AMIA: Still Demanding Justice

By Max Carp, AJC Philadelphia/SNJ intern

Liliana Ines Friesel Elkouss grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Today she lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where she has

Photo by La Nación

found American Jewish Committee (AJC) helpful in staying connected to her heritage. She also plays an important role in AJC’s annual AMIA program, offering an Argentine perspective on the horrific bombing of the Jewish community building perpetrated by Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah on July 18, 1994, that killed 85, and injured 300.

“Every year I am thankful for AJC’s commemoration,” says Elkuoss. “Yet the plague of impunity hits me hard on the face as it slaps me over and over.”

A plague of impunity is an apt description. To this day, not a single perpetrator of the heinous atrocity has faced any consequences. The 2014 Memorandum of Understanding between Argentina and Iran (later struck down by Argentine courts) granted Iran a role in adjudicating the perpetrators of an attack its own leaders orchestrated. And the 2015 murder of Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor investigating the attack, on the day before his scheduled testimony, was heartbreaking. Argentina, and the world, lost a great champion of justice “The wound definitely intensified,” said Elkouss, “when we were cheated out of justice on the horizon.”

“The AMIA bombing exemplifies the worst consequences of the inseparable connection between Iranian terrorist proxy Hezbollah’s military operations and its goals,” said Marcia Bronstein, AJC Regional Director. AJC is working with governments across Europe and Latin America to designate Hezbollah in its entirety a terrorist organization. To date, the United States, Canada, Argentina, Israel, Honduras, Paraguay, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, as well as the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council have designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. And AJC continues to press all EU member states to correct the error they made in 2013, by recognizing only the so-called “military wing”, and not its “political wing” as a terrorist organization. Even Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said there is no distinction; Hezbollah is one.

The AMIA bombing, which came two years after the deadly bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, was part of Hezbollah’s perpetual reminder to the Jewish people: no matter where you are, you are not safe. As part of a national group of communal workers who spent time in Argentina after the AMIA bombing, Bronstein remembers a pledge she made to the leadership there that until there is justice for AMIA, we will tell the story and demand action. The current Argentinian government has resumed investigating the government collaborators who impeded justice for decades.

When Elkouss reflects on the attack, she mourns for the extinguished human potential. “They had names, families, children, friends, and they had plans for the future which for them never came through,” she said. At AJC, we will shed tears for these victims on July 18, when we honor their memory for the 26th year in a row.

Our plea to the world hasn’t changed: Justice for AMIA.

25 Years Without Justice: AJC’s AMIA Commemoration

Twenty-five years ago, on July 18, 1994, a suicide bomber drove a van loaded with over 600 pounds of nitrate fertilizer and explosives into the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) building – the central meeting place of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The explosion and resultant building collapse killed 85 people. The youngest was a 5 year old boy named Sebastian Barreiro, and the oldest was a 73 year old man named Faiwel “Pablo” Dyjament. An additional 300 people were injured.

Argentina has the world’s sixth largest Jewish community, numbering about 230,000. The AMIA bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack that has ever happened in Argentina. Initially, local Argentinian antisemites were suspected of planning this attack. They were found to be not guilty of any involvement.

Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martinez Burgos, two Argentine prosecutors, were charged with conducting an investigation into the bombing. In 2006 they presented their formal accusation that the government of Iran directed the attack, and that Hezbollah, Iran’s military proxy in Lebanon, executed it.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015, was accused of covering up Iran’s involvement in the terrorist operation. Alberto Nisman was scheduled to testify against her in court. He was murdered in his home before he had the opportunity to reveal what he had discovered. Mrs. Kirchner is scheduled to be tried for her role in the coverup and abuse of power. No suspects have ever been convicted for the planning and execution of this terrorist attack.

Philadelphia’s Latino-Jewish Coalition of the American Jewish Committee presented a special program commemorating the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing. The keynote address was delivered by Jason Isaacson, AJC’s Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer. Mr. Isaacson reflected on both his personal experiences being in Argentina two days after the bombing, and AJC’s continuing efforts to bring the alleged perpetrators, Including Iran and Hezbollah, to justice. The event concluded with a special candle-lighting ceremony where the victims’ names were read by several dignitaries, including Alicia Falkowski, Argentina’s consul in Philadelphia.

Argentina Meets With Iran In Troubling Renewal of Relationship

It is deeply troubling to see Argentine officials meeting with Iranian leaders for the second time this month in what could be a short-circuiting of justice, to discuss the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded 300.  

More after the jump.
The first meeting took place at the United Nations in New York; the Oct. 29 meeting at the United Nations in Geneva.

Iran, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, is widely acknowledged to be behind the AMIA attack. Officials from the top levels of the government were named by an Argentine prosecutor’s report as being responsible for the bombing. Interpol issued arrest warrants for the attack, but no arrests have been made.

At the time of the first meeting, we noted it was clear Tehran was using the encounter to advance its own interests in the region.

After the first meeting, Argentina stated it would negotiate with Iran to find a solution acceptable to both parties in the AMIA case. But such a political negotiation could violate Argentina’s own constitution, which calls for the extradition of those accused in the attack. Accordingly, no political negotiation can be done while there is a judicial investigation.

It has been 18 years, and still no one has ever been brought to justice in the gruesome attack. These meetings will only serve to bury any investigation in negotiations that are unlikely to result in any justice.

Iran has steadily infiltrated Latin America, creating strong and dangerous ties with Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador. These meetings Argentina is holding give undue legitimacy to a terror-sponsoring regime.

If Tehran were truly interested in aiding the investigation, it would surrender to Interpol or Argentine officials those named as responsible for the AMIA attack.

B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights and advocacy organization.  For 169 years, since 1843, B’nai B’rith International has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity and tolerance.  Visit www.bnaibrith.org.