Hope for justice fades as Argentina's Jews watch prosecutor's work slip beneath gov't rhetoric

In anti-Semitic rant, President Kirchner sullies late prosecutor’s decade-long search for culprits of the 1994 AMIA bombing.

April 25, 2015 04:42
4 minute read.
Alberto Nisman

Alberto Nisman . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Even those few Argentineans who had until now harbored hope for justice have little reason for optimism anymore.

On Monday, an Argentinean prosecutor effectively put an end to a decade-long investigation into the horrific 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. In the process, he also discredited the late Alberto Nisman, the lawyer whose name had been synonymous with the pursuit of justice for the victims of the bombing.

Javier De Luca, prosecutor before the Court of Appeals, said there wasn’t enough evidence in Nisman’s investigation to warrant a probe.

“There has been no crime,” De Luca wrote in his decision, echoing two previous court decisions.

The case was rejected by a federal judge in February and then thrown out on appeal by the Federal Appeals court. De Luca’s decision not to present the case to the next level of appeals court means it has effectively reached the end of the line.

In January, Nisman accused Argentina’s President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, her Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others close to the government of a spectacular crime. They were the “authors and accomplices of an aggravated cover- up and obstruction of justice,” Nisman told a Buenos Aires court.

Kirchner et al had allegedly attempted to protect top-ranking Iranian officials and members of the Hezbollah who Nisman claimed were responsible for the bombing of AMIA from prosecution.

In exchange, Iran agreed to supply cheap oil in return for grain and to develop economic ties.

The night before he was slated to present his case to Congress members in Buenos Aires, Nisman was found dead on the floor of his bathroom with a .22 caliber bullet in his head in what appeared to be a suicide (he had been holding the gun, the doors to his apartment were locked from inside).

Many Argentineans found it difficult to believe that he had committed suicide.

An independent investigation by Nisman’s wife, a senior Argentinean judge, has found that Nisman was murdered.

Official investigations conducted by Argentina’s law enforcement in the most incompetent - perhaps intentionally so - way have yet to determine simple details such as the exact time of Nisman’s death, let alone uncovering who was responsible.

The latest in a long string of mind-boggling oversights in the investigation was the revelation that three months after the murder the police have still not bothered to search Nisman’s van for evidence.

Meanwhile, Kirchner, with the aid of political allies and friendly media outlets, has concocted and publicly articulated a conspiracy theory smacking of the basest anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of that infamous fabrication, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In tweets and a long blog post, Kirchner summed up an article penned by a former executive-director of the Delegation of Argentinean and Israeli Associations (DAIA) and a present Kirchner ally that was published this week by the pro-government daily Pagina 12. Titled “Vultures, Nisman, DAIA, the Money Route,” the article claimed right-wing Jewish “vulture” fund managers who made their fortunes by charging “usurious interest” and to whom Argentina owes millions of dollars, have bought US Republican Congressmen to put pressure on Argentina to end all ties with Iran.

Nisman, who Kirchner claimed was an agent of Israeli and right-wing Jewish American interests, was said to have offered hedge fund money to DAIA so that it would be immune to the government budget cuts expected to be imposed by the Kirchner government as punishment for defying it on Iran.

Eamonn MacDonagh, a journalist based in Argentina, noted in a series of tweets that none of the opposition political parties have criticized Kirchner for her anti-Semitic rant.

The independent press, supposedly Kirchner’s sworn enemy, “is reporting on her ravings as if they were the most normal thing in the world.”

One would think that Kirchner’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theory would at least unite Argentina’s Jewish community. In fact the exact opposite is happening. Smaller Jewish groups such as the Yiddish Culture Farband, the Federation of Jewish Cultural Entities and APEMIA, which represents victims of the AMIA bombing, are challenging DAIA’s hegemony.

Claiming they represent about 30,000 of Argentina’s quarter of a million Jews, these organizations were slated to meet Wednesday in a number of locations around Argentina to establish an alternative to DAIA.

Daniel Silber, one of the leaders, said in an email that he represents Jews who are not opposed to Argentina entering into relations with Iran and who are more critical of Israeli policies.

But Noga Tarnopolsky, an Argentinean journalist living in Israel, said that the purported “split” in the Jewish community was a distraction from the real issue: the cover-up of the Nisman murder and the AMIA bombing.

“Three months after the murder, the case has been buried,” Tarnopolsky said. “Who killed Nisman and why was he killed? Everything else is just muddying the waters. It is one big government cover-up. There is no indication that there will be justice.”

Natasha Niebieskikwiat, the diplomatic correspondent for the leading opposition daily Clarin, who is based in Buenos Aires and happens to be Jewish, said that the Jews in Argentina are not fearful in the wake of Kirchner’s anti-Semitic outburst. If anything, they are angry.

“I think many Peronists are a little bit anti-Semitic or at least they don’t understand Jewish culture at all and they sound anti-Semitic,” Niebieskikwiat said.

She added that as long as the present government is in power there will be no justice for Nisman or for the victims of the AMIA bombing.

Elections are slated for October.

Adrian Bono, who runs an English-language news site called The Bubble, estimated that Argentina enters election season, Kirchner’s anti-Semitic rhetoric will only get worse.

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