Argentina: Israel Allowed Jews to Die

Article in Return No. 5, December 1990, London

One of the main justifications that supporters of Zionism give for the State of Israel is that in the event of a resurgence of anti-Semitism, Israel will provide a refuge for Jews. In RETURN No.1, an article 'Zionism and anti-Semitism' told how Israel had done nothing about anti-Semitism in Argentina during the rule of the neo-Nazi military junta. We described how the Zionist communal organisations and the Israeli state had collaborated with the regime through arms sales. In addition the group 'Mothers of the Jewish Disappeared' had picketed a meeting that the former Israeli President Yitzhak Navon attended, chanting 'Nazi, Nazi' at the Zionists who attended. The following article demonstrates that Israeli policy went even further, and should destroy the idea that in the event of the rise of anti-Semitism and fascism in the West, left-wing Jews would be able to find refuge in the 'Jewish' State:

Israel Denied Shelter to Left-wing Argentine Jews During Junta Rule

Hadashot (Israeli Hebrew newspaper), 28 Sept. 1990

The Israeli government could have saved hundreds of Argentine Jews, who were murdered or kidnapped during the rule of the generals between 1976 and 1983, claims Marcel Zohar in his book Let My People Go to Hell, soon to be published by Zitrin.

The military censor this week decided to at last permit the publication of the book, except for several paragraphs which, so he claimed, might endanger certain person's lives or harm Israel's relations with other countries. The publisher, Ben Zion Zitrin, is about to offer the book to foreign publishing houses.

Zohar, who was Yedi'ot Aharonot [an Israeli evening newspaper] correspondent in Argentina between 1978 and 1982, describes how the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and other official bodies refrained from processing immigration applications from Jews with left-wing background, in order to preserve Israel's good business and political links with the ruling junta. In the same period, arms sales worth about one billion dollars were concluded between Israel and Argentina. According to Zohar, both Likud and Labour leaders shared in the conspiracy of silence.

His book recounts the struggle which took place between Danny Rekanati, the immigration official based in Argentina, and the Israeli ambassador, Ron Nergad. Rekanati tried to help persecuted Jews escape from the country, while Nergad, according to the book, complained about his activities. The unwritten instruction was to refuse any help to Jews defined as 'too left-wing'.

The late Menahem Savidor, who was Knesset chairman at the time, admitted to Zohar that he had prevented a public Knesset debate on the situation of Argentina's Jews at the government's request in order not to harm Israel's crucial links with Argentina. The prime ministers of the period covered, would not discuss the book. Yigal Alon and Moshe Dayan, who were Israel's foreign ministers then, are no longer alive. The foreign ministry refused to cooperate or to open its archives for the period.