If the 28th anniversary of the terrorist car-bombing of the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israeli Argentina) Jewish community centre last Monday had in common with previous anniversaries the grief of the bereaved left by the 85 dead and the never-ending complaints about impunity, the presence here of a Venezuelan aircraft with a partly Iranian crew detained at Ezeiza International Airport added a new twist to this year’s commemoration.
“The episode of the plane shows that Argentina’s frontiers continue to be as permeable as they were 30 years ago,” AMIA President Amos Linetzky told the hundreds showing up on a wintry Monday, further adding: “What explanation can there be for the fact that in 28 years it has not been possible to catch even one of the multiple people responsible for such an atrocity? Those awful, despicable murderers are able to enjoy their daily lives, travelling the world in total freedom.”
Linetzky also turned the spotlight on the successors of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman (whose work was abruptly ended in early 2015 by a bullet through his brain whose origin has yet to be fully established), asking why they had so little to show for seven years despite no apparent reduction of the ample funding. The AMIA president further rapped Argentine Ambassador to Nicaragua Daniel Capitanich for staying mum over the presence of AMIA suspect Mohsen Rezai at the inauguration of Daniel Ortega’s new presidential term last January.
The ceremony began with a siren at 9.53am, the exact moment when the explosion destroyed the eight-storey building in the traditionally Jewish neighbourhood of Once. During the rally, a speaker read out the 85 names of the victims, candles were lit and wreaths of roses laid.
Unlike last March’s 30th anniversary of the terrorist bomb destruction of the Israeli Embassy (29 deaths and also unpunished), Monday’s ceremony was not addressed by any official or diplomatic representatives but only members of the Jewish community (the largest in Latin America, estimated at 300,000) – Linetzky, AMIA employee and survivor Ana Weinstein and Jennifer Dubin, Marina Degtiar and Sofia Guterman, all related to victims.
Among the audience the opposition was thicker on the ground than the government with PRO chair Patricia Bullrich, national deputies Hernán Lombardi, Ricardo López Murphy, Fernando Iglesias and Luis Petri along with City Hall ministers Jorge Macri and Marcelo Alessandro as against Education Minister Jaime Perczyk and the Foreign Ministry’s Cults Secretary Guillermo Oliveri representing the Frente de Todos ruling coalition.
Apart from the local presence (which also included Nisman’s ex-wife, the federal judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, ex-mayor and Colón Theatre director Jorge Telerman and pop star Javier Calamaro, who contributed a song in tribute to the victims), United States Ambassador Marc Stanley brought in a big name for the occasion – historian Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Lipstadt owes a fame beyond her expectations to an improbable combo of David Irving and Rachel Weisz – the former the British historian who unsuccessfully sued her for slander for saying that he denies the Holocaust (as he indeed does) and the latter the actress who played her in the 2016 film Denial about the London trial (a three-month saga in 2000, six years after the charges were first lodged). Lipstadt, whose strategic silence at that trial was repeated last Monday, maintains that Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism full stop.
Apart from Embassy staff (outgoing Ambassador Galit Ronen leaves Argentina this weekend), Israel contributed the Argentine-born president of its Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Dani Dayan.
Interpol has served Red Notices for the capture of eight Iranian officials (of which five were renewed last month) in connection with the AMIA terrorist attack. Every year Argentina requests at the United Nations General Assembly that Tehran send the accused for trial by an Argentine court.
Nobody remains in prison for the attack although three trials have come and gone and its motivation has never been clarified. A trial on the AMIA attack concluded in 2019 with minor punishments for judicial and government officials of the 1989-99 Carlos Menem presidency who were declared guilty of “covering up” the attack, but without determining the reasons for the cover-up nor for diverting investigation. Linetsky dismisses judicial action as “inefficient, slow and useless.”