Ambassador Hector Timerman assured a group of Los Angeles Jewish leaders at a black-tie dinner last month that the Argentina he represents is not his father's Argentina. For Timerman, now his country's consul general in New York, the comparison was a literal one.
Exactly 30 years ago, his father, Jacobo Timerman, was kidnapped and tortured by the ruling military junta and imprisoned for 30 months.
His crime as publisher of the newspaper La Opinion was to attack the human rights violations by the junta during its "Dirty War" against internal opponents. His transgressions were especially heinous, in the eyes of the junta, because Timerman was a Jew. So now the son's very presence and rank testifies to the change in Argentina. To reinforce the point, the evening's host, Jorge Lapsenson, Argentina's consul general in Los Angeles, is also Jewish.
In an interview during his recent visit, Timerman said that the Argentinean Jewish community of 250,000 remained one of the strongest in the Diaspora after "suffering a lot during the military dictatorship," which ruled from 1976 to 1983.
By contrast, the country's current president, Nestor Kirchner, has "expressed his strong admiration for Israel and the Jewish community," Timerman said, as has his wife, Sen. Cristina Kirchner, widely expected to succeed her husband in October's election.
The Journal asked Timerman about a report issued recently by the Delegacion de Asociaciones Israelitas de Argentina (DAIA), the country's Jewish umbrella group, which documented a rise of 40 percent in anti-Semitic incidents, from 373 in 2005 to 586 in 2006.
While acknowledging the increase, Timerman said that almost all the incidents consisted of graffiti and swastika daubings, were unorganized, and seemed in line with a rise in anti-Semitism throughout much of the world. He added that unlike the situation in Europe, the incidents were perpetrated largely by skinheads, not by radicalized young Muslims. "There is no hostility between Jews and Muslims in Argentina, and we enjoy good relations," Timerman said. He also said it was important to him, as an Argentinean and as a Jew, that the report by a Jewish organization also highlighted discrimination against other minority groups, including Chinese, Koreans, Bolivians, Gypsies, Muslims and gays.
One remaining open wound is the bombing 13 years ago of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which left 86 dead and 300 wounded. The drawn-out investigation is continuing, but the perpetrators, believed to be Iranian agents, have not been brought to justice, nor have the terrorists who blew up the Israeli embassy in the Argentinean capital in 1992.
Argentina was one of the first nations to recognize the State of Israel in 1948, and the Jewish state has been enriched by two waves of aliyah in the past 40 years, said Timerman.
The first was spurred by the targeting of young Jewish men during the junta's rule, and the second, in 2001, by the collapse of the Argentine economy. Timerman estimated that about 70,000 former Argentine now live in Israel.
Hector Timerman himself has carried on his father's legacy as a journalist, co-founder of Human Rights Watch, and board member of the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience.
Participating in the event at the residence of Consul General Lapsenson were Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and leaders of local Jewish organizations, which have maintained close ties with their counterparts in Argentina over the years and have been in the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism and discrimination.
The honorees were the American Jewish Committee, represented by Bruce Ramer and Sherry Weinman, Anti-Defamation League and director Amanda Susskind, Simon Wiesenthal Center and associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and president John Fishel, and B'nai B'rith International.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Delshad Shelves Plans for Iran Divestment in Beverly Hills
Following his State of the City address at Graystone Mansion in Beverly Hills on Aug. 30, Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, an Iranian Jew, said the city will not pursue an additional divestment measure for city savings accounts..
"After doing the research, we discovered that a divestment bill is not needed because all of the city savings accounts are invested in Treasury bills and not stocks," Delshad said.
In July the City approved of plans for a measure requiring city employee pension funds to divest millions of dollars in investments with companies doing business with Iran. On July 12, the Beverly Hills City Council had approved a resolution supporting California Assembly Bill 221, the statewide legislation, which would require state pension funds to divest an estimated $24 billion in investments from more than 280 companies doing business with Iran. That bill has received wide support from local Iranians of various faiths and was unanimously approved by the California State Assembly in early June. State officials who introduced the bill said they expect it will be signed into law by late September.
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Legislature Passes ADL-Sponsored Immigrants Resolution
The California State Assembly last week passed a resolution, already adopted by the Senate, that urges federal, state and local government officials to protect the human rights of immigrants and denounce xenophobia in public policy.
The non-binding resolution, authored by Assemblyman lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), is based on a declaration drafted by the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and adopted by the Los Angeles City Council last December. The effort grew out of the ADL's Latino Jewish Roundtable and was supported by, among other organizations, the local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
"Without negating the need for safe and secure borders, nor aligning ourselves with partisan politics on the issue, ADL stands strong in the desire to support basic human rights and fair treatment of immigrants," regional director Amanda Susskind said in a statement.
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer