28 April 2017

Israel’s Collaboration in the Murder of 3,000 Jews by Argentine's neo-Nazi Junta comes back to Haunt It

Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties

A demonstration against Argentina’s military junta in 1979. Women from Mothers of the Plaza hold up banners. The one that is clearly visible in the photograph has pictures of some of the "disappeared."
Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties
One of the principal justifications for the Israeli state is that it is a refuge of last resort for Jewish people against the recurrence of anti-Semitism.  This is a powerful feeling among many Jews.  Yet I believe it is a myth.  What happened in Argentina is a reminder that for left-wing, socialist and dissident Jews, a far-Right racist Israel is anything but a refuge.

From 1976 to 1983 a neo-Nazi Junta took power in Argentina.  It was supported both by the United States, as part of Ronald Reagan’s fight against communism in Latin America, and Israel.  It was viciously anti-Semitic and up to 12.5%, 3,000, of those who it tortured and ‘disappeared’ were Jewish. 

Israeli Mirage jets bought in Falklands war, painted with Peruvian flag
According to Jacobo Timerman, the Jewish editor of the liberal La Opinion newspaper. who was himself arrested and tortured, for the torturers, interrogating non-Jews was a job whilst interrogating Jews was a pleasure.  A political opponent could be turned, but a Jew remained a Jew forever. [Prisoner Without a Name, Cell without a Number’, p.66, Vintage Books, New York, 1981].  Jewish prisoners were given ‘a double dose of torture and harassment’ and ‘it was known to the Israeli embassy which maintained relations with ‘moderates’ within the military junta.’ [Jewish Chronicle 25.5.84., ‘A White Book’ Leader].

An article in the Buenos Aires Herald told how, ‘Jews in Argentina take it for granted that if for any reason they go to prison, they will be treated far more harshly than Gentiles.’ [Timerman, p. 136]  Anti-Semitism was a factor both in the initial kidnapping and the additional torture and murder reserved for Jews.’ [Edy Kaufman, p.492, Jewish Victims of Repression in Argentina, Under Military Rule (1976-1983), Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Vol 4, No 4]  Kaufman speaks of a ‘general consensus’ that Jewish prisoners were subject to more severe treatment by their jailers. [Ibid. p.483]  

Timerman was released in 1978 and flew to Israel in 1979 where he became a citizen.  In 1982 he wrote a bitterly critical book against Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, The Longest War: Israel's Invasion of Lebanon (1982).  He described Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as similar to that of Black people in South Africa under Apartheid.  In response, Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben Meir  on the US news program 60 Minutes described his book as ‘a collection of calumnies and lies arising from his own self-hatred.' [Rein & Davidi, "Exile of the World" (2010), p. 20.

Dr. Marcos’s son Mauricio was an Israeli citizen, who was arrested and murdered.  Marcos set up in the 1990’s the Associasion de Familiares de Desaparecidos Judios, an organization of the families of Jewish persons who disappeared and have not been traced.  Another member, Dr Weinstein described how “Israel's indifference to the matter began back during the days of the dictatorship, and has continued to this day.” [A disappearing act, Aryeh Dayan, Ha'aretz 3.1.03.,]

The perception was widespread that ‘The Jewish state's concern for the disappeared was subordinated to political and commercial considerations.’ [Latin American Weekly Report 17 February 1984 cited by Bishara Bahbah, “Israel's Military Relationship with Ecuador and Argentina,” Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 15 no. 2, (1986): 94]. 

At the same time that the ambassador was acting on behalf of the detainees, Israeli agents were waiting outside, bearing proposals for sales of the means of warfare. Thus, the arms sales were only detrimental to the cause. [Yitzhak Mualem, Between a Jewish and an Israeli Foreign Policy: Israel-Argentina Relations and the Issue of Jewish Disappeared Persons and Detainees under the Military Junta 1976-1983, Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2004.: citing Senkman, "The Rescue of Jews in Argentina during the Military Regime, 1976-1983," p. 112; Barromi, "Were the Jews of Argentina Abandoned?" p. 69].

In 2002 the Israeli government set up a committee to investigate the disappearance of Jews but it took care not to offend the Argentinian government.  Its interim report omitted Israel's role during the dictatorship. It also rejected the demand to take legal action against the officers who tortured and killed Jews.  This was consistent with Israel's own stance regarding the trying of Israeli military officers and politicians in European countries or at the International Criminal Court at the Hague for their actions in the Palestinian territories.  Dr. Marcos recalled how
We and other Jewish families knocked again and again on the door of the embassy [in Buenos Aires], and we were always sent away.  I thought that from the report, we would be able to understand why this happened. Was this a policy that was dictated from Israel, was it a policy that was decided upon at the embassy … I did not find even a single word about this in the report.[ Ha'aretz, A disappearing act, 3.1.03.]
The anti-Semitism of the Argentinian Junta set the case apart from other examples of Israeli co-operation with repressive regimes.[Aaron Klieman, Israels Global Reach: Arms, Sales As Diplomacy, p.12, New York, Pergamon-Brassey, 1985]. The Israeli state and the Zionist movement had a choice between selling military equipment to the Junta or waging a campaign against the torture and murder of Argentina’s Jews.  The Israeli government chose the former.

According to Timerman's son, Héctor, Israeli Ambassador Ram Nirgad visited their house, when he had been released from detention and asked Timerman to sign a letter saying that he had been well treated and had no problems with the government. The journalist refused and said he'd rather remain in detention.[Héctor Timerman,” Israel, la dictadura y los consejos de Avivi”, Pagina/12, 3 July 2001, Rein & Davidi, “Exile of the World” (2010), p. 16.

Timerman was attacked in the United States by right-wing Zionists who believed he ‘asked for what he got’.[Jewish Chronicle [JC] 31. 7. 81].  US neo-conservatives reserved their criticism, not for the Junta but the Carter administration’s human rights policies. Jean Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s Secretary of State, fatuously distinguished between ‘authoritarian’ regimes that respected religion and family and totalitarian ones. [Jean Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships and Double Standards” Commentary .

These neo-cons argued that the Junta enjoyed good relations with Israel, which was “an important supplier of arms and military equipment to Argentina.”  This was cited in a memo to Congress as evidence that the Junta could not be considered anti-Semitic.  Jim Lobe described how Christopher Hitchens was told by Irving Kristol, a prominent neo-con, that he didn’t believe that Timerman had suffered anything like that which he had described in the book. [See Decter, “The Uses of Jacobo Timerman”, Contentions, August, 1981; Seth Lipsky, “A Conversation with Publisher Jacobo Timerman, Wall Street Journal, June 4, 1981.”, and NYT columnist William Safire].

The reason why Israel and the Zionist movement kept silent was because, faced with choice of maintaining a profitable arms trade with a regime whose political goals it supported and speaking out about the Jews who were persecuted in Argentina, they chose the former.  The latter were the same as those Jews who, in Israel, had opposed the occupation of the Palestinian territories and later the war in Lebanon. That was why the ‘Jewish State’ didn’t lift a finger to help them.  By way of contrast, the campaign to ‘free’ Soviet Jews was accompanied by a massive Zionist publicity campaign internationally. Soviet Jews represented potential settlers.  Jewish opponents of the Junta were potential critics and activists.

Renee Sofia Epelbaum, mother of three desaparecidos and one of the leaders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, accused Daia [the Argentinian equivalent of the Board of Deputies of Jews] of silence and extreme caution towards cases of arrests and disappearances of Jews.  In sharp contrast, the paper Nueva Presenda expressed its support for the cause of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo including the Jewish desperados. Daia even tried to improve the image of Argentina abroad, “particularly in the USA”. [Mario Sznajder and Luis Roniger, FromArgentina to Israel: Escape, Evacuation and Exile, Journal of Latin American Studies, p.356, Vol. 37, No. 2 (May, 2005) Cambridge University Press.

