Israeli backpackers suffer antisemitic aggression in Patagonia

Israeli tourists have been the victims of a violent antisemitic attack in the southern Patagonia region of Argentina, which has led to the targeted hostel being closed down by its owners.

The attackers screamed “You shit Jews, you are trying to take over Patagonia,” said Yoav Pollac, the 38-year-old owner of Onda Azul in the town of Lago Puelo, where many young Israeli backpackers stay.

“They came in throwing stones, smashing windows. They chased after three cars in which some of our guests tried to escape and wrecked them. They injured me, my brother and my father, who is almost 70 years old,” Pollac said.

The attack comes amid a growing hate campaign against Israeli tourists, who are described as Israeli soldiers by antisemitic groups in Patagonia. Authorities are increasingly concerned about the appearance of posters calling for a boycott of “Israeli military tourism” in the region.

The young Israeli backpackers at Onda Azul were awoken in the early hours of Monday morning by a shotgun round fired against one of the hostel cabins. Three men, ranging in age from their 20s to their 40s, wielding broken bottles and large sticks, occupied the hostel for four hours.

Six policemen who arrived on the scene 45 minutes into the attack had to withdraw unable to control the situation. Three of them were hospitalised with serious blows to the head. “One had his jaw broken and lost two teeth,” Pollac said.

The antisemitic campaign has attracted the attention of the government’s National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (Inadi).

“These anonymous deeds that try to generate a climate of persecution against Israelis or persons who profess the Jewish faith are worrying,” said Julio Accavallo, the Inadi delegate in the Patagonian city of Rio Negro.

Pro-Nazi graffiti and the stamping of two-peso bills with the legend “Jews out of Patagonia” has also been reported by Inadi in the Patagonian ski resort of Bariloche, notorious for being a safe haven for Nazi fugitives after the second world war.

The region also attracted international attention last year, when Jeremy Clarkson and BBC’s Top Gear crew drove through.

They sparked anger because of the H982 FKL plate on Clarkson’s Porsche, which protesters claimed was a reference to the 1982 Falklands war.

Clarkson and his crew finally had to flee to neighbouring Chile after their high-performance cars were stoned in Tierra del Fuego, the extreme southern end of Patagonia.

Pollac closed the hostel’s doors on Monday, and fears he may never be able to reopen. “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,” he said.