Why remember AMIA?

The perpetrators of the Buenos Aires bombing, which took place 17 years ago today, need to be brought to justice.

Many claim that there is a complete distinction between anti- Jewish sentiment and anti- Israel sentiment. Others believe that the two are inextricably intertwined. As a Jewish community, and as members of the larger community, we have to ask ourselves where the truth lies.
Fact: In 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Argentina was bombed. The Islamic Jihad Organization, linked to Iran and Hezbollah, took credit.
Twenty-nine were murdered; 242 were wounded. One might say that bombing an Israeli embassy is tantamount to bombing Israel, and that therefore this particular act was anti-Israel in nature. In fact, some have argued that it had nothing to do with anti- Semitism.
Fact: On July 18, 1994, the AMIA Jewish Community Center of Buenos Aires was bombed. Eighty-five were murdered. More than 300 were wounded. The building, which had been a center for Jewish cultural life, was destroyed. There can be no doubt that this was an act against the Jewish people (even though some non-Jewish workers and passers-by were among the victims). No one has been brought to justice.
However, it is widely known that this was a terrorist attack organized and carried out by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah targeted Jews in a Jewish institution. And why attack Jews? Because the State of Israel is Jewish? Throughout the history of anti-Semitism, there has been a deep-seated hatred of Jews.
When the first charges of deicide were leveled, Jews were depicted as evil because they had ‘killed God.’ This characterization of the Jew saw various manifestations: the Jew as satanic, participating in demonic rituals such as blood libels; the Jew as poisoner of wells, desecrator of the host (thus once again killing Christ); the Jew as moneygrubber.
As Europe modernized, the anti-Jewish slanders, which had been religious in nature became more sophisticated: Jews were evil because they were genetically defective, racially inferior, the “Untermenschen” – subhumans who needed to be removed from society; later, they were eradicated as vermin in extermination camps.
Once Israel was created, the transference of the calumny from individuals to a people to a state was effectuated: The state is inherently evil because it is peopled by evil.
One need only look at the anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East to see that it is at times impossible to separate anti-Jewish from anti-Israel rhetoric. Conventional wisdom incorrectly has it that anti-Semitism developed with the advent of Zionism. In fact, it is an interesting admixture of the two, combining elements of medieval and modern anti-Semitism with anti- Israel fervor.
NO MATTER what the reasoning, the Jews, and now Israel, have been and still are scapegoats.
By focusing on Jews and the Jewish nation-state, nefarious regimes whip up “the longest hatred” and can thus divert attention from themselves.
It has therefore become more important than ever to remember. We must remember the 85 victims of the AMIA bombing. We must remember their families and friends who have suffered. We must remember the more than 300 wounded. And we must say it as it is: All these innocent people were intentionally harmed by terrorists who ignore the simple, basic laws of humanity.
The bombing of the AMIA center was an evil act of anti- Semitic terrorism. It was undoubtedly perpetrated by Hezbollah – the proxy for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Let us not forget that Iran refers to Israel as “the Zionist regime,” the “enemy of Islam,” the “little Satan” and “the cancerous tumor that should be removed from the region.” We must remember that no one has yet been brought to justice, and unleash all the power we can muster as individuals, as a people and as a nation to bring justice into play on the world stage. Let no one forget what happened on July 18, 1994; for if we do, we play into the hands of evil.
The writer is community relations director of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Canada.