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October 2, 2019 2:26 pm

With 107% Increase in Incidents Targeting Jews Over Last Year, Antisemitic Attitudes in Argentina Run Deep, New Report Finds

avatar by Ben Cohen

People hold images of the victims of the 1994 bombing attack on the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) community center, in a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the atrocity in Buenos Aires. Photo: Reuters / Agustin Marcarian.

A decline in historical awareness alongside rising hate speech posted online were the two key factors behind an astonishing 107-percent rise in antisemitic offenses in Argentina during 2018, a top community official said on Wednesday.

“The main causes of these antisemitic reactions we believe have to do with the loss of collective memory, due to the increase in hate speech and anonymity in social networks,” Jorge Knoblovits — the president of DAIA, the umbrella group representing Argentina’s 180,000-strong Jewish community — remarked at a press conference in Buenos Aires.

Knoblovits was speaking at the unveiling of DAIA’s annual report on antisemitism in Argentina. Data collected in 2018 revealed a total of 834 incidents targeting Jews — an increase of 107 percent on the 404 incidents registered the previous year in the Latin American nation.

An accompanying report on attitudes toward Jews in Argentina  — compiled by the Gino Germani Institute of the University of Buenos Aires — meanwhile demonstrated the endurance of antisemitic stereotypes about Jewish wealth and influence.

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In a survey of 1500 people between the ages of 18-65, the institute found that 61 percent agreed with the assertion that Jews had “too much power in financial markets,” while 47 percent concurred with the statement “Jews are the first to turn their backs on people in need.”

A full 87 percent of respondents “do not know or have a misconception of what Zionism is,” the institute noted. When asked if they thought Jews in Argentina faced discrimination, 53 percent responded in the affirmative.

The vast majority of 2018’s offenses — 90 percent — occurred on social media, but Knoblovits emphasized that violent attacks were increasingly part of the picture.

“A new element was observed in the last year — of attacks on members of the Jewish community such as the rabbi in Rosario, or the attack in Buenos Aires on a man wearing a kippah, something we’ve seen in Europe but not in Argentina,” Knoblovits said.

The attack on Rabbi Shlomo Tawil — director of the Chabad-Lubavitch center in the provincial city of Rosario — occurred in June, when he was brutally assaulted by three youths who showered him with antisemitic abuse. The Buenos Aires attack took place a month earlier, when 34-year-old Eli Chamen was badly beaten up and insulted as a “f___ Jew” by his assailants as he left Friday night services at the Mikdash Yosef synagogue in Buenos Aires. A group of passersby who witnessed the attack on Chamen in the middle-class Palermo neighborhood were reported to have laughed at the spectacle.

The DAIA report also included a breakdown of antisemitic incidents by type. “Xenophobic expressions” made up 27 percent of the overall total, with Middle East-related antisemitism and the invocation of Nazi imagery or language accounting for 18 percent and 17 percent respectively. Other categories included “nationalist antisemitism” and the various antisemitic conspiracy theories that circulate on the internet.

Most of the online antisemitism reported to the DAIA took place on Facebook, which was home to 72 percent of the incidents. Twitter came next with 16 percent, followed by Instagram on 8 percent.

A brief preface to the DAIA report on antisemitism was contributed by the president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church, Monsignor Oscar Ojea.

“Our society needs to renew its commitment to work to avoid all types of racial, social, religious, and cultural discrimination, which denigrates the dignity of the human person and makes healthy coexistence impossible,” Ojea wrote.

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