Antisemitic messages and graffiti threatening Jews with death have appeared across Argentina this week, apparently prompted by a growing conflict between Israel and the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas which occupies the Gaza Strip.
Argentine newspaper Clarín identified multiple instances of anti-Jewish images and messages springing up in recent days across the country, which include swastikas, Stars of David paired with insults, pejorative phrases, and death threats.
In Bahía Blanca, a port city near Buenos Aires, the phrases “Los vamos a matar” (“We are going to kill them”) and “Ratas Judías” (“Jewish rats”) appeared at the entrance to the Israelite Association building, which also functions as a school. Below the “Jewish rats” line was a Star of David, an ancient symbol of Judaism that features prominently on the modern Israeli flag.
Within Villa Crespo, a Jewish neighborhood of Buenos Aires, graffiti with the phrase “Israel Intruso” (“Israel intruders”) appeared on the external walls of a cafe.
The swastika, an originally Hindu symbol strongly associated with Nazism, appeared in el Dorado, Misiones, painted on the sidewalk. In another area, San Juan, observers discovered more graffiti, this time of the phrase “Haga patria, mate a un Judío” (“Build the fatherland, kill a Jew”).
Clarín relayed concerns from the Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations (DAIA) that support for Hamas rocket attacks on Israel would result in the spread of antisemitic sentiment worldwide, noting the government of socialist Argentine President Alberto Fernández had raised tensions with Israel itself over its position on the ongoing conflict with Hamas.
Antisemitism has a long history in Argentina and has turned violent before. In 1994, a terrorist attack on the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires killed 85 people, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in the Western Hemisphere prior to September 11, 2001, hijackings. Evidence has revealed the attack was largely the work of Iranian regime officials, some high-ranking. Iran denies involvement in the attack.
Investigations into the attack have continued in the following decades. The government of far-left former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – who currently serves as vice president – concluded a deal with Iran to investigate the bombing which allowed the Iranian officials identified as suspects to oversee the investigation.
Fernández de Kirchner’s successor, Mauricio Macri, annulled the agreement and resumed the investigation. In 2015, however, before any arrests could occur, the case’s prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head inside his home. He had previously issued received approval from Interpol for several “red alerts” pertaining to Iranian officials and was set to testify the day after his death to the Argentine Congress that Fernández de Kirchner and her government cut a deal with Iran to remove the “red alerts” in exchange for competitive oil prices. A “red alert” urges Interpol member countries to arrest those identified if they enter the country’s territory, though Interpol does not have the power to mandate such arrests.
Despite the bizarre circumstances surrounding Nisman’s death, the Fernández de Kirchner government initially ruled his death a suicide. Nisman was Jewish and his death triggered national alarm regarding the safety of Jews in the country and the depth of influence that Iran had on the South American nation, fueling support for the centrist Macri over his leftist opponent.
Accusations of a government coverup led Fernández de Kirchner into legal hot water, with a judge ruling in 2018 that she should face trial. At the time, however, she possessed legal immunity from prosecution as a senator, which prevented her arrest. Legislators declined to strip her of her immunity and she has yet to face trial.
Fernández de Kirchner became vice president of Argentina in 2019.