Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Cry for Argentina

March 4, 2013 3:27 pm 0 comments

A banner commemorating the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center, in an urban square dedicated to peace in Rosario, Argentina. Photo: Pablo D. Flores via Wikimedia Commons.

Argentina has just approved a memorandum of understanding with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA, or Jewish federation, building in Buenos Aires. The blast killed 85 people and wounded 300.

There’s only one problem with the agreement — it’s alleged that the current Iranian regime, plus its proxy, Hezbollah, was responsible for the attack. That’s not speculation, but the conclusion, reached years ago, by the Argentine government!

To further underscore the absurdity of this initiative, one of the individuals named by Argentina in the AMIA case — and, since 2007, the target of an INTERPOL “red notice,” meaning Argentina seeks his arrest and extradition — is, in fact, the current Iranian minister of defense. Is Iran about to hand him over to Argentina as a defendant in any trial? Yeah, right!

This whole episode would make for gut-splitting political satire were the stakes not so high.

After all, what took place in 1994 was the single deadliest terrorist assault in Latin America, and it followed on the heels of an earlier attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.

For years, I heard with my own ears one Argentine government after another promising to get to the bottom of the case, but, fueled by heavy doses of incompetence, hesitation, and corruption, no investigation ever got very far.

Meanwhile, families of the victims struggled to come to grips with the absence of justice, while many feared a third attack on a country that just couldn’t quite summon the resolve to pursue the perpetrators.

But then things began to change.

President Néstor Kirchner, the current leader’s late husband, came to the 2004 AJC Global Forum in Washington. He said, for the world to hear, that the unresolved investigation was a “national disgrace” and justice would no longer be delayed.

A determined special prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was appointed in 2005 and given the mandate to go wherever the evidence took him, be it the tri-border area with Brazil and Paraguay, the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, Damascus, or Tehran.

And that resulted in a report that named five Iranians and one Hezbollah operative as linked to the attack, prompting a request for INTERPOL cooperation. Iran fought the move tooth-and-nail, using, above all, its time-tested diplomatic tools of bribery and blackmail. But at the showdown vote during the INTERPOL meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, Argentina prevailed.

When Cristina Kirchner took office in December 2007, succeeding her husband, the momentum initially continued. She had previously spoken out strongly on the case as an Argentine senator, including at the AJC Global Forum in Washington months before her election. She noted the double indignity it had brought to her country — a deadly attack against Argentina and pitifully little to show from years of investigation.

So, why this new turn of events by the very same leader, aided by her foreign minister, Hector Timerman? Why are they so determined to proceed with the memorandum of understanding, even in the face of a torrent of criticism from within the country, including from many civic groups, media outlets, and political parties (the accord was narrowly endorsed in the Argentine Senate and Chamber of Deputies by votes of 39-31 and 131-113, respectively), and abroad?

However they choose to cloak it, the most likely answer appears to be a desire to “repair” bilateral relations with Iran. Finding a formula to bring “closure” to the AMIA case would “normalize” the link, in turn yielding tangible political and economic benefits to Argentina.

Otherwise, they fear, this issue could drag on for many more years, with Argentina continuing to cut itself off from an Iran hungry to break out of the isolation the U.S. and Europe are seeking to impose — and to which Buenos Aires temperamentally is not nearly as committed.

Also striking has been the Kirchner administration’s thin skin since the deal was first announced.

It has lashed out at its critics, even reportedly threatening to complicate life for AMIA if its leadership continues to protest the devilish deal with Iran.

But, after all, Argentina is a democracy, and those who disagree are exercising their right to speak out.

Moreover, AMIA’s current leaders, some of whom were in the building on that fateful day in 1994, are still grappling with the trauma of what occurred nearly 19 years ago. They have had to bury their colleagues and friends, console the survivors, and constantly worry about the state of security. If they cannot express themselves about this particular Argentine-Iranian accord without fear of intimidation or retaliation, then who exactly is entitled to do so?

Every friend of Argentina, of democracy, and of justice should stand with those Argentines, Jews and non-Jews alike, who oppose a shameful pact with Iran that, yes, has echoes of the naiveté, self-delusion, and appeasement of the past.

Today, I cry for you, Argentina.

This article was originally published by The Huffington Post and The Jerusalem Post.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →