Zionism, Third Worldism, and Argentine Youth at the Crossroads
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Zionism, Third Worldism, and Argentine Youth at the Crossroads

In 1969, Argentine Jewish youth activists staged a revolt at the yearly convention of the Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DAIA; the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations), one of the central institutions of the Argentine Jewish community. These young people—generally university educated, in their late teens and twenties, and affiliated with leftist Zionist youth movements—only represented 10 percent of the 300 delegates. Nonetheless, they formed a uniform block, which allowed them to exert their agenda.1 Their most commonly voiced concern revolved around the need for aliyah and the failure of the establishment to provide them with adequate “moral and material” support to this end.2 In the course of their speeches and responses, these young rebels made reference to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the famed leader of the 1968 French student rebellion, and to Herbert Marcuse, a theorist associated with the Frankfurt School revered by many in the transnational New Left.3 One weekly newspaper noted that the neologism “establishment,” a word imported directly from English, was the word most frequently used at the convention.4

The “DAIA Rebellion of 1969,” as the socialist, Zionist youth publication Nueva Sión referred to it, refracted various unfolding transnational processes. The Argentine youth activists drew inspiration from youth rebellions across the globe and the interrelated rise of the New Left. They also embraced a Zionist fervency that was common in many parts of the Jewish diaspora after the Six-Day War. In these regards, the Jewish youth rebellion in Argentina bore resemblances to those in the United States, France, Australia, and others across the diaspora.5 Nonetheless, the rebellion of Zionist youth activists in Argentina was not a simple composite of global inspirations, but rather a response to the tensions these trends fostered in the Argentine context. More specifically, for these youth activists, enthusiasm for renewing Zionism came into stark tension with their sympathy for the values of the Argentine New Left as the latter, like its Third-World counterparts, became increasingly anti-Zionist.

Rather than forsaking their commitment to the Third-World left, with its calls for national liberation and socialism, nor their commitment to Zionism, these young activists cast blame on the “establishment” for fostering a misunderstanding [End Page 13] of Zionism. This establishment was made up of organizations like the DAIA (a federative body of almost all Jewish institutions in Argentina) and the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA; Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association), a socio-cultural institution with some 50,000 members and an elected leadership, as well as a few other key organizations. Zionist leaders had dominated both the DAIA and AMIA since the founding of the State of Israel, with the majority of those leaders sympathetic to left and center-left Israeli parties.6 This pattern repeated itself in the youth ranks: Zionist youth movements, particularly those of the left like Hashomer Hatzair (The Youth Guard) and Habonim (Builders), dominated the Confederación Juvenil Judeo Argentina (CJJA; Argentine Jewish Youth Confederation), the federation of Argentine Jewish youth groups. There was, then, an inter-generational consensus surrounding support for the State of Israel and the Zionist conception that the Jewish people were primarily a national group, rather than one defined by religious or cultural bonds. Despite these commonalities, young activists launched a rebellion against the community leadership with the goal of reinventing what Zionism meant in Argentina.

Even though scholars have attributed the Zionist fervency in these years, particularly among youth, to the impact of the Six-Day War across the diaspora, I contend that the particular Zionism that Argentine youth championed reflected the national context as much as the diasporic context.7 Most centrally, it reflected the persistent and complex desire to gain inclusion within the ranks of the Argentine left, and more broadly, Third Word left-wing movements, even as they became increasingly hostile to Zionism.

The article turns first to the rise of the New Left in Argentina, tracing the development of its transnational solidarities and highlighting the challenges it posed to a highly Zionist Jewish community. It then examines the multilayered response of Jewish youth activists during the...


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