RUTHIE BLUM: DON’T CRY FOR ARGENTINA
Reports of an alleged Israeli strike against a Syrian weapons’ convoy headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon — followed by threats of retaliation from Damascus and Tehran — have sent Israelis lining up at gas-mask distribution points across the country.
The above example of Israel’s external problems, coupled with the current internal uncertainty as to which parties will end up forming the coalition-in-the-making, has sidelined another important story, also involving Iran.
What might have seemed like old news has come to the fore this week: The renewed investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires.
The AMIA bombing took the lives of 85 people, most of them Jews, and left hundreds of others wounded. For many years following the terrorist attack, the Argentinean authorities either botched or covered up almost every aspect of the investigation and the court case. By 2005, even a federal judge was impeached as a result of what were called “serious irregularities” in the handling of the case. Later that year, two Argentinean prosecutors charged Iran with being behind the bombing, purportedly executed by its proxy, Hezbollah. According to the accusation, Iran targeted Argentina due to its decision to suspend a nuclear technology transfer contract with the Islamic Republic.
This was no more plausible then than it is now. In the first place, the AMIA bombing occurred while Iran and Argentina were still conducting discussions about the contract, which was never actually abrogated. Secondly, the bombing took place less than two years after a similar incident — the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which claimed 29 lives and wounded well over 200. Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group under Hezbollah’s umbrella, claimed credit for the latter. Though no solid proof has emerged linking the two deadly events, it is widely assumed that they were part of the same overall Iran-instigated war against the Jews and Israel. And for the past nearly two decades, no perpetrators have been identified or apprehended.
And then, this week, as if out of the blue, the Argentinean government signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Iranian regime to conduct a joint investigation into the AMIA bombing. To add irony to injury, this pact, which was signed by the foreign ministers of the two countries on Jan. 27 in Ethiopia, includes the creation of a “truth commission” to get to the bottom of the bombing. As American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris noted: Having the regime in Tehran take part in this investigation would be like “asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht.”
This was the exact sentiment of the Israeli government. On Tuesday, two days after the Argentinean-Iranian memorandum was signed, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Argentinean ambassador. Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Latin America Itzhak Shoham expressed shock and disappointment at the collaboration with the country that was behind both bombings.
“A lack of resolve in dealing with terrorism sends a message of weakness,” he said. “Had Argentina dealt resolutely with the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy, the 1994 AMIA bombing might not have happened.”
The Argentinean government was furious. “Mind your own business” was the gist of its response to what it referred to as “Israeli interference” in Argentina’s “sovereignty.” That both bombings were clearly perpetrated by the same source; that both targeted Jews; and that the embassy attack was a matter of Israeli sovereignty, not Argentinean, did not faze our Argentinean “allies.”
In fact, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry immediately issued a statement, calling the Israeli summons “an improper act that we reject vigorously and that goes against the traditional relations of friendship between the two nations.” Oh, yes, and let’s not forget that its foreign minister is Hector Timerman, a Jew. He’s the one who sealed the “truth commission” deal with his Iranian counterpart. How convenient.
But statements clearly were not sufficient retaliation. On Wednesday, Timerman summoned Israeli Ambassador to Argentina Dorit Shavit to express his country’s “surprise and irritation” with Tel Aviv for having demanded an explanation about the pact with Iran.
What all of this means is that Israel can cross off Argentina as a friend and an ally. It most certainly must forget about enlisting its support against the Iranian ayatollahs and their nuclear program.
Far less clear is why the Israeli government is so surprised. Though Argentina is home to the largest Jewish population in Latin America, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has not hidden her admiration for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an anti-Semitic, anti-American despot allied with Iran. Since Chavez’s rise to power in 1999, Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor, forged close ties with him and championed his efforts to undermine the “imperialist” United States.
So what in the world of global jihad did we expect?
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’”
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