The death of Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, has revived debate over anti-Semitism in Argentina. Two years earlier the Israeli Embassy was bombed, killing 29.
Argentina’s Jewish community, some 250,000 strong, is the largest in Latin America.
Nisman was appointed by then-President Néstor Kirchner in 2004 to head the investigation. Argentine officials had accused the government of Iran of planning the attack and the Lebanese Hezbollah of carrying it out, but no one has ever been prosecuted.
In 2013 the government of Argentina’s current president, Cristina Fernández, Kirchner’s widow, set up a joint “truth commission” with Tehran, allegedly to investigate who was behind the bombing. Jewish leaders in Argentina were outraged by the move, which they saw as a cover-up.
Nisman said he had proof that it was part of a secret deal to let Tehran off the hook in exchange for a favorable trade deal, including Iranian oil. He was found dead from a gun shot to the head Jan. 18, the day before he was to testify before the Argentine Congress. His death, including debate over whether he committed suicide, has brought renewed attention to the 1994 attack and anti-Semitism in Argentina.
The Argentine government gave refuge to thousands of Nazi officials after World War II — as did the governments of Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, though in lesser numbers.
On Jan. 19, 10 Israeli tourists were injured when they were attacked at a hostel for backpackers in Argentina’s Patagonia region. The attackers, armed with broken bottles, sticks and a shotgun, yelled, “You shit Jews, you are trying to take over Patagonia,” the Onda Azul hostel’s owner, Yoav Pollac, told the press.
The attack in Argentina takes place at the same time as anti-Jewish assaults in Europe and Israel. The Jan. 9 murder of four shoppers at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris by Amedey Coulibaly, a follower of Islamic State, is one of many carried out by Islamists.
The killings at Hyper Cacher also show the possibility of solidarity between Jewish and Muslim workers. Lassan Bathily, a Mali-born Muslim worker at the grocery, helped customers hide in the freezers and encouraged them to stay calm after Coulibaly attacked.
Another former worker at the market, Mohammed Amine, an immigrant from Morocco who was a friend of Yohan Cohen, one of those killed, told the Associated Press, “I’m Muslim and he’s Jewish. But there’s such respect between us. We’re like brothers. They took my best friend.”
Many anti-Semitic attacks have been carried out under the guise of supporting the Palestinian struggle. During the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer, some demonstrators in France and Germany chanted “Death to the Jews” and attacked Jewish stores and synagogues. There have been similar attacks in Belgium and Denmark. Fascist groups and other ultra-rightists have also peddled the anti-Semitic poison.
Anti-Jewish attacks have caused a spike in the number of Jews, especially from France, moving to Israel.
On Jan. 21, Hamza Matrouk, a Palestinian worker from the West Bank, boarded a bus in Tel Aviv, Israel, and stabbed the driver and nearly a dozen passengers. While much of the media said Matrouk was just a “lone wolf,” this was the latest attack in Israel and the Palestinian territories aimed at Jews. Among them: the Nov. 18 murder of four congregants at the B’nei Torah Synagogue in West Jerusalem and the June 12 killing of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank.
Officials of Hamas, the reactionary Islamist group that runs Gaza, called Matrouk’s knifings “heroic and brave” and “the natural response to the crimes of the occupation and its terror against our people.” Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestine Authority in the West Bank, has not said a word.
Silence, rationalizations of the ‘left’
Virtually the entire “left” and other middle-class radicals have either justified the attacks, said they understood why they had been carried out, or been silent.
In a Jan. 26 feature article on the website of Workers World Party, a petty-bourgeois socialist group in the U.S., Fred Goldstein complains that “the term anti-Semitic is applied equally to, on the one hand, Greece’s pro-Nazi Golden Dawn, the undercover anti-Semites of the French National Front and Germany’s Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PAGIDA) and, on the other hand, to Hamas, Hezbollah and Muslim individuals or groups that attack Jews in Europe and the U.S.”
Goldstein says that the killings of Jews by Palestinians and Muslims are justified because they “arise out of rage” against the crimes of the Israeli government, including the 2014 war on Gaza in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed.
In other words, when fascists kill Jews it’s anti-Semitism, but when Muslims or Palestinians kill Jews because they are Jewish, these are just “misguided but understandable acts,” Goldstein writes.
This cynical view sees Palestinian toilers as incapable of organizing mass struggles against national oppression and class exploitation, much less taking the moral high ground and forging a revolutionary party. They have to settle for brutal, but “understandable,” acts of Jew-hatred.
Blow to Palestinian struggle
This is a dead-end for the struggles of Palestinians against the balkanization of Palestine, for jobs for the unemployed, for land and water rights, for the right to travel and for recognition of Palestine.
Goldstein goes on to say, “Islamophobia is being used as a tool by the ruling class now, just as they used anti-Semitism in the 1930s.”
Class-conscious workers reject all discrimination against Muslims and Arabs and oppose all attempts to clamp down on political space and workers’ rights under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
But Goldstein’s argument that anti-Muslim prejudice fostered by the rulers is “an updated version of anti-Semitism” misses the place of Jew-hatred in the arsenal of the propertied rulers for more than a century. Jews are presented as a small conspiratorial band of bankers and bloodsuckers responsible for the misery of the toilers, and violence against them is encouraged to divert workers from the struggle to overthrow capitalism and establish workers’ rule.
In a world of capitalist crisis, like the one that has begun to unfold today and that marked the lead-up to World War II, Jew-hatred will more and more raise its ugly head. A 1938 resolution by the Socialist Workers Party explains why. Jews, a tiny minority in the world, “constitute an easy scapegoat upon whom the big bourgeoisie can divert the pent-up, dangerous wrath of the backward elements among the masses, and particularly of the desperate middle classes.”
The recent attacks against Jews underscore the need for class-conscious and revolutionary minded workers, in the U.S., Palestine and around the world, to champion the right of return of Jews to Israel, and to fight to force their own governments to welcome them should they choose to take refuge there. The fight against Jew-hatred is a key battle for the working class worldwide.
DC socialist: ‘Workers need to fight Jew-hatred!’
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