Forty-three years after the coup that ushered in a brutal, seven-year military dictatorship in Argentina, Israel still refuses to release documents on its ties with the pro-imperialist, deadly junta.
Twelve Israelis who immigrated to Israel from Argentina have submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in court demanding that the Defense and Foreign Affairs ministries release documents on Israel’s ties with the military dictatorship. During a hearing held last Monday, September 2, in a Tel Aviv Court, council for the Defense Ministry confirmed that it has received the FOI but refused to hand over the requested documents.
Most of the applicants resided in Argentina when the junta was in power, from March 1976 to December 1983, and some of them lost family members in the “Dirty War” during which an estimated 30,000 Argentinian civilians disappeared.
Atty. Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer who campaigns for transparency related to Israel’s weapon exports, filed the FOI request on behalf of the group. The request demands that the Defense and Foreign Affairs ministries provide full disclosure of their ties with the junta: arms sales, military installations built and operated by the state or Israeli companies, and correspondence about Jewish political activists who were persecuted, detained or who disappeared during the junta era.
Among the civilians who disappeared during the “Dirty War,” some 2,000 were Jews. The junta operated over 300 illegal detention sites. Torture was routine, including beatings, electric shocks and sexual assault.
News of Israel’s ties to the junta is increasingly coming to light. In 2012 Argentina’s largest newspaper, Clarin, reported on retired Argentine pilots and military officers who testified that in 1982 they secretly flew to Israel, where they met with representatives from the Israeli military and defense manufacturers and returned with their plane loaded with light arms, mortars, air-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons.
According to Hernan Dobry’s book Operation Israel: The Rearming of Argentina during the Dictatorship 1976-1983, the weapons were meant for use in Argentina’s war against imperialist Britain (the Malvinas War, aka the Falkland Islands War). Israel reportedly sent gas masks, land mines, radar equipment and tens of thousands of heavy coats for the war effort. Testifying before Congress in 1981, the US deputy secretary of defense said that, in the three years since the US had begun its arms embargo on Argentina, Buenos Aires had bought some $2 billion in arms from Israel and European states.
Atty. Mack says the current FOI request about Israel’s ties with the Argentine military junta is different from others he has submitted over Israel’s defense exports to states such as Guatemala, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan: “This time the applicants are Israelis, with relatives who were murdered or disappeared, and who don’t know whether Israel tried to save them or to help the junta.” Also signatory to the request are Wanda Clara and Marcos Weinstein, of Buenos Aires. They want to know more about what happened to their son Mauricio, an Israeli citizen who was abducted in the Dirty War. Marcos Weinstein, a physician, described street patrols and nighttime arrests and abductions of civilians. After being tortured, many were shot and killed or thrown out of helicopters into the sea.
Mauricio Weinstein was 18, a senior in high school, when he was abducted. On the evening of April 18, 1978 he was at his father’s clinic, nearby his school, where he planned to sleep that night because he needed to get to school early the next morning. The soldiers came to the Weinstein family home when the rest of the members of the family were seated to eat their evening meal with guests. Marcos Weinstein relates how: “They stood us up against the dining room wall and took me in a car, with a pistol to my head, to my clinic. I was forced to open the door. My son was abducted, I saw them put him in a car,” Marcos Weinstein told Haaretz that a few of his son’s classmates were also abducted that same night. “Several months later, I heard he was in the El Vesubio camp, which the prisoners called ‘hell.’ In July, apparently, my son had been ‘transferred,’ that is, killed.”
The Weinsteins contacted the Argentine authorities and also appealed to the local Jewish community and to Israel. Weinstein says he felt the Israeli diplomatic representatives’ displayed little interest about the disappeared Jews, including his son and a second Israeli citizen. Today he wonders whether it’s possible to understand 41 years “of suffering and memory, without truth or justice.”