VIDEO – More than 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) separate Buenos Aires from Jerusalem. Yet wars and crisis in the Middle East have an impact on anti-Semitism in Argentina.
For the past 12 years, Jewish umbrella organization DAIA has been counting and analyzing anti-Semitic incidents in Argentina. The last report, issued in December, shows a small rise in numbers, but a significant change in methods of aggression. Three out of every 10 occurrences happen on the Internet.
“The report was based on evidence compiled during 2011," says Marisa Braylan, who is responsible for the DAIA report. "In total we counted 263 incidents, not many more than in the previous year. The difference now is that the majority of the incidents happen online, through e-mails, on social networks or web pages."
DAIA gets most of its data from complaints, made by ordinary citizens. Like a picture of a swastika on a public square or one accompanied by a threat, telling Jews their time has come.
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DAIA’s executive director, Victor Garelik, says the best way to fight discrimination is by reporting each and every incident. The Jewish organization has a special e-mail to receive complaints.
“Citizens should be stimulated to report all discrimination incidents they come across, so we can process the information and design public policies to prevent future aggressions. These reports are fundamental to our work.”
The report reveals that 33% of anti-Semitic incidents registered last year happened in the virtual world, and another 10% on the media.
Yet some forms of anti-Semitism from the past repeat themselves, even in the digital era.
In 44% of the cases, Nazi symbols were used – a reminder of a war Argentines didn’t fight, but cannot forget.
'Argentina is not an anti-Semitic country'
Argentina is the home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America, including some Holocaust survivors. But it was also a favorite destination for Nazi leaders escaping Europe after German defeat, like Adolf Eichmann.
The military regime came to end in Argentina more than 30 years ago, but it was during democracy that Jewish argentines suffered two attacks, allegedly masterminded by Iran. Since then, Jewish schools, temples and institutions have been strongly protected.
“Argentina is not an anti-Semitic country, but there is anti-Semitism here – and that is what we must fight and change," says DAIA President Julio Schloss. "The best way to do this is through public awareness. People can be educated to live in harmony, in a pluralist society, that respects diversity.”
Argentina has little – if any – influence in the Middle East. Yet Argentine Jews feel they can contribute to world peace, by working with schools and government officials, to promote tolerance in their own country. Education, they say, is the best weapon to fight discrimination.