B’nai B’rith International marks the 20th anniversary of the bombing attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building—the Jewish center—in Buenos Aires. In a terrorist attack that has been well-linked to Iran during the previous two decades, 85 people were killed in the blast, while 300 were wounded. Even more disheartening, 20 years removed from that fateful July day, we’re no closer to justice for the victims.
In the decades following the worst terrorist attack in the history of South America, the search for truth and retribution has been an uneven one.
In 2005 and 2006—after years of failing to track down the terrorists and their masters—it seemed a competent investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators might be on the cusp of actually occurring. Then-President Néstor Kirchner issued a decree accepting state’s share of the blame for the disastrous inaction and incompetent inquiry into the bombing. Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was assigned to, and reviewed the evidence, detailing how top Iranian leaders including Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president at the time, and Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s current minister of defense, ordered Hezbollah to kill Jews in Buenos Aires. Interpol eventually issued arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese national.
Despite all of this, nothing happened. Nisman was even barred by the Argentine government from travelling to the United States to testify before Congress on the investigation.
“The fact that it took more than a decade to order a proper investigation into the attack is absolutely shameful,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “What’s more shameful is that after appearing willing to make things right and go after those responsible, Argentina would not pursue Nisman’s findings and let the investigation languish.”
In an unexpected development in January 2013, Iran and Argentina signed a “Memorandum of Understanding,” creating a supposed “independent” group to investigate the 1994 bombing. This is in spite of widely held belief that Iran—the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror—and several of its senior leaders were behind the AMIA attack. It is incredible that anyone would believe that Iran has the slightest inclination to be a fair partner in the search for justice, especially with provisions in the agreement such as one that suspects may only be interrogated by Argentine officials in Tehran. This is the sort of stipulation that makes it difficult to see how anything truthful would come out of this commission.
“From the beginning, the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ was an Iranian ruse, which should have been obvious from the outset,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It sought to give the impression that the two governments were taking action, when in fact, it actually took the case off track. Now, 17 months later, we are not surprised that absolutely nothing has come of it. To think Iran ever had intentions of offering up its own agents to be questioned by an Argentinean judicial officer defies credulity.”
Notwithstanding the “Memorandum of Understanding,” this past May, an Argentine federal court struck down the agreement between Argentina and Iran, ruling it unconstitutional. The government is appealing this decision all the way to Argentina’s Supreme Court.
For 20 years, B’nai B’rith, with its deep ties throughout Latin America and abiding concern about Iranian influence in this hemisphere, has pressed for those responsible to be brought to justice. In the meantime, we pledge to never forget the victims and their families and to keep pushing for the arrest of the attackers.