In October, 100 graves were desecrated in the Jewish cemetery of La Tablada. Scores of headstones were smashed or spray-painted with swastikas, and the vandals painted a large sign reading “The Holocaust is a Jewish Hoax” on a wall. Days after the incident, two men were arrested while painting anti- Semitic graffiti just outside the cemetery. The arrests were hailed at first as proof of the government’s resolve to curb racist acts, but suspicions were soon raised. In a recent front page story, the local newspaper Pagina 12 said that “the two arrested were police informers paid to take the rap.” According to the newspaper, the arrests “were a set-up by two policemen eager to earn a promotion.” The two policemen were later charged with perjury and arrested, Pagina 12 reported. An irate Beraja said the Jewish community found out about the incident “only through the media.” The government “kept it a secret,” he said. “This incident breaks the trust we should have in our government. It is sickening to find out that policemen paid people to paint swastikas on a wall.” Beraja accused Argentine Interior Minister Carlos Corach, who is Jewish, “of not informing us.” “Only last week, we had a long meeting with him and he did not mention this incident,” Beraja said. Deputy Interior Minister Alberto Iribarne called Beraja’s charges “unfair,” adding that Corach “did not know about the incident. It involves Buenos Aires provincial policemen, not federal police.” Iribarne also denied that there was police involvement in the failed bombing of the Ezrah Hospital. According to Jewish officials, an anti-Semitic group that includes federal police officials was responsible for placing a bomb at the doorstep of the hospital in November. The bomb did not explode and was removed by a police bomb squad.