Ten Israeli tourists were injured in the southern Patagonia region of Argentina when three people assaulted them with broken bottles, large sticks and Molotov cocktails at the hostel where they were staying earlier this week. The incident, which international media outlets picked up Wednesday night, has been labeled an anti-Semitic attack.
“It was a terrifying moment, several hours of fear,” Yoav Pollac, the owner of the Onda Azul hostel in Lago Puelo told Argentine newspaper Clarín. “They shouted, ‘Go, f---ing Jews. You f---ing Jews are robbing us in the Patagonia region.’”
According to media reports, the backpackers were woken up at 1 a.m. when a shotgun went off next to one of the hostel’s cabins. Three men between the ages of 20 to 40 occupied the hostel for four hours, throwing stones, sticks and broken bottles. Six policemen who arrived on the scene 45 minutes after the attack were assaulted and withdrew.
“One had his jaw broken and lost two teeth,” Pollac told the Guardian, adding that the attackers were locals who had been identified. “But they are free and nobody has been arrested yet,” he said.
The hostel is reportedly popular with young Israeli backpackers thanks to its Hebrew-language Facebook page. According to Pollac, this is not the first anti-Semitic attack directed at the facility or its guests. In October, during the Jewish high holidays, two cabins burned down after a Molotov cocktail was thrown.
The local delegation for the National Institute Against Discrimination (INADI) said it has received several reports of anti-Semitic behavior in the region in recent weeks from hotels and businesses. One of the most recent incidents took place a month ago when anti-Israel posters appeared in the tourist town of Bariloche, which housed Nazi fugitives after World War II.
“These anonymous deeds that try to generate a climate of persecution against Israelis or persons who profess the Jewish faith are worrying,” Julio Accavallo, the INADI delegate in the Patagonian city of Rio Negro, said.
Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America with roughly 300,000 followers. While the country allowed Jews to immigrate during World War II, Nazis also took refuge in the region as well. In 1976, a military junta took over the country and targeted the Jews with “Nazi-style anti-Semitism.” But even after the fall of the regime in 1983, anti-Semitism continued to thrive.
In 1994 a Hezbollah attack killed 85 people at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. To this day, the attack remains under investigation. On Sunday, Alberto Nisman, the lead investigator in the case, was found dead in his apartment with a pistol by his side. President Cristina Fernandez said on Thursday his death was not a suicide as previously reported. Nisman was due in court on Monday, hours after his death, to present his case to Congress that Fernandez's administration was interfering with his investigation.
Anti-Semitic sentiment in Argentina exists largely due to unrest in the Middle East, and is fueled by the pro-Palestinian offshoot of the left-wing political ideology known as “Chavismo” from Venezuela as well as the growth of social media, historian Enrique Krauze said in an op-ed piece for the New York Times.
According to a Facebook post on the Onda Azul hostel’s page, the hostel will be closed until Saturday. “Last October they burned down one of our cabins with a Molotov cocktail. I can’t take the risk of one of our guests being killed,” Pollac told the Guardian.