Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chile: Pedophile Nazi criminal and Pinochet supporter died in prison

Paul Schafer, a pedophile and criminal from both Hitler's Germany and Pinochet's Chile, died from cardiac problems on Saturday in a Chilean prison. Schafer served as a medic in the Nazi army. In 1959, he established an institution to help children in social risk in Sieburg. However, after being accused of sexual abuse of two children, he fled to Chile in 1961. There he founded Colonia Dignidad, a self-sufficient, anti-Semitic, isolated German colony (some call it a cult). Chilean officials claim that the 16,000-hectar colony served as a torture and interrogation camp during the Pinochet era (1973-1990), with former Gestapo officers providing torture lessons to Pinochet's opponents.

After accusations of sexual abuse of 25 children from the colony, Schafer fled Chile in 1997. In 2004, he was convicted in absentia of homicide, child abuse, illegal traffic of arms, and torture. The following year, he was found in Argentina, from where he was extradited. At the time of his death, he was 89 years old and had only served 4 years of his 33-year sentence (including 20 for pedophilia). He was also being investigated for the 1985 disappearance of Boris Weisfeiler, an Jewish Russian-born mathematician from the United States.

Nowadays, approximately 300 people live in Villa Baviera (what was once Colonia Dignidad), which refused to bury Schafer in its territory. He was buried in a different cemetery after his adoptive daughter received a special donation for this purpose.


Monday, April 26, 2010

"Israel Apartheid Week" reaches Latin America

Last month, several universities around the world took part in the sixth yearly "Israel Apartheid Week" (IAW). Three Latin American cities took part in IAW 2010: Bogotá (Colombia), Puebla (Mexico) and Caracas (Venezuela). This is the second year on the list for both Puebla (2008, but not 2009) and Caracas (2009), while it is Bogotá’s first. No other Latin American cities have ever participated.

The programs consisted of the typical activities: flyers, movies, lectures, exhibitions, and events that attack Israel fiercely. Each city that hosts an IAW has its own programming. However, the common denominator among all cities is that many (if not most) of the organizers are stubbornly biased against Israel. They often twist words and facts, and employ manipulation techniques that, as a result, may leave the audience with wrong information. A perfect example of this is found on the description for an event in IAW Puebla, 'Velas por Gaza' ('Candles for Gaza'.) It reads: "En memoria de todos las victimas que han muerto bajo el control, represión, intifadas del Gobierno Sionista de Israel." (Israel Apartheid Week website) Translation: "In memory of all the victims that have died under the control, repression and intifadas of the Zionist Government of Israel."

According to Merriam-Webster, an intifada means "REBELLION, UPRISING; specifically : an armed uprising of Palestinians against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip." Do the organizers in Puebla really know what an intifada is? Perhaps they simply do not understand that the Palestinians own the patent for carrying them out. In addition, they refer to the Israeli government as 'Zionist.' Zionism is the desire of the Jewish people to return to their homeland in the Land of Israel, thus defines by nature the Israeli government. It is also a word that is commonly demonized by anti-Israel groups, who commonly employ it as a synonym of nonsense expressions, including "Israeli apartheid."

Venezuela is one of the few Latin American countries to recognize "the State of Palestine." Full diplomatic relations, including mutual embassies, were established last year. (27/4/09, TeleSurTV) The Venezuelan government even promoted IAW Caracas. Aporrea (a Venezuelan government-owned "news" agency) published an article about the event last month, which begins with "Anótenlo en sus calendarios! – El pueblo bolivariano se solidariza con el pueblo Palestino en La sexta semana internacional contra el apartheid israelí se celebrará en todo el mundo del 1 al 8 de marzo, 2010. […] El año pasado Caracas y más de 40 ciudades de todo el mundo participaron en esta convocatoria, que tuvo lugar tras el brutal asalto contra el pueblo palestino de la franja de Gaza." (Aporrea, 2/3/10) Translation: "Mark down your calendars! – The Bolivarian nation is showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. The sixth international week against Israeli apartheid will be celebrated around the world from the 1st to the 8th of March, 2010. […] Last year, Caracas and more than 40 cities around the world participated in this event, which took place after the brutal assault against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip."

