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ARGENTINA | 26-02-2019 12:31

Argentina's chief rabbi Gabriel Davidovich injured in attack at home

'We know you are AMIA's rabbi,' assailants reportedly declared during vicious attack on Monday, which Jewish leaders described as 'anti-Semitic.' Rabbi Davidovich hospitalised after attack with suspected broken ribs.

Argentina's chief rabbi was beaten and seriously injured by assailants who broke into his home, in an attack later condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of an anti-Semitic wave of incidents across the world.

It comes just days after tombs at a Jewish cemetery were vandalised in San Luis province.

Jorge Knoblovits, the president of Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DAIA) Jewish grouping, said seven men were involved in the assault  on Gabriel Davidovich, 56, which took place Monday in the Once neighbourhood.

Netanyahu said Davidovich and his wife were "viciously assaulted." 

"We must not let anti-Semitism rear its head. I strongly condemn the recent acts of anti-Semitism and call on the international community to take action against it," Netanyahu said.

AMIA said the attack was "cause for alarm" in a statement.

'Anti-Semitic act'

Argentina has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, around 300,000 people. 

The Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) quoted the Davidovich's assailants as saying, "We know you are the rabbi of AMIA." 

The rabbi and his wife put up no resistance, but the assailants threw Davidovich to the ground nonetheless. 

"They broke nine of his ribs, affecting a lung, and left him disfigured," Knoblovits said.

They made away with money and personal effects, he said.

Knoblovits said the robbery was merely a pretext for "an anti-Semitic act."

"In the world, there is a lot of room for ignorance, and where there is ignorance, there is space for anti-Semites," he said.

Argentine authorities have opened an investigation into the attack, which followed the desecration of nine tombs at a Jewish cemetery in the province of San Luis over the weekend.

Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body that deals with Jewish immigration to Israel, said he has spoken personally to the rabbi.

"He suffers from severe pain and fractures, but his spirit is strong. I had the sense from his remarks that the incident had obvious anti-Semitic characteristics. I wished him a full recovery from all of us. The Jewish Agency will help him and his community as much as necessary."

The AMIA was the scene of the infamous 1994 bombing that killed 85 people and wounded 300. Netanyahu made his first visit to Latin America in 2017, attending memorial ceremonies for the bombing and an earlier 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy. The Embassy bombing killed 29 people and wounded 200, with members of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah blamed for the attack.

Increased attacks in the West

The attack comes against the background of increased anti-Semitism in western countries.  

Germany – where anti-Semitic offences rose almost 10 percent last year – has watched with alarm as anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech and violence has increased in recent years, as the political climate has coarsened and grown more polarised.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron told Jewish community leaders last week that anti-Semitism had reached its worst levels since World War II.

"Our country, and for that matter all of Europe and most Western democracies, seems to be facing  a resurgence of anti-Semitism unseen since World War II," Macron told an annual gathering of French Jewish institutions last week.

He was speaking after nearly 100 Jewish tombstones were spray-painted with blue and yellow swastikas at a cemetery in the Alsace region near Germany.

A mass influx of mostly Muslim refugees and migrants to Germany from 2015 drove the rise of the far-right and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is now the biggest opposition group in parliament.

Leading AfD members, aside from railing against Islam and multiculturalism, have also made comments that play down the Holocaust.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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