'Black cloud still hovers over our [Buenos Aires] community'

Argentinian Israelis express concern that killing of Mughniyeh - suspected mastermind of the Buenos Aires terror attacks - raised more questions than it gave answers.

argentina bombing 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
argentina bombing 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Former members of the Argentinian Jewish community living in Israel expressed concern Wednesday that the assassination of Hizbullah military wing commander Imad Mughniyeh - the man believed to have masterminded two terror attacks on the Buenos Aires Jewish community in the early 1990s - raised more questions than it provided answers. "Hearing about it [the assassination] was not a nice feeling, and it will never bring my loved ones back," commented journalist Roxana Levinson, who had been the spokeswoman of the Argentinian capital's Amia Jewish Community Center when it was bombed in 1994. She lost an aunt and an uncle in the attack. "We wanted to see Mughniyeh put behind bars, we wanted to hear him answer the questions of how this happened. [Killing him] is not real justice for us," she continued. "That he was killed like this leaves us with more questions than answers." Leon Amiras, Chairman of OLEI, the Latin American immigrant organization, echoed Levinson's observations. "We still do not really know how this person is linked to the bombings," stated Amiras, pointing to previous investigations that cited Iran as being behind the two attacks - first on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries in 1992 and later at the community center - that left more than 100 people dead in total. "If he was really behind these attacks, then it is justice, even though it was slow in coming. But the Argentinian authorities have not done enough to find out more," he said. Both Amiras and Levinson said that although the bombings happened nearly 14 years ago, they were still fresh in the consciousness of the Argentinean Jewish community. "It has been traumatic for everyone involved," said Amiras, noting that the community here holds a remembrance ceremony each year. "There was always anti-Semitism in Argentina, and we always lived in fear of our lives, but we still believed that such an attack would be a long time in coming." "There is still a black cloud hanging over our community," observed Argentinean-born film producer and journalist Shlomo Slutzky, whose documentary The Third Is on Its Way - investigating why the two terror attacks were not prevented - is set to premier at next month's DocAviv Film Festival in Haifa. "What bothers the Jewish community most over there is how the second attack could have happened so [soon] after the first," said Slutzky, who is also the Israel correspondent for Argentinian daily Clarin and lost a close friend in the community center bombing. "They want to know how Argentina could have let this happen." From his research, Slutzky also noted that perhaps Israel could also have done more to prevent the attacks. "I interviewed people from the Shabak [Israel Security Service] for my film, who said they did not expect the second attack to happen," he said. "After the first attack, Israel was under a lot of pressure to maintain friendly relations with Argentina, but it is possible that they could have stopped the second bombing." As for whether Mughniyeh's killing has brought some sense of justice to the community, Slutzky is ambivalent. "If Argentina is not willing or able to investigate what happened, then at least Israel, even though it has been a long time in coming, has dealt with it to some degree," he said. "Of course, it would have been better to bring him to justice, because there are still so many questions that need answering."