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Jacobo Timmerman

(1923 - 1999)

TIMERMAN, JACOBO (1923–1999). Argentinean journalist. Born in the small Ukrainian town of Bar, he migrated to Argentina at the age of five with his family. During the years 1948–50 Timerman was a member of the editorial board of Nueva Sion, a Socialist-Zionist left-oriented biweekly published in Buenos Aires. He achieved his first great success with the newsmagazine Primera Plana (1962–66), followed by Confirmado (1965–66), both inspired by Time and Newsweek. In 1971 Timerman founded the liberal newspaper daily La Opinión, on the model of Le Monde, and edited the paper until it was shut down by the military regime in 1977. Between 1973 and 1976 La Opinión had been closed on a few occasions, because it campaigned against the right-wing populist supporters of the antisemite minister José López Rega as well as the neo-fascist squads known as Triple A (AAA). La Opinión was one of the few important newspapers in Argentina to extensively denounce government corruption, state-tolerated antisemitism, and the Junta's flagrant violation of human rights during the repression. Timerman condemned the arbitrary arrests and abductions by military forces, and published the writs of habeas corpus presented to the courts by the families of the desaparecidos (the disappeared ones), particularly of journalists. In July 1977 Timerman was arrested, tortured, and held until 1979, first clandestinely, then in a regular military prison, and finally under house arrest, although he was cleared by the judiciary of charges brought against him. Timerman was deported and stripped of his acquired Argentinean citizenship by the military Juntas. During his stay in prison he received moral and spiritual assistance from both Rabbi Marshall *Meyer and diplomats of the Israel Embassy in Buenos Aires. Timerman was released from prison by the Junta thanks to the joint diplomatic efforts of the State of Israel and the United States.

His first place of exile was Israel, and he later moved to New York and Spain. His testimony Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number (1981) became a worldwide bestseller, describing his personal ordeal and documenting the Argentine institutionalized violence of the military dictatorship in Argentina and its violation of human rights, including the antisemitism among the rank and file of the repressors.

Timerman was outraged by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and published a critical book, Israel, the Longer War (1982), denouncing the unjust treatment of the Palestinians. This book aroused severe criticism of the author in Israel.

He returned to Argentina in 1984, one year after the restoration of democracy, and testified against the Juntas and violators of human rights. He became editor of the daily La Razón. In 1988 Carlos Saul Menem, then governor of the province of La Rioja and presidential candidate, sued him for libel and defamation. He was acquitted in two separate trials, but during the administration of President Menem the case was reopened by the Supreme Court of Argentina, and Timerman decided to flee to Uruguay. The charges against him were finally dropped in 1996.

Timerman wrote books critical of Augusto Pinochet (Chile, el galope muerto, 1988) and Fidel Castro (Cuba, a Journey, 1990).


G. Mochkofsky, TimermanEl periodista que quiso ser parte del poder (1923–1999), (2003).

[Leonardo Senkman (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.