After the fall of the Junta, Amia (the Buenos Aires Zionist communal organisation) held its 90th anniversary celebration:
A group of women whose children disappeared during the Argentine military regimes crackdown on Left-wing opponents shouted ‘Nazi-Nazi’ at those attending the Congress here of Amia, the central Ashkenazi community of Buenos Aires. 
The protestors claimed that Israel, Amia and Daia- the political representative body of Argentine Jewry- had done nothing to help the ‘desaparecidos’ (disappeared ones)... 
The guest of honour was Mr Itzhak Navon, formerly President of Israel. The mothers attempted to prevent his entrance to the Conference as well as that of the Israeli Ambassador to Argentina.[Bitter Protest by Grieving Mothers’, Jewish Chronicle, 23 March 1984.
The Israeli state maintained close relations with the military dictatorship in Argentina. Despite the Junta’s anti-Semitism, relations between the two countries flourished, first during the Israeli Labour government of Yitzhak Rabin and subsequently under the Likud administration of Menachem Begin.[ Rein & Davidi, "Exile of the World" (2010), pp. 6–8].

Below is an article in Ha’aretz about the continued failure of Israel’s leaders to disclose the truth about the collaboration of Zionism with Argentina’s neo-Nazi leaders, which is but an echo of the collaboration with Nazism.

What happened in Argentina is a demonstration that Israel is no refuge from anti-Semitism.  An anti-Semitic regime is likely to be a semi-fascist one and thus, like Argentina under the Military Junta, a good friend of Israel.  In the event of such a regime arising, it will target left-wing Jews, precisely the ones that Israel will not wish to help.

As the late Yossi Sarid MK of the left-Zionist Meretz described it:  ‘the government of Israel never once lifted a finger and co-operated with the Argentine murderers because of their interest in arms deals….In Argentina, Israel sold even the Jews for the price of its immediate interests.’ [ “Yes, I Accuse,” Ha'aretz, 31 August 1989, p. 7 [Hebrew]; MK Yair Tzaban in Divrei Ha-Knesset, 29 June 1983, pp. 2810-2812 [Hebrew];

Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties

Israel aided the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, including by providing arms. Argentine Jews who immigrated to Israel are demanding the release of documents on these ties.
Gili Cohen Mar 21, 2016 

There are wounds that do not heal. Forty years after the coup that ushered in a brutal, seven-year military dictatorship in Argentina, 12 Israelis who immigrated from that country are demanding that Jerusalem release documents on its ties with the junta.

Most members of the group lived in Argentina when the junta was in power, from March 1976 to December 1983, and some of them lost family members in the “Dirty War.” But according to one member of the group, Jessica Nevo, 54, “It was only when we came here, to Israel, that we began to read in the foreign press what was happening there, in Argentina. We didn’t know there were torture camps below the military bases. I learned about the defense ties with Israel only recently.”

Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer who campaigns for transparency about the country’s defense exports, has filed a Freedom of Information Law request with Israel’s defense and foreign ministries on behalf of the group. It demands the full disclosure of ties with the junta: arms sales, military installations built and operated by the state or Israeli companies and correspondence about Jewish political activists who were persecuted, detained or who disappeared during the junta era.

Even now, many of the Jews who lived through the period ask whether Israel did enough to rescue young Jews who were identified with leftist movements in Argentina and persecuted by the regime.
 “The aim is for us who live here — Israeli citizens who have chosen to be here and whose family members were murdered there — to feel that if we didn’t do all we could have done at the time, at least we will atone for what happened and we will do everything to bring the truth to light,” says journalist Shlomo Slutzky, 59, who immigrated to Israel from Argentina a few weeks after the coup and is one of the group’s leaders.

Nevo, a Bar-Ilan sociologist and feminist peace activist, immigrated from Buenos Aires in 1978, at age 16. She says her family was harmed by the regime both directly and indirectly: One member of the group is Francisco Tolchinsky, a relative who came to Israel with his siblings after their parents were murdered by the junta. In the FOI request, he noted that while he has little hope of learning more about his parents, he hopes the information can contribute to a fuller understanding of that dark time.
 “I believe [our request] has moral significance. It could be old-fashioned but I think there’s a place for such things, so we can tell our children and grandchildren that we did something,” says Slutzky, one of whose relatives is among the “disappeared.”
 “We want to know what happened to [him] — was Israel informed of his disappearance, was Israel asked to intervene in his behalf? Did they do anything? Maybe Israel did more than it’s ready to say, but this too must beknown,” Slutzky says.

