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‘Investigate Israeli complicity with Pinochet's crimes’

Family members of a Chilean man disappeared and murdered by the Latin American dictator want Israel to open a criminal investigation into officials who cooperated with the murderous regime.

By John Brown* (translated by Tal Haran)

Women from the Association of the Families of the Disappeared demonstrate in front of the palace of the government during the military rule of Pinochet. By Museum of Memory and Human Rights. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Women from the Association of the Families of the Disappeared demonstrate in front of the palace of the government during the military rule of Pinochet. By Museum of Memory and Human Rights. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Two Israeli women who immigrated from Chile are taking Israel’s attorney general to court, demanding that he open a criminal investigation into Israeli officials who were involved in arms deals with the regime of Augosto Pinochet, for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. Lily Traubman and her daughter Tamara Santos Traubman moved to Israel in the 1970s after being persecuted by the Pinochet regime, which also disappeared Lily’s father.

The suit, filed by Attorney Eitay Mack, seeks to compel Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit to open criminal investigations into the involvement of personnel from the Israeli ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, the Israeli army, and civilian arms traders.

Pinochet took over Chile on September 11, 1973, overthrowing its elected government and its Marxist prime minister, Salvador Allende. The next day began purges of anyone suspected of having leftist leanings, throughout Chile but particularly in the school system, which lasted until 1990. During the first years of the new regime, around 3,000 persons were abducted and murdered and over 35,000 people were tortured by DINA, the Chilean secret services. The regime never admitted these crimes. Israel was reportedly involved in training the DINA.

One of the victims was Ernesto Traubman, Lily Traubman’s father and Tamara’s grandfather, who was abducted at the outbreak of the coup, tortured to death in the Chilean Ministry of Defense in Santiago, and went missing for about 20 years, until his remains were located and given to the family.

For the past several years the Traubman family has been struggling to expose the connections between Israel and the Chilean regime at that time. The two women filed freedom of information requests in 2015 seeking to gain access to documents related to the arms trade and Israeli political support of that regime. Like the Israeli collaboration with genocide in Guatemala and the Argentinian dictatorship in those years, there is an abundance of publicly available evidence of the ties between Israel and Pinochet’s Chile.

For example, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Chile sent April 24, 1980, which was attached to the women’s freedom of information request, Israel was a major arms supplier to the Pinochet regime. According to a cable quoting the American undersecretary of state from April 10, 1984, Israel was one of the main arms suppliers of the Junta, which made it difficult to enforce effective sanctions against Chile, considering that American sanctions did not apply to Israel.

Chilean President Augusto Pinochet meets with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976.

Chilean President Augusto Pinochet meets with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976.

Hugo Harvey’s 2012 book on the covert relations between Israel and Chile in those years also contains revealing evidence from the Chilean side of the arms trade between the two states. Israel, however, still refuses to disclose evidence from the Israeli side, including tens of thousands of documents. In response to the Traubmans’ freedom of information request, the Israeli Ministry of Defense claimed that the extent of such documentation is so vast that it is unlikely to be able to review them all in order to decide what can be exposed. Although the court rejected the state’s reasons for refusal, to date the State of Israel continues to drag its feet and has not released the relevant documents.

The current appeal to the attorney general is one of several of its kind in Israel, and the first in the Chilean context. The arms traders and Ministry of Defense personnel in charge of such shadowy exports and training, seemingly complicit in war crimes the world over (nowadays in South Sudan and in Burma, earlier in Bosnia and throughout Latin America in the 1980s) are not being held accountable. Their deeds are whitewashed using arguments of state security and potential harm to Israel’s foreign relations, should the crimes ever be exposed.

There is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity. Even if Israel does not consider them as such, an international court can exercise its authority in this regard. It would be fitting for the State of Israel to help supply the necessary evidence for such a case to proceed. In the case that the appeal to the government legal adviser does not result in a criminal investigation, the petitioners are considering turning to courts in Israel and in international fora.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. This story first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. AJew

      What next? Israel is responsible for the rise to power of Iran’s Ayatolahs? Nah that was Jimmeny Cricket. Oops I meant Jimmy Carter.

      Israel was responsible for the year 2004 Tsunami though. I am sure that will be revealed soon under the freedom of information act.

      Oh and I am sure that all the saintly Arab nations were staunch opponents of the Pinochet regime which never received even a drop of Arab oil from the Middle East.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard Lightbown

        I’m trying to get my head around your comment Gustav.

        Are you saying that it is OK for Israel to assist in the maltreatment and murder of David Silberman and Ernesto Traubmann? (I mean for all I know these guys were passionately Zionist Jews.)

