Part 1: AMIA in Advance of 27th Anniversary of Deadly Terror Attack in Buenos Aires
Part 2: Shared Threads: AMIA, Burgas and Other Global Terror Attacks
(Washington, D.C., July 16, 2021)--B’nai B’rith International hosted a two-part virtual series—Hezbollah: Sowing Global Terror—in advance of the anniversaries of two deadly attacks on Jews.
The bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires that killed 85 and wounded more than 300 took place July 18, 1994. Terrorists detonated a car bomb, killing and maiming those who worked at the AMIA (the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building and destroying the structure that housed so many Jewish Agencies in Buenos Aires. It was the deadliest terror attack ever in Argentina.
In 2012 on the same date, a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus carrying Israeli tourists from Tel Aviv at the Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. The explosion killed the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israelis and injured 32 other Israelis.
Even though there is ample evidence that Hezbollah—a terrorist group that's a proxy of Iran—is behind both attacks, there is reluctance to tackle the terrorist organization head-on to this day.
In Part 1 of our series, “Commemorating AMIA,” we spoke with Luis Czyzewski, the father of a victim, about his search for justice. The interview, in Spanish with simultaneous English translation, was conducted by Adriana Camisar, B’nai B’rith’s Special Advisor on Latin American and U.N. Affairs from Argentina, with a special introduction by CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin. Czyzewski, whose 21-year-old daughter, Paola, was killed in the attack, has spent the last 27 years fighting for justice for his daughter and all of the victims of the attack. That unforgettable, tragic day was the first time Paola ever entered the AMIA building. She was visiting during a break from her law studies to assist her parents, who both worked at AMIA.
Czyzewski noted that there is no method, formula or book that says how to move forward after such a horrific loss. That the families of the victims have a burden they will carry throughout their lives. He said the many investigations into the bombing have revealed much about the attack, but that what we don’t have are convictions.
Camisar and Mariaschin commended Czyzewski for his courageous fight for justice.
In Part 2, “Shared Threads: AMIA, Burgas and Other Global Terror Attacks,” Mariaschin interviewed two experts about Iran’s proxy terror arm, Hezbollah, and its malign global reach. Guest Matthew Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler Fellow at The Washington Institute and director of its Jeanette and Eli Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. Our 2nd guest was Gustavo Perednik, whose long resume includes writing two books dealing with the work of his friend, the late AMIA case prosecutor Alberto Nisman, “To Kill Without a Trace” and “To Die for Argentina.”
Perednik said that Nisman would have approved of combining AMIA and Burgas for commemoration, because he would have appreciated the connecting of the dots between multiple attacks and how the linked events expose Iran’s influence in terrorist attacks across the world—and by extension its guilt. Levitt said the Burgas attack didn’t happen in a vacuum and also observed that Hezbollah sees terror against innocent civilians as a legitimate path to achieving its objectives.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit bnaibrith.org.
B’nai B’rith International remembers the 23rd anniversary of the Israeli Embassy bombing in Buenos Aires. The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove a truck loaded with explosives into the corner of the embassy on the afternoon of March 17, 1992. The terrorist detonated the bombs and killed 29 people, injured 242 and also destroyed a church and a school.
Until the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building was bombed in 1994, it was the deadliest terror attack in South America. In the tragedy at the AMIA building, 85 people died and 300 people were injured. Iran has long been linked to both bombings, but none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.
Iranian involvement and alleged Argentinian complicity in the cover-up in the AMIA attack has been recently reinserted into the public consciousness. The suspicious death of Argentine Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman has sparked outrage among Argentinians and created a demand for answers. Nisman died shortly after he filed a complaint against Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman alleging they offered Iran impunity before jointly creating the “Commission of Truth,” designed to find those responsible for the attack.
“While we await more answers on Alberto Nisman’s death and the Argentine government’s actual role within the ‘Commission of Truth,’ we cannot forget where and when Iran’s savagery in South America began: at the Israeli Embassy on March 17, 1992. And B’nai B’rith will not forget that,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
The attacks on the embassy and on the AMIA building have been credited to Iran’s terror arm Hezbollah, making the news of Iran and Argentina’s creation of the “Commission of Truth” in January 2013 and the allegations of the president and foreign minister shielding Tehran from punishment all the more shocking.
“B’nai B’rith has followed Nisman’s investigation into the AMIA bombing over the years and we have strongly supported his efforts. We hoped that if he uncovered the truth behind AMIA, the perpetrators behind the embassy bombing may be brought closer to justice,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Iran, through Hezbollah, has carried out global terror attacks for decades. Tehran needs to be held accountable. His death creates a gaping void in the pursuit of terrorists.”
