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ARGENTINA | 02-03-2019 08:45

Attack on rabbi underlines fears of increasing anti-Semitism

Members of Jewish community say brutal assault on Gabriel Davidovich is representative of increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Argentina.

Alarm bells rang in the local and international community this week as experts warned of an increase in anti-Semitic acts and attacks, days after Argentina’s chief rabbi Gabriel Davidovich was brutally assaulted in his home.

Although the rabbi – who suffered nine broken ribs and a punctured lung in the attack – said he ln ater believed the robbery may have been just a simple home invasion or even linked to a political issue, local Jewish organisations warned that it was representative of a growing number of antiSemitism incidents aimed at members of Argentina’s Jewish community.

According to a preliminary report by the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DIA), the Jewish political umbrella organisation, anti-Semitic acts increased by 500 percent in 2018, with over 2,000 incidents reported. In 2017, that number stood at just 404.

“The majority of these cases have to do with anti-Semitic acts committed via social networks,” Dr. Ariel Gelblung, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s representative in Latin Ame9 ARGENTINA ANTI-SEMITISM rica, explained to the Times.

The DAIA study shows that an estimated 90 percent of the anti-Semitic acts recorded take place online. Experts point out that the increase in attacks in the digital world has an inverse relationship with those that take occur in the real world environment.

“Twenty years ago, there was much more anti-Semitic graffiti, but now, for the most part, they are being replaced by attacks online,” Marisa Braylan, the director of DAIA’s Centre for Social Studies told the Times.

HIGH-PROFILE INCIDENTS

Despite the shift online, high-profile incidents are continuing to happen outside of the virtual world.

Days before Davidovich was attacked, nine gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in the northwestern province of San Luis, were discovered to have been vandalised.

Saada Bentolila, a local Jewish community leader, told the Times of Israel this week that the attack in San Luis was clearly anti-Semitic – as the other neighbouring cemeteries weren’t vandalised.

Argentina has one of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel in the world, with estimates placing its size at around 300,000 people.

Local politician Ariel Braverman, in comments given to the AFP news agency, described the desecration of the tombs as a “horrible act of neoNazism, intolerance and hatred by sectors that maintain a medieval obscurantism.”

Despite the warnings for Argentina, some experts believe anti-Semitism to be nowhere near as big of an issue locally, as it has become in other countries such as France, where wearing a kippah or any other item that identifies you as a Jew increases the risk of being the target of a verbal or even violent attack.

“When we compare Argentina to Europe, it not like in France where it has become very dangerous to use any Jewish symbols – we aren’t observing that here,” Gelblung said.

‘DANGEROUS’

In the past few years in France, there have been a growing number of physical attacks on Jews who have been targeted, many killed or stabbed because of their identity. In 2018, there was a 69-percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents, French Prime Minister Edouard Phillip said recently, after a wellknown Jewish writer was harassed in the street. Rabbi Nissim Sultan, based in Grenoble, France, claims the climate of anti-Semitism has led at least half of the members of its local Jewish community to leave.

While in Argentina, the problem hasn’t reached those leves, members of the Jewish community say they are on alert. The recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents has led DAIA’s authorities to begin gathering together once per week, to review the incidents and select which ones should be brought before the court sor denounced via their publications.

“It’s the era we live in, with the formation of these new extreme nationalist movements in many parts of the world, if they continue to win and attack the democratic values of equality, not only could anti-Semitic attacks increase but also antiMuslim, and other racists or nationalities [could be next],” Braylan warned.

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