        Would you be so complicit if Hamas had extended exactly the same aid to the Pinochet regime in facilitating these crimes? Would you support your own granny being tortured and killed if it was done with the assistance of the Israeli state (which is clearly capable of such an act)?

        I am having trouble understanding what you are defending here Gustav. The irony of it is that I don’t think you know what you are supporting either. But the way I read it is that you would find it OK and hunky dory for someone to pull your own finger nails out just so long as Israel supplied the chains and pliers, and maybe the gun and the bullet too. (And just for the record I would still support your human rights and condemn everyone involved in that outrage be they Jew or Arab or Chilean. Yes I would, even though I find your opinions distasteful, repugnant and morally deficient.)

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          I am not defending or supporting anything. In fact I never liked pinochet. He was an arch bastard.

          But to claim that Israel propped him up because it had commercial dealings with his regime, the same as many other countries did, is just a bridge too far. It is just another symptom of how some extreme leftists are trying to turn Israel into a pariah state at all cost. The whole project is so dear to them (are you one of those guys?) that I am nauseated by them. So I just had to say what I said.

          PS
          Pinochet can rot in hell as far as I am concerned. He harbored Nazi war criminals!

          Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          I am not defending or supporting anything. In fact I never liked pinochet. He was an arch bastard.

          But to claim that Israel propped him up because it had commercial dealings with his regime, the same as many other countries did, is just a bridge too far. It is just another symptom of how some extreme leftists are trying to turn Israel into a pariah state at all cost. The whole project is so dear to them (are you one of those guys?) that I am nauseated by them. So I just had to say what I said.

          PS
          Pinochet can rot in hell as far as I am concerned. He harbored N…i war criminals!

          Reply to Comment
          • Bruce Gould

            @AJew (from AnotherJew) – this may have escaped your attention, but the point is not that Israel is a pariah state, it’s that Israel is just a state like all other states – of course it supports dictators if commercial interests are involved, that’s what states usually do.

            Individuals have morality, states have interests (often financial).

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Yes. And your point is?

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            The allegation is not that Israel “propped up” Pinochet. The allegations are that Israel sold his regime arms and trained personnel in torture techniques. And while your total condemnation of Pinochet is admirable, your non-recognition of any possibility of Israeli complicity, particularly when it extends to atrocities against Jews, is hard to comprehend.

            Specifically two Jews have been maltreated and died here in appalling circumstances with the distinct possibility that Israeli operatives were involved in supplying the means to that abuse purely for commercial gain. To which your response is to suggest that these allegations are part of some extreme leftist plot. Are you paranoid or are you paranoid?

            For the record not only do I condemn any Israeli Jew involved in any way in the abuse of the human rights of David Silberman and Ernesto Traubmann, but I unreservedly condemn any citizen from my own country that had any part in this. From that position I ask you how you can support unreservedly any possibility of Israeli involvement in these crimes? And if I misunderstand you then come out of the closet and condemn any such immoral behaviour by Israelis or anyone else right here and now.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            This is my response to your comment, Richard:

            If it is true that Israel trained Pinnochet’s thugs to carry out torture, then I condemn that. But I don’t believe that it is true.

            I mean aren’t you people short selling “the talents” of Pinnochet and his merry men? I would be more inclined to believe that they trained our security forces on how to do such things than the other way around. But hey, if it hurts the image of Israel, why not invent such stories? It is good for business eh?Oops I meant anti Israel propaganda.

            As for selling him arms, yes that is probable. I don’t condone that but I do understand that. To put it in perspective, Israel probably just did what your country and many other coutries cynically do every day. They/we are driven by self interest and commercial gain. Even those arch Scandinavian “goody goodies”, who constantly tut tut us, Sweden, has an armaments industry and I would be surprised if they are not guilty of not being too choosy about which dictators they sell their arms for good cash.

            Welcome to the real world, Richard. Hypocrisy and cynicism are the rule. Not the exception. So here is a bit of sobering perspective for you ghough: It is still a bridge too far to blame the deaths of those two people on Israel just because Israel probably sold arms to that regime. I mean the regime didn’t have it’s oil supply interrupted, did it? And I would say that the supply of oil is at least as critical to propping up a dictatorship as armaments? And there are many other vital things for the economy which Pinochet regime did not go short of. Get my drift? So, I’ll say it again Richard: blaming Israel for it all is a bridge way too far! Wanna blame? Then share the blame around. I may then be a more willing party to point the finger on ALL the deserving parties!

            Reply to Comment