Book Confiscation in Argentina

by Guillermo Coletti*

An alarming situation, involving gross violations to constitutionally protected freedom of speech, is developing in Argentina since January 1996. According to official sources, the Israeli Ambassador to Argentina, Mr. Itzhak Avirin, communicated his displeasure to the Argentine Minister of Foreign Relations, Dr. Guido Di Tella, over the easy availability of Holocaust Revisionist literature and other printed materia1 considered anti-Semitic by the Jewish state.

Minister Di Tella, well known for his long pro-Israeli career, immediately took notice of this Jewish disapproval of Argentinian internal affairs. Di Tella ordered a government investigation that started in 1995 and involved the services of the SIDE (Intelligence Services of the State, commonly known as "Secret Police") and the Federal Police.

During the several months of the investigation, according to official record, the police forces of the national government produced a list of one hundred books and periodicals targeted for banning and confiscation. All along, the secret police worked hand-in-hand with the Delegation of Israeli-Argentine Associations (DAIA), a willing participant in this assault upon intellectual activities in Argentina. The DAIA has ties to its American counterpart, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.

The results of this combined effort of Jewish and national spying were seen when the local newspapers of January 4, 1996 reported that the Federal Police had raided several bookstores and confiscated blacklisted material. Several of the most reputable and long-established book dealers have been affected by this police operation, without precedent in the constitutional history of Argentina.

The publications sought by police forces included the weeklies Pairia Argentina (founded by the now deceased scholar Beveraggi Allende) and El Fortin, and the monthly Memoria, a highly intellectual traditionalist Catholic magazine.

Among the books seized have been the Spanish versions of Henry Ford's The International Jew, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, The Leuchter Report with an introduction by David Irving, Richard Harwood's Did Six Million Really Die?, Antizion, the compilation of anti-Jewish quotations released in Spanish under the title 150 Genuine Opinions About the Jews, and Leon Degrelle's Memorias de un Fascista. A variety of books authored by nationalist writers have also been confiscated, such as Hitler's Germany as Seen by the Press by W. Romero and outrageously, all of the books ever written by Hugo Wast.**

These proceedings have been ordered by Federal Judge Jorge Urso under his interpretations of the provisions of the recently enacted Anti-Discrimination Law, 23.592. As written, this law bans the obstruction of participation in commerce, industry, employment and free speech, rights guaranteed by the Argentine Constitution, of any person or group of individuals because of race, religion, national origin and/or political beliefs and/or political affiliation.

This law is interpreted by most Argentines as a means to prevent such actions as those of Judge Urso, not as a governmental shield for ideological persecution. It was never mentioned in the debate that preceded the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Law, that h was meant to be a tool to be used by foreign governments to intrude in Argentina's internal affairs.

Judge Urso's interpretations of that law came under fire by the leading newspapers in Argentina, who found the judge's decision to be very arbitrary and improper.

The Argentina Council for Freedom of Expression protested with a statement which said in part: "(these proceedings)...violate Article 13 of the Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica and Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protect liberty of opinion. It is quite a paradox that a foreign state [Israel] that just finishes legalizing torture appoints itself as a Supreme Tribunal of what the Argentine people can read or listen."

Argentina is the latest country to embrace a corrosive trend of censorship, in opposition to the national tradition of intellectual freedom and tolerance. Those enemies of our liberties who today perpetrate this attack upon the people of Argentina, are closely related to the same alien interest groups who have campaigned for the demise of free-speech in Canada, Germany, France and many other nations.

* Guillermo Coletti may be reached at P.O. Box 61221, Pasadena, CA 91106 USA; voice mail (213) 960-5671. First published in: Remarks, PO Box 234, Aurora, (NY), no. 22, April 22, 1997

** Hugo Wast was a Catholic author who was awarded the National Prize of Literature for his novel Desierto de Piedra (stone Desert). The Royal Spanish Acedamy awarded him the gold medal for his novel Valle Negro (Black Valley) His book Flor Dunzno (Pesch Flower) was made into a movie by the tango singer Carlos Gardél.
He was a member of Congress for the Progressive Danocratic Party, Director of the National Library for 2S years, and Governor of the Province of Catamarca in Northwestern Argentina.

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