Nevo believes the truth will come out, even if their petition is denied. She says their FOI request sets a precedent, after which “it will be impossible to continue to use the ‘security’ mantra to hide the Israeli connection” to the junta, adding, “security is also knowing what happened there.”
An estimated 30,000 people disappeared in the Dirty War, among them 2,000 Jews. The junta operated over 300 illegal detention sites. Torture was routine, including beatings, electric shocks and sexual assault.
Jessica Nevo, a member of the group that filed the freedom of information request.Moti Milrod
News of Israel’s ties to the junta is increasingly coming to light. In 2012 Argentina’s largest newspaper, Clarin, reported on retired Argentine pilots and military figures who testified that in 1982 they secretly flew to Israel, where they met with representatives from the military and defense manufacturers and returned with their plane loaded with light arms, mortars, air-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons.

According to Hernan Dobry’s book “Operation Israel: The Rearming of Argentina During the Dictatorship 1976-1983,” the weapons were meant for use in Argentina’s war against Britain (Falklands/Malvinas), and then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin was motivated primarily by anti-British sentiment. Israel also reportedly sent gas masks, land mines, radar equipment and tens of thousands of heavy coats for the war effort.

Testifying before Congress in 1981, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense said that in the three years since the U.S. arms embargo on Argentina, Buenos Aires had bought some $2 billion in arms from Israel and European states. Other estimates put Israel’s total defense exports to the junta at about $700 million.

Mack, the lawyer who filed the request, says this one is different from his FOI requests over Israeli defense exports to states such as Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan: This time the applicants are Israelis with relatives who murdered or disappeared, who don’t know whether Israel tried to save them or to help the junta.

 “Most of their parents’ generation is old or dead, and they have many questions. Now is the time to reveal the truth, so people can get some answers” before they die, Mack says, adding that it’s also important for Israel to take responsibility and learn from its mistakes.

Also signatory to the request are Wanda Clara and Marcus Weinstein, of Buenos Aires. They want to know more about what happened to their son Mauricio, an Israeli citizen who was abducted in the Dirty War. In an email Marcus Weinstein, a physician, described street patrols and nighttime arrests and abductions of civilians. After being tortured, many were shot and killed or thrown out of helicopters into the sea.

Mauricio Weinstein was 18, a senior in high school. On the evening of April 18, 1978 he was at his father’s office, near his school, where he planned to sleep because he needed to go in early the next day.

The soldiers came to the home as the rest of the family sat down to eat with guests. “They stood us up against the dining-room wall and took me in a car, with a pistol to my head, to my office. I was forced to open the door. My son was abducted, I saw them put him in a car,” Marcus Weinstein wrote, adding that a few of his son’s classmates were also abducted that night.

 “Several months later, I heard he was in the El Vesubio camp, which the prisoners called ‘hell.’ In July, apparently, he was ‘transferred,’ that is, killed.”

The Weinsteins contacted the authorities and also appealed to the local Jewish community and to Israel. Marcus Weinstein says he felt the Israeli diplomatic representatives cared little interest about the disappeared Jews, including his son and a second Israeli citizen. Today he wonders whether it’s possible to understand 38 years “of suffering and memory, without truth or justice.”
The event in Tel Aviv to mark the 40th anniversary of the military coup in Argentina Moti Milrod
Last week, Israel’s Meretz party and the World Union of Meretz held a memorial in Tel Aviv to mark the 40th anniversary of the coup in Argentina. It was called “Nunca Mas” (never again, in Spanish).
The demand for disclosure is not without its critics in Israel’s Argentine community. Some fear it will hurt Israel’s international reputation, while others say there’s no point dwelling in the past. Better, they say, to remember the dead and the disappeared while focusing on safeguarding democracy and human rights in Israel and in Argentina.

But others say those with personal experience have a duty to gather information. “I, who grew up as a teenager in Argentina, my memory is that it is forbidden to talk, to voice what you believe,” says Nevo. “This is something that you learn right away: Don’t say anything, don’t ask anything. The experience of growing up in a dictatorship has enabled me to recognize the concealed militarism here. I want answers. I want to know what’s in those documents. I want Israel to give an accounting.”
In a response, the Defense Ministry confirmed it had received the FOI request and will attend to it in the usual manner.

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