"Anti-Semitism in Argentina," said a leader in this country's Jewish community, is like a thermometer." When Argentine politics heat up, things get hot for Argentine Jews.
The analogy appears apt. During the past several weeks, while Argentina has been embroiled in a major political-financial scandal, there has been a new eruption of the kind of anti-Semitic attacks and propaganda that have smoldered beneath the society's surface for decades.
This morning, a synagogue in the center Buenos Aires was destroyed by terrorist bombs.The same synagogue had been bombed only two weeks before.
Downtown newsstands are still selling last month's issue of Cabildo, a migatist magazine popular in army barracks. The issue's lead article is a cratise on the "Jewish-Marxist-Monionero" connection with David Graiver, a prominent financier here and the central figure in the scandal.
More respectable publications and hard-liners in the military government have also hinted at such a connection.
The ruling military junta, in its 74 months of power since ousting former President Isabel Peron lalst year, is alleged to have imprisoned thousands of persons without charges, and tortured and killed others, in its zeal to eliminate the guerrillas.
Graver was a Jew, as is Jose Gelbard, an neconomy minister in the previous Peronist government who now lives in the United States. The military junta has also implicated Gelbard in the scandal.
Graiver, killed last year in a Mexican plane crash, allegedly served as banker and investment broker for the Montoneros, an underground guerrilla group with Marxist affiliations that has played a large part in the political violence that has wracked Argentina for the past two years.
Jacobo Timerman, publisher of La Opinion, a leading Buenos Aires daily newspaper, has been arrested in connection with the Graiver case. He is an outspoken member of the Argentine Jewish community, and his paper has published anti-Nazi articles.
Scores of others, most of them gentiles, including former Argentine President Alejandro Lanusse and several members of his Cabinet have been detained in connection with the case, According to Cabildo, the current scandal is only the tip of fan iceberg that will reveal decades-long corruption by a Jewish-led cabal of Marxists, guerrillas and virtually every out-of-favor politician in Argentine history including former dictator Juan Domingo Peron.
"Behind every agent of world subversion," the Cabildo article said, "There is a theological hatred that incites it and a financial power that sustains it."
Ritual offerings of Jewish conspiracy theories regularly surface here in times of political stress. They are often accompanied by violence - including kidnapings, murders and bomb attacks - believed to emanate from rightist, paramilitay groups that some believe have the tacit approval of, or even direct orders from, hardliners within the government.
The most recent previous attack on the Argentine Jewish community - the largest in Latin America, with approximately 400,000 members who are primarily descendants of Russian and European refugees - was last fall, when neo-Nazi books appeared on the newsstands and numerous Jewish businesses, synagogues and schools were bombed.
That attack ended when the government took action against the propaganda, following widespread international pressure and publicity from Jewish groups in the United States.
Now the Jewish community has begun to protest. The president of the Delegation of Jewish Associations in Argentina, Nehemias Resnizky, warned that "Our enemies must realize that there are no passive and silent Jewish masses any more." His statement was made May 2 but not released until several weeks later.
In an interview several weeks ago, Resnizky said that anti-Semitism in Argentina is the same as that "all over the world - even in the United States."
The difference, he said, is that violence is so widespread here that it has virtually become an acceptable way of dealing with difference of opinion.
Up to now, the Jewish community here has been reluctant to air the problem. Community leaders have declined to testify at U.S. congressional hearings on the subject of Argentine anti-Semitism, and have often winced at denunciations made by the Anti-Defamation League.
Rather, Argentine Jews preferred to work in quiet meetings with the government, saying that publicity would only increase persecution.
Although community leaders are still hesitant to talk to reporters, several reportedly traveled to New York earlier this month to talk to American Jewish leaders.