Swiss Government Nominates Anti-Israel Radical
B’nai B’rith International is outraged at the Swiss government’s nominee for membership on the Advisory Committee of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The nomination of Jean Ziegler is an affront to the idea of an impartial, credible council. In the run-up to Israel’s total, unrequited withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Ziegler called the territory “an immense concentration camp,” and he has openly described Hezbollah as “a national movement of resistance.” He also has urged the use of economic leverage for political purposes against Israel—which he has reportedly called a “colonial regime.”
“This choice is another potential setback for the Human Rights Council, and its having been made by a democracy supposedly devoted to human rights is repugnant,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The appointment of Ziegler, who in effect disregards the most basic human rights of Israelis, would only reinforce the council as a forum for anti-Israel bigotry.”
Hezbollah is recognized by most of the world as a notorious terrorist group. In July, the European Union designated the “military wing” of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Though noting as a positive step the recognition of atrocities committed by Hezbollah, B’nai B’rith has urged the European Union to eliminate the distinction between a “military wing” and a “political wing” of Hezbollah. The entirety of the organization patently deserves designation as terrorist in orientation, methods and objectives alike.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.
Ziegler, a former Social Democratic member of the Swiss parliament, helped institute an International Prize for Human Rights named in honor of longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and awarded to a series of tyrants, anti-Semites and ultimately Ziegler himself.
“Terrorism against citizens of the Jewish state—whether by Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon—is a foremost example of the contemporary, serial denial of human rights. The Human Rights Council is certainly not the place for someone who doesn’t recognize that, or who chooses to direct his scorn at those engaged in responsible counterterrorism,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Ziegler’s open record of hostility toward Israel and his embrace of human rights abusers compromise his ability to advise the Human Rights Council.”
Ziegler has been a U.N. fixture for well over a decade. During that time, he has repeatedly used the world body as a podium for his radical political opinions, especially his anti-Israel views.
B’nai B’rith urges the Swiss government to review Ziegler’s record and rescind his nomination.
B’nai B’rith Welcomes EU Decision to Blacklist “Military Wing” of Hezbollah as Positive First Step; Stresses Further Need to Designate Entire Organization as Terrorist
B’nai B’rith International commends the European Union for designating the “military wing” of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization but maintains that the entirety of Hezbollah—including its “political branch”—needs to be blacklisted as well.
“The EU decision to ban Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ is an important first step, but it is not nearly enough,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘military’ and ‘political wing’ has been contrived—it’s a distinction unrecognized by Hezbollah itself. Without an across-the-board designation blacklisting the entirety of Hezbollah, this could prove to be only little more than a symbolic move without the power to significantly curtail the operations of the terrorist organization.”
After an investigation by Bulgarian officials confirmed Hezbollah was behind the bombing of a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, one year ago, which killed six individuals (including five Israelis) and injured 32 others, the EU designation is an important, official acknowledgement of the terrorist priorities of Hezbollah. However, by distinguishing between Hezbollah’s “military” and “political wings,” the European Union has conferred legitimacy to the organization’s political operations, unless it moves forward and bans the political branch as well.
It is unclear what impact this designation will have on Hezbollah’s ability to carry out its terrorist atrocities. A partial ban will likely prove ineffective at preventing future terrorist attacks like the one in Burgas, especially since Hezbollah’s political leadership also directs the military and terrorist operations. With legitimacy within Europe, the political branch of Hezbollah can continue to raise funds, recruit, acquire technological training and materials, and broadcast incendiary propaganda through such media as its Al-Manar television station, all of which could inevitably serve to support Hezbollah-backed acts of terror.
“The European Union needs to ensure that this first step of blacklisting the ‘military wing’ of Hezbollah is just that—a first step,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Without a similar designation to the ‘political branch,’ Hezbollah will likely be able to continue business as usual, drumming up political and financial support across Europe unfettered. This designation is important, but, unless the European Union is willing to do more, it very well could be a feckless move.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
One year ago in Burgas, Bulgaria, a suicide bomber attacked a bus filled with Israeli tourists and ultimately killed five Israelis, the Bulgarian bus driver and injured 32 others. B’nai B’rith remembers those who perished in the attack and the injured. B’nai B’rith Bulgaria will be in attendance for tomorrow’s memorial ceremony in Burgas.
The ceremony will commemorate the lives lost, as well as honor the emergency personnel who responded to the attack. Family members, government officials, diplomats and members of the Jewish community will be in attendance. B’nai B’rith Bulgaria will lay a wreath in memory of the victims.
