A memorial to the victims of the 1994 AMIA bombing.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The United Nations held a special session in New York on Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the AMIA Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires.
On July 18, 1994, 85 people were killed and more than 300 injured when a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosive materials into the AMIA building. It is widely believed that Iran was behind the attack, while the suicide bomber was a member of its proxy, Hezbollah.
AMIA President Ariel Eichbaum said that the 1994 terrorist attack – which is still the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust – left a “toll of destruction and death” and a “wound that has not been able to heal.”
Eichbaum also mentioned the “judicial inquiry” that found the “masterminds of the attack came from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” who to date have “refused to hand over the suspects who have Interpol notices on them to appear before a judge in Argentina.”
Eichbaum made clear that “respect for diversity is threatened by bearers of supremacist and totalitarian ideas,” and that those funding terrorism and such ideals must be held accountable. “Unfortunately, the images of that day have happened again and again, more frequently in different cities and countries around the world,” he said. “The victims of fundamentalist terrorists amount to hundreds, regardless of race, religion or nationality.”
AMIA, Eichbaum concluded, “is an emblem of solidarity,” which translates the “universal values of Judaism into action,” and that while “terrorism tried to destroy it,” we are “still standing strong.”
Born and raised in Argentina, Evelyn Sommer, chairwoman of the North American Jewish Congress who was representing the WJC at the UN commemoration, said the AMIA bombing shattered the “traditional shelter” and “hospitality” that Argentina had given to “the persecuted Jews of the 20th century... who had to flee the Kishinev pogroms and massacres and later on the catastrophe that was the European Holocaust.”
Through the years, she explained, “the Argentinian Jewish community became a thriving one. It developed an extraordinary network of social, cultural and educational institutions, but that hospitality, that shelter, that traditional shelter that Argentina gave us was shattered 25 years ago with the destruction of the AMIA building.
“I stand here today,” she pleaded, “requesting from the Argentine government to continue to seek justice, to call on Iran and its proxy Hezbollah to be accountable for their terrible deeds.
We cannot forget that two years earlier the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires had also been bombed,” in which 29 people were killed and hundreds injured.
During his address, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie quoted Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel that “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them again, a second time, for in the end it’s all about memory, its painful sources, its magnitude, and of course the present circumstances.”
Faurie said that “in the case of the AMIA bombing, the present circumstances are not only conceptual or cultural, they are very concrete and very adamant in their presence,” and that “we have to receive the inescapable justice by gathering here... on the one hand we are keeping alive the memory of the victims, their pain, but also we are here to demand justice, pursuing our emphatic work toward receiving the justice we claim.”
For Argentina, Faurie said, “the attack on AMIA was not only an attack against the Jewish community of Buenos Aires, it was a strike against the Argentinian people, democracy, and freedom.”
The target of AMIA was seen as an active and well-integrated symbol of Argentina, he explained, stressing the importance of the Jewish community and how it is a “very energetic part” of Argentina’s “social, academic, cultural, and economic” life.
“We are proud of it,” he said, adding that the attack came exactly 100 years after AMIA was first established. “It will not be forgotten,” said Faurie, stressing that the Argentine government would continue “working toward justice and that those... suspects will be brought to justice in the Argentinian courts. This is not negotiable to us, it is an unwavering commitment to national security that we fight against all forms of terrorism.”
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