Argentine Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Zavala Ortiz, in an exclusive interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this weekend, denied that there was any significant organized anti-Semitic campaign in existence in Argentina. Stating that anti-Semitic expressions in Argentina were either pro-Arab propaganda or “lawful instances of free speech,” he said that, in his opinion, the whole question of Argentine anti-Semitism has been “magnified” out of proportion to the actual facts. The Foreign Minister, attending meetings in Washington of the Organization of American States, told the JTA: “I will assure all Jews as well as people of other races that the Argentine Government will not tolerate any racial discrimination.” There existed in Argentina some Arab propaganda expressions against the Jews, he said, but there were also Jewish propaganda efforts against the Arabs.
Mr. Zavala Ortiz revealed Arab diplomats have complained to the Argentine Foreign Ministry because the country’s Vice-President had voiced support of Israel. The Arab envoys also “denounced” the new Argentine Ambassador to Mexico, S. Santander, for being “pro-Israel,” he said.
The official policy of Argentina, he added, was “to respect everybody, Arab and Jew alike.” “But, without doubt, the ones who do not respect each other are the Arabs and the Jews,” he added.
Questioned about the activities of Arab League agent Hussein Triki, he said that Triki had no diplomatic status and had tried without success to obtain such recognition from Argentina. “He is in Argentina on a temporary visa and is believed to be married to an Argentine citizen,” the Foreign Minister said.
BLAMES FORMER ADMINISTRATION; DISCOUNTS IMPORTANCE OF TACUARA
Emphasizing that “there is no campaign against the Jews,” Mr. Zavala Ortiz stated that any manifestations. — which he maintained were exaggerated in reports — were attributable to the previous Administration.
Before the present Government came to power, he said, there were some attacks against Jews. “But these attacks,” he declared, “were of the same character as typical street crimes of individual initiative, rather than by organized political forces.”
Tacuara, a group he called insignificant, was notorious for anti-Semitic expressions but has been prosecuted by the Government and its unlawful activities punished, the Foreign Minister said.
Commenting on a recent expression by a Peronist representative in the Government calling for an investigation of Argentine Jewry, he said that Argentina was a free democracy and all representatives had a right to express their personal opinions and submit legislative proposals they feel are needed. “There are all shades of opinions,” he said, “but the opinion of the Government is one already expressed: Complete respect and effective protection of all races and all faiths.”
As an example of the regard of the government for Jewish citizens, he cited the participation of the Grand Rabbi in official events. He recalled that last July 9, the Rabbi participated as “a special guest of the Government in a cathedral high mass and military parade ceremony” along with ministers of the Protestant and Catholic faiths.
INSISTS GOVERNMENT LEADERS OPPOSE PREJUDICE; CITES PERSONAL RECORD
“I can assure you that, it there is someone against prejudice in Argentina, it is the leaders in the present Government,” he said.
Reflecting on his own contact with Jews, he said that, throughout his life, he has been concerned with the defense of minorities. He was aware that Argentina was the most important Jewish center of the world outside the United States and Israel. He said he had a long-standing invitation to visit Israel and that trees in his name have been planted in a park in Tel Aviv. He has been cited by the Israel Government, he added.
Referring to Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, as “a dear friend,” Mr. Zavala Ortiz said he had discussed the Argentine Jewish situation with him at length.
Mr. Zavala Ortiz also made the following comments in an address here to the Organization of American States: “All races deserve the respect and protection not only of the Government but also of the Argentine people. There are some isolated events, only a few of real importance, but all very, very sad,” he said. He held that these occurrences “are magnified with unknown intention. They have less significance or frequency and organization than instances of street robberies in any community. They represent more the forms of individual delinquency than of extremism.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.