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 hasfound 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.