Bulgarian officials investigated the attack and found that Hezbollah was behind it. The European Union Council of Ministers, at their meeting in Brussels next week, are expected to discuss the issue of designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, a position B’nai B’rith has consistently urged the EU to do.
The attack occurred on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded 300.
This attack on Israelis, occurring on the AMIA anniversary, is a chilling reminder that the threat of international terror knows no boundaries. Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to the victims and their families.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is disappointed to learn the European Union will not yet designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the wake of the Bulgarian government’s findings that the group was behind the attack that killed six people, five Israelis and one Bulgarian, in the resort town of Burgas in July 2012.
In a press conference Thursday with Israeli President Shimon Peres, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barros said the EU does not have sufficient evidence of Hezbollah’s activities in Europe, but did not rule out taking action in a few months’ time. The Bulgarian government said it is still finalizing its investigation and according to reports is expected to formally ask the EU to place the group on its list of terrorist organizations next month.
By tabling this decision, the EU is sending the wrong message when the evidence is quite clear, and when in fact this attack occurred on European soil. Bulgaria spent six months investigating the suicide bombing, finding the names of the perpetrators, fake documents and a money trail leading back to Lebanon. Not designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization will only empower and embolden the group. We urge the EU to act quickly to cut off Hezbollah’s resources and to take the information provided in the Burgas report seriously.
B'nai B'rith Urges Senators to Carefully Review Hagel Responses and Record Before Confirmation Vote for Defense Secretary
Just ahead of the Senate vote on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary, B’nai B’rith International has released the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International remains concerned with many aspects of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel’s responses to questions during his confirmation hearing for the position of secretary of defense. Since then, more questions have been raised about Hagel’s views on a number of important issues.
During the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Hagel did not assuage our reservations on how he would approach such topics as terrorism, Iran and Israel. We urge all Senators, as they prepare to vote, to carefully review Hagel’s record and hearing responses to determine his qualifications for the post.
We are concerned that Hagel, unlike the vast majority of his Senate colleagues, underestimates the threat of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
Hagel was in the minority when 88 of his then-Senate colleagues called on the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Hezbollah has been a global terror group since it was founded some 30 years ago. Its decades of terror include the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon that killed 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors, and the July 2012 attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria that killed five Israelis, their Bulgarian bus driver and wounded 30 others. After a six month investigation, the Bulgarian government issued a report unequivocally blaming Hezbollah for that attack.
We are troubled that Hagel, during his confirmation hearings, undermined the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He appeared to endorse a policy of containment of a nuclear Iran before being advised that containment was not administration policy.
In recent days, Hagel has disavowed, or said he didn’t remember, making certain past comments about Israel. At a 2007 speech he is said to have referred to the U.S. State Department as “an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister's office.”
Our hesitation on his nomination is based on our uneasiness with such updates to his record.
B’nai B’rith International expresses the expectation that members of the Senate will give his record a thorough review prior to the vote.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International hopes Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov’s meeting with the European Union Foreign Affairs Council yesterday to discuss the Burgas report will result in designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization throughout Europe.
Mladenov briefed the council on the findings of the report that holds Hezbollah responsible for the July 2012 attack in Burgas that left five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian dead, while wounding 30 others.
When asked by reporters if he believes Hezbollah should be named a terrorist organization by the EU, Mladenov replied: “Given the fact that we’ve already made quite firm statements about where we believe the responsibility for that attack lies, I think the answer is quite obvious.”
According to various news reports, there is no official timetable for the EU by which to reach a decision on Hezbollah’s designation. The council and other EU officials will examine the Burgas report and then bring it to a debate. A unanimous vote is needed to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
B’nai B’rith will continue to urge EU officials and other interested parties to name Hezbollah for what it truly is—a violent and dangerous organization whose acts of terror have been carried out on three continents.
B’nai B’rith Praises Bulgaria For Acting Swiftly, Demanding Extradition Of Lebanese Suspects In Burgas Bombing
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International praises the Bulgarian government for demanding the extradition of two suspected Hezbollah terrorists from Lebanon, whom it believes are linked to the July 2012 bus bombing in Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver.
Last week the Bulgarian government released a report after six months of investigation, stating Hezbollah was behind the attack. Israel has long maintained that Hezbollah was responsible for the attack.
It is commendatory to see the Bulgarians acting swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice. The European Union will discuss the Bulgarians’ findings next week.
In the wake of this report, B’nai B’rith has renewed its call for the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The Netherlands is the only EU member that does so.