Since President Mauricio Macri took over the government of Argentina, in December 2015, several judicial investigations against officials from the previous administration acquired considerably more speed. This could be explained by the fact that some judges might have felt frightened to advance with these investigations before. But, undoubtedly, there were also judges who for years deliberately delayed investigations, and who could now be trying to get themselves rid of any responsibility (as the current government is trying to strengthen the constitutional mechanisms aimed at guarantying the transparency of the judiciary).
Hopefully, the change that Argentines are witnessing today is not a temporary fix, but a real step towards a more independent and effective justice system.
There has been, in this regard, considerable progress in a number of important corruption cases, and several former officials — including former Vice President Amado Boudou and former Minister of Public Works Julio de Vido — have been arrested.
There have also been advances in two cases that are particularly important. One of them is the investigation into the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman (the federal prosecutor who had been investigating the 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish center for over 10 years). Nisman was found dead in his apartment, in January 2015, a few days after accusing former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and some of her officials of negotiating a pact with Iran (known as Memorandum of Understanding or MOU) in order to get impunity for the Iranians accused in the AMIA case. After almost three years of shameful irregularities and delays, a report by the border police —signed by a large number of judicial experts — ruled out the hypothesis of suicide (that had initially been sustained by the former government) and established that the prosecutor was indeed murdered.
The other extremely important case is the one that investigates the complaint itself that Nisman made prior to his death. The judge of this case has already summoned most of the people accused by Nisman (including Kirchner and former Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman) to testify. And there is a testimony that has particular relevance. Allan Bogado, who had been accused by Nisman of being a member of the "parallel diplomacy" that negotiated the agreement with Iran, said that he had actually been an undercover intelligence agent, whose mission was to investigate what both governments were plotting. According to Bogado, what the governments of Iran and Argentina had secretly agreed upon by signing the MOU, was the transfer of Argentine nuclear technology and know-how to the Iranians.
In his complaint, Nisman had said that the MOU had been signed to give impunity to the Iranians in exchange of some kind of commercial arrangement that included oil. But, if what Bogado testified proves to be right, Nisman could have underestimated the importance of the MOU since its main goal would have been to boost the Iranian nuclear program, in clear violation of the international sanctions in force at the time.
Kirchner, who has just been elected senator, portrays herself as the victim of political persecution. But she (and her supporters) are obviously worried about the many judicial investigations against her, particularly those related to Nisman. And perhaps this is why, in recent days, there were a number of anti-Semitic incidents, aimed at making the public believe that there is a "Zionist conspiracy” against her.
A congressman from the governing party, for example, who is also a former leader of DAIA (the Jewish umbrella organization in Argentina) was accused of being an agent of the Mossad and of defending "foreign interests" by another congressman close to Kirchner. Shortly after, a famous Jewish journalist was insulted in a public event, and a well-known Jewish writer received death threats.
It is not the first time that officials from the previous administration make use of anti-Semitic language to try to distract attention from the accusations against them. Shortly after Nisman's death, Kirchner openly supported an opinion piece that suggested that Nisman had participated in a Jewish conspiracy against her government.
Fortunately, Argentina today seems to have the necessary legal and institutional tools for these people (who were so unfairly targeted) to confront these vicious attacks in an effective way. And, hopefully, the proper functioning of the country’s democratic institutions will ensure that the truth is reached once and for all.
Adriana Camisar, is an attorney by training who holds a graduate degree in international law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School (Tufts University). She has been B'nai B'rith International Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs since late 2008. In 2013 she relocated to Argentina, her native country. Prior to joining B'nai B'rith International, she worked as a research assistant to visiting Professor Luis Moreno Ocampo (former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court), at Harvard University; interned at the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs; worked at a children's rights organization in San Diego, Calif.; and worked briefly as a research assistant to the Secretary for Legal Affairs at the Organization of American States (OAS). To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
This month (November 2017), we mark the anniversaries of two pivotal milestones in Jewish history: the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which declared the British government’s endorsement of the creation of a nation-state for the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland, and the 70th anniversary of the passage of U.N. resolution 181, in which a majority of U.N. member states approved of a plan to create that nation-state, which became the State of Israel.
B’nai B’rith International is celebrating both anniversaries, organizing an event at the Knesset on the Balfour Declaration and co-sponsoring with the Permanent Mission of Israel to the U.N. and other Jewish organizations an event at the original site of the passage of resolution 181.
