June 10, 2014
Daniel Pomerantz was chatting with a colleague about the World Cup when a powerful bomb exploded at 9:53 a.m. on July 18, 1994. It leveled the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) headquarters, where Pomerantz was executive director. Pomerantz's office disappeared, but he was