Attack on AMIA rabbi might not be antisemitic, says Sephardi rabbi

Isaac Sacca, Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Argentina, speculates that the motives may be community-related.

The Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Argentina, Isaac Sacca (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Argentina, Isaac Sacca
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Argentina Isaac Sacca has expressed doubt that the brutal attack against Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich in the early hours of Monday morning had an antisemitic motive.

Seven assailants broke into Davidovich’s house, beat him viciously and stole cash and various belongings from the rabbi’s home.

He sustained nine broken ribs and a punctured lung during the attack and is currently in the hospital recuperating. Davidovich’s injuries, although serious, are not life-threatening and he is expected to recover.

According to several statements, including that of the AMIA Jewish community center, at least one of the assailants said to Davidovich, “We know that you are the AMIA rabbi,” which led to suspicions it was not merely a robbery, but an antisemitic attack.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Sacca said, however, that antisemitic incidents in Argentina were very rare and that Argentinian society was extremely tolerant.

“People do not break into the houses of religious leaders, there is great respect for religious leaders,” the rabbi said. “This is a very unusual incident.”

Sacca opined that a criminal motive or even a motivation relating to Davidovich’s work as a chief rabbi and rabbinical judge in the Jewish community might be a more rational explanation.

“The rabbis need to make many difficult decisions and sometimes there are decisions which people do not accept, get angry over,” he said.

A report in the Kikar Hashabbat haredi news website cited anonymous sources who claimed that a recent decision by Davidovich requiring a prominent member of the Jewish community to grant a divorce to his wife could have been the motive for the attack.

Sacca said such a motive could be a possibility, but that he personally was not aware of such a case at present.

Other leaders of the Jewish community, however, were convinced it was an antisemitic attack.

Sergio Pikholtz, head of the Zionist Organization of Argentina, said he believed the motive was antisemitic based on the fact that the assailants knew he was a senior rabbi in the Jewish community.

Pickholz also said that antisemitism has been rising in Argentina among far-left and Marxist groups with such elements accusing Israel of being a colonial state and accusing Jews of controlling banks and global wealth.

There has been a rise in antisemitism in recent years, with the Delegation of Argentine Israelites Associations reporting a 14% rise in antisemitic incidents for 2017 over the previous year’s figures.

But of the 404 incidents in Argentina in 2017, 88% occurred online on social networks or on news websites.

Numerous Israeli leaders condemned the attack in its immediate aftermath, including the president, prime minister, the Knesset speaker and others.

Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog condemned the attack, saying “We must fight to the end the human garbage whose source and motives are the hatred of Jews,” and said that the Jewish Agency would help lead the fight against global antisemitism.

Herzog also ordered the Jewish Agency’s organ for Jewish community security in the Diaspora to allocate funds for increased protection for Davidovich in the wake of the attack.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the international community must act against antisemitic incidents in wake of the attack.

“I send wishes for a speedy recovery to the chief rabbi of Argentina, Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, and his wife, who were brutally attacked,” he said. “We must not allow antisemitism to raise its head. I strongly condemn recent antisemitic incidents and call on the international community to act against [antisemitism].”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett sent his wishes to Davidovich for a speedy recovery and called on world leaders to stand up against antisemitism, emphasizing in particular the need for Argentina’s government to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.

“Today, the leaders of the world in Europe, in South America [and] all over are failing in their responsibility to learn the lessons of the past,” Bennett said. “But unlike the past, today we have Israel, and every Jew around the world must know they have a home here; we are waiting. But for Jews who want to live in Argentina, or France, or England, or the US or anywhere, we are also here. We will stand up against antisemitism. A strong Israel is the only answer – our enemies should know [that] Jewish blood is not cheap.”

President Reuven Rivlin spoke with Davidovich and told him, “The State of Israel will do everything necessary to protect Jews wherever they choose to live and will take any steps to protect us from danger. We will not allow those who seek our harm or to pursue us.”