At B’nai B’rith, we take pride in our historical role in both events. See B’nai B’rith Magazine’s latest issue for background on the role of B’nai B’rith leaders in the Balfour Declaration. B’nai B’rith was active in the U.N. from its founding, attending the 1945 San Francisco conference and gaining accreditation as an NGO in 1947. A key moment in B’nai B’rith history is the intervention of B’nai B’rith President Frank Goldman and B’nai B’rith lodge member Eddie Jacobson with U.S. President Harry Truman, which led to the U.S. decision to support partition. And, B’nai B’rith has had an active presence in Israel since 1888, helping to build the state.
As these important anniversaries arrive, it’s important to celebrate and reflect on the advocacy efforts that led to these key moments in history. We also need to realize that, as important as these events were, they did not in themselves create the State of Israel. That job was done by the Zionist pioneers that settled the land, the leaders of the Yishuv (the Jewish government in waiting in pre-state Israel), the Haganah and other armed groups (and later, the IDF) that defended the nascent state, and the support of the Jewish community outside of Israel. Balfour and 181 did, however, give vital international recognition and legitimacy to Zionism at critical times to the development of the eventual State of Israel.
The Palestinians would do well to finally reckon with this history and with the fact that Israel is here to stay. Instead, the Palestinians are still battling the battles of the past — demanding that the current British government renounce the Balfour Declaration (the United Kingdom forthrightly refused to do so). At the U.N., the date of 181’s passage (Nov. 29) has been turned into the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” whereby the U.N. delegations of countries hostile to Israel make incendiary speeches that few people outside of the U.N. building pay any attention to and resolutions are voted upon that do not bring the region closer to peace and only serve to discredit the U.N. The U.N.’s anti-Israel bureaucratic machinery also recently hosted an event attacking the Balfour Declaration.
While some delegations at the U.N. mourn, we in the Jewish community will continue to celebrate our return to sovereignty in the land of our ancestors and pledge to rededicate ourselves to the cause. Israel grows stronger economically, culturally, technologically and militarily, as a diverse democracy with flourishing diplomatic opportunities in countries throughout the world while the Palestinians play games at the U.N. When the Palestinians realize that seeking to delegitimize and isolate Israel via international institutions and/or seeking to destroy Israel with military force or terrorism will not lead to the creation of a Palestinian state, perhaps they will start to negotiate in earnest with Israel on a true, meaningful peace.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. Click here to view more of his additional content.
The House of Representatives in Congress recently introduced legislation called the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act,” which makes drastic changes to our country’s tax code. Unfortunately, some of the proposed changes might have a negative impact on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). The LIHTC is an affordable housing program administered by the Internal Revenue Service that awards tax credits to the private sector to spur construction that benefits low-income individuals. The LIHTC is responsible for around 90 percent of all current affordable housing construction in the United States, and has help create around 3 million apartments since it was established.
In particular, the LIHTC has benefited seniors in the B’nai B’rith Housing Network in St. Louis at Convent Place Apartments, and in Massachusetts at the Coolidge at Sudbury Apartments. The U.S. has an affordable housing shortage, particularly amongst seniors. It is predicted that by 2025, 12.2 million seniors will spend more than half of their incomes on housing.
While the tax reform legislation has no direct changes to the existing LIHTC, the other proposed changes could have unfortunate indirect consequences for affordable housing. First, the legislation lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent which means that corporations will have less incentive to purchase the tax credits. After the 2016 presidential election, the mere threat of tax reform caused the value of the LIHTC to go down. Tax reform that brings the corporate tax rate down to 20 percent without other modifications could be problematic for the tax credit.
Secondly, the tax reform proposal could threaten affordable housing by eliminating the use of private activity bonds that utilize the four percent credits from the LIHTC. Private activity bonds help finance around half of all LIHTC construction, therefore eliminating these bonds will have very serious consequences on the creation of new affordable housing, and the rehabilitation of existing stock.
Tax reform legislation should be viewed as a golden opportunity to strengthen the LIHTC, and it’s a shame that the current proposal does not accomplish that goal. For instance, the House’s bill could include parts of LIHTC legislation in the House and Senate that would fortify this affordable housing program. In addition, both these affordable housing bills have broad bi-partisan support in the House and Senate, which only increases their likelihood of passage if included as part of the greater tax reform effort.
The LIHTC is critically important to making sure that older Americans have a place to call home, and the tax reform legislation should not include proposals that could potentially make affordable housing for seniors more difficult to come by.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
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