While Mexico and Colombia do not formally recognize a Palestinian state, there is some sort of acknowledgement since each of these countries host a Palestinian Special Delegation.

The Latin American branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center offered the universities involved to "assist in organizing campus activities to promote dialogue and a culture of peace, while isolating voices of hatred and intolerance." (Simon Wiesenthal Center, 18/3/10)

Argentina: Anti-Semitic Attack during Pesach

On 1/4/10, anti-Semitic graffiti was found in Santa Teresita, in the province of Buenos Aires. The graffiti consisted of swastikas and inscriptions in German, such as "Morten Juden" (Death to Jews). The incident was immediately reported to the police and security was tightened in the hotel where a group of about 200 Jews, including community leaders, were celebrating Pesach. That same night, individuals in motorcycles passed by the hotel shouting similar offensive expressions. As of today, the culprits have not been found. Many Jewish Argentineans from the Orthodox community travel yearly to coastal cities (including Santa Teresita) to celebrate Pesach.

The Jewish community requested mediation and immediate action from Ministry of Justice to find and inculpate the people responsible for the hate crime. (1/4/10, Prensa Judía) Meanwhile, Eduardo Camaño, Minister of Government for the Province of Buenos Aires, issued a release that stated: "Rechazamos cualquier acto que agravie y atente contra la comunidad judía, por cuyos miembros sentimos el más profundo respeto”. ("We reject any action that aggravates and attacks the Jewish community, for whose members we feel the deepest respect.") The provincial authorities allegedly started an investigation immediately after the attack. (1/4/10, La Crónica)

Investigators are attempting to determine whether this was an isolated case, given that Santa Teresita once housed a Nazi criminal. Dino Šakić was a Croatian who directed the Jasenovac concentration camp from 1942 to 1944. After an investigation in 1998, the 76-year old Šakić was extradited to Croatia, where he was convicted and sent to prison for 20 years. He died incarcerated ten years later. (21/7/08, CBC)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Country profile #1: Argentina

In Numbers:
• 19th century and before: European and Mediterranean businesspeople arrived in Argentina, forming the first Jewish community in Buenos Aires in 1862. As with the marranos (Spanish and Portuguese crypto-Jews) from previous centuries, these assimilated into Argentinean culture and Catholicism. Starting in 1881, after the pogroms in Russia and Romania, several thousands of Jews immigrated to Argentina.
• 1906-1912: 13,000 new Jewish immigrants per year (mostly European, but also some Moroccans and Turks.)
• 1920: there were more than 150,000 Jews in Argentina.
• 1930s and early 1940s: Argentina was inhospitable to the Jews before the Holocaust. It is estimated that 30,000-50,000 of Jews arrived from Europe by 1943, many of them illegally.
• 1940s and 1950s: Jewish immigration from the Middle East.
• 1950: there were 310,000-320,000 Jews in Argentina (historical peak.)
• 1976-1983: about 1,000 Jews disappeared during the Dirty War. As a result of the war, about a million Jews left Argentina. Many returned when the war was over and the rest remained abroad.
• 1948-2001: approximately 50,000 Argentinean Jews made Aliyah (immigration to Israel)
• Early 2000s: severe economic crisis in 2001 caused several thousands of Jews to leave Argentina. Many of these emigrants are now returning to Argentina.
• Current population is estimated at 184,500, making it the largest Jewish community in Latin America and the seventh largest in the world (1.4% of world Jewry.) 0.5% of the general Argentinean population is Jewish (American Jewish Year Book, 2006)

