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August 2, 2021 12:13 pm

COVID-19 Pandemic Exposes Depth of Antisemitic Feeling in Argentina, University Survey Shows

avatar by Ben Cohen

An Argentine flag is seen flying at half-mast on July 17, 2021, as the government decreed five days of mourning to mark 100,000 deaths in the country due to COVID-19. Photo: Reuters/Patricio Murphy.

Argentines are far more antisemitic than they acknowledge, one of country’s leading journalists has charged, in the wake of an academic survey revealing that nearly 40 percent of the population believes that “Jewish businessmen” are benefiting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In Argentina, we have a very distorted vision of ourselves, in all areas,” the award-winning columnist and broadcaster Jorge Lanata asserted on his radio show last Thursday. “We are the best, we think that we are not racist. Argentina in many ways is a racist country.”

Lanata continued: “We also think that we are not antisemitic. In many ways, this is an antisemitic country.” He went on to argue that “myths about the Jews are part of our popular culture — we do not say so openly because it looks bad.”

The survey that sparked Lanata’s remarks was published at the end of June by the Laboratory of Studies on Democracy and Authoritarianism at the University of San Martín. Interviewed by Lanata on his show, the study’s main author, Ezequiel Ipar, confessed that he had been “surprised” by the “magnitude” of antisemitic sentiment, particularly among younger people.

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Asked whether they agreed with the false statement that “Behind the coronavirus pandemic, there are are figures such as [Hungarian-Jewish financier George] Soros and laboratories of Jewish businessmen who seek to profit financially,” a full 30.3 percent of survey respondents said they concurred “strongly.” A further 6.7 percent agreed to some extent with the statement.

Out of the 43 percent of respondents who disagreed, 37.6 percent completely rejected the statement. A further 19 percent of respondents said they either didn’t know or were indifferent.

Argentina is home to over 200,000 Jews, the largest community in Latin America.

Ipar explained that he had focused on antisemitism after seeing anti-Jewish memes and symbols on social media as well as demonstrations against the social distancing and quarantine restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

He pointed out that alongside Soros, the Argentine-Jewish businessman Hugo Sigman was also vilified at the protests and on social media platforms. Among those who deployed antisemitic rhetoric against Sigman was fellow Buenos Aires businessman Alberto Samid, who slandered him as a “MOISHE…who never gets tired of stealing from us!!!!” in a Twitter post last April.

“There are videos on YouTube that make this association between Jewish businessmen who want to benefit from the pandemic,” Ipar said. “So it seemed relevant to us to study signs of antisemitism in the context of the pandemic.”

The survey concluded that “manifestations of antisemitic discourse in contemporary societies appear, in the light of this study, to be much clearer and more explicit than is commonly assumed.”

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