Is It Safe to Be Jewish in Argentina?

March 3, 2015 | Eamonn MacDonagh
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The death or likely murder of Alberto Nisman, lead investigator of the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center, is a product of Argentina’s dysfunctional political culture and its ongoing effort to develop closer relations with Iran. But, writes Eamonn MacDonagh, straightforward anti-Semitism also comes into the mix—notwithstanding the fact that foreign minister Héctor Timerman, a driving force behind rapprochement with Iran, is himself Jewish:

Timerman frequently mentions his Jewishness and regards himself as an example of how good things are for Jews in Argentina. In many ways, he’s right about that. He is foreign minister, after all. . . . President [Cristina] Fernández de Kirchner. . . appears to believe that Jewish people are possessed of quasi-magical qualities, making it a good idea to have some of them around. In her initial reaction to Nisman’s death, she asked how anyone could believe that Timerman, who “professes the Jewish faith and is Jewish”—to use her bizarre construction—could possibly have done anything illegal during the negotiations with Iran. Timerman too has never been slow to bring up his Jewish origins whenever the government’s relations with Iran have been questioned. . . .

Nisman was also Jewish, but made no particular fuss about that fact. His enemies, however, never forgot it, and the unceasing flow of death threats he received rarely failed to include a cataract of anti-Semitic abuse. When he went public with grave allegations that the Argentine government had broken the law in order to exculpate the murderers of dozens of its citizens, and had done so through a pact with [Iran,] one of the most anti-Semitic regimes on earth, it didn’t take long for a bullet to end his life.

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