The Historical Situation:
• Before World War I: anti-Semitism was rare in Argentina.
• 1918-1930: following the Russian revolution, anti-Semitism rose due to anti-revolutionary feelings. On January 7-13, 1919, there was even a pogrom against the Jews, who suffered from physical beatings and damages to their property.
• 1946-1955: Juan Peron was elected president. On the one hand, Peron was good to the Jews as he expressed recognition for their rights and established relations with Israel in 1949. On the other hand, he was a Nazi sympathizer who gave refuge to Nazi war criminals, making Argentina a safe-haven for Nazis. At the same time, he halted Jewish immigration to Argentina. After a military coup overthrew Peron from power in 1955, a new wave of anti-Semitism began.
• 1960: Israeli agents abducted the notorious Nazi, Adolf Eichmann, in Buenos Aires. His trial the following year provoked new anti-Semitism in Argentina.
• 1976-1983: Argentina was under military rule. Out of the 9,000 disappeared people during the Dirty War, 1,000 were Jews. After democracy was restored in Argentina, anti-Semitism declined and the Jews were placed in many high government positions.
• 1988: the Argentinean parliament passed a new law against racism and anti-Semitism.
• 1989-1999: under Carlos Menem's leadership, many Jews were appointed to his government and relations with Israel were quite positive. Several serious anti-Semitic incidents happened while he was president. The most notorious of these were the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 (32 people were killed) and of the Jewish community headquarters (AMIA) in 1994. The latter killed 87 people and wounded 100 others. A Hizbollah suicide bomber was responsible for the operation, allegedly with vast support from Iran (which naturally denies its involvement). Carlos Menem and some others are currently undergoing trial for alerting Alberto Jacinto Kanoore Edul, who was behind the AMIA bombing, and for covering significant evidence.

The Community Today:
There are fewer than 200,000 Jews in Argentina, of which 90% live in Buenos Aires and the rest in cities such as Rosario, Cordoba and Santa Fe.
The community's institutions and individuals were deeply affected by the Argentinean economic crisis earlier this decade. About one quarter of the Jews in Argentina live below the poverty line and the AMIA community center (the one that was bombed in 1994 and constructed right after) is now trying to repay a large millionaire debt.
The DAIA (Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas) is the political arm of the Jewish community. Buenos Aires has several synagogues: 50 Orthodox, 21 Conservative and a few reform. Argentina has more than 70 Jewish educational institutions of all types, and in Buenos Aires, 17,000 Jewish children study in the Jewish educational system.


Latin America, Israel and the Jews

The most recent survey of Jewish population (2006) stipulates that around 393,100 Jews, or 3.0% of the global Jewish population, lives in Latin America (Spanish America and Brazil). In comparison, there are 373,500 Jews (2.9% of global Jewish population) living in Canada, which has the fourth largest Jewish population in the world. (American Jewish Year Book, 2006)

The physical movement of Jewish populations in the twentieth century, together with the Holocaust, created a new global demographic profile for the Jews. Latin America absorbed many Jewish families before and after World War II. At the same time, plenty of Nazi criminals were given refuge in Latin America, including notorious murderers such as Adolf Eichmann. Combined with the influence of Spanish anti-Semitism, which dates back to several centuries ago, a non-mainstream trend of anti-Semitism was created in Latin America. Add to that anti-Israel views. Journalists such as Jose Levy (CNN en Español) and Shlomo Slutsky (El Clarín newspaper, Argentina) are clearly biased against Israel in their reportages. Their motives may be simply marketability and sales. However, the damage is made to the Jews and to Israel, regardless of the reasons.

We cannot allow the anti-Semites to win the information war, in any part of the world. That is why I, am a Latin American Jew, am starting a blog about anti-Semitism in Latin America and about the relationship that countries in this region have with Israel. Much of the information is inaccessible to the world, since it is mostly in Spanish. My job from now on will be to communicate, summarize and explain anti-Semitic attacks, bias in the press and other relevant information from Latin America to the world, in English.