La grande marche de Buenos Aires.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The pain and anger felt by many Argentinian Israelis regarding the unresolved 1994 bombing of the capital’s AMIA Jewish center have not diminished in the intervening years.
Argentinian-Israeli Roxana Levinson lost her uncle in the terrorist bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center, two years after losing her aunt in the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. Her voice is charged with emotion as she talks to The Jerusalem Post over the phone, after having just watched online as her family took part in the memorial ceremony there.
“It’s a very sad day, because while loss is something you feel every day, on this day we feel it particularly keenly, because everyone marks it. The togetherness intensifies the pain,” she remarks. “ It’s not just the way my uncle died, which alone was a disaster, but the family which broke down as a result. It had a strong impact on all of us; we all changed.
“Not only did 85 people die in the deadly terrorist attack,” she continues, “but a year-and- a-half ago, the prosecutor [Alberto Nisman] was also apparently killed. There is no answer to what happened to these 85 people – now 86 with Nisman.”
The latter, the chief investigator of the AMIA bombing, was found dead in 2015 at his Buenos Aires home, hours before he was due to submit a report to Congress on the matter. Nisman alleged that former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her government covered up Iran’s role in the bombing, and accused Hezbollah of carrying it out. The cause of his death remains unexplained, and while officials initially pointed to suicide, the government later backed widespread belief that he was murdered.
“He who tried to do something was killed,” stated Levinson. “It destroyed any hope. Who will now dare touch that file after knowing what happened to the one who did try? Nobody is sitting in jail, not in Argentina or in Iran,” she laments.
She does, however, say that Argentina’s new government, led by President Mauricio Macri, has provided a glimmer of hope with its immediate cancellation of the agreement signed between Argentina and Iran to jointly investigate the 1990s bombings.
She also throws weight behind her observation that Macri is sitting at the front row at the memorial service, together with the bereaved families. “This does arouse hope that maybe he will do something.”
Levinson does not just commemorate the day with her family from afar, but will also attend a commemoration event in Ashdod – one of multiple ceremonies being held across Israel by the country’s Argentine community of approximately 60,000, in collaboration with their municipalities.
Beersheba holds an annual memorial ceremony for the victims of both the 1992 and 1994 attacks. Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and other public officials participated in the event. Gil Sztejman, Beersheba council member and chairman of the Gente Latinoamericana NGO, says the the organizers encourage families to come, to ensure the memory of the tragic attacks is passed down to the younger generations.
“Like all the Jews, the phrase ‘never forget’ resonates with us,” Sztejman explains.
He says the second aim of the event is to ring alarm bells, that 22 years after the attack, nobody has been sentenced. He, too, refers to Nisman’s suspicious death, before declaring that the community is “in the dark once again.” He adds that the members of Israel’s Argentinian community are campaigning for the victims of both attacks to be recognized by Israel as victims of terrorism. “They also deserve to be recognized,” he tells the Post.
Not all Argentinian Israelis attend the ceremonies, some feeling distanced from their country of origin after years of living in Israel. But they share their countrymen’s anger and frustration at the Argentinian government.
“As the icing on the cake, our former president president, Cristina Fernández, instructed the signing of a memorandum with Iran as a means to seal this cover up,” says Tel Aviv resident Gisela Millicovsky, who hails from Concordia, Argentina.
She says that while during election season presidential candidates use the AMIA cause as way to garner votes, it is not truly a top priority, for a country knee-deep in corruption scandals.
“If we are to look at the present, the future of justice is uncertain,” she says. “It’s been 22 years of cover-ups,” echoes Levinson.
“No one can bring back the children, the mothers, the fathers, the grandparents – but at least if justice is served, it will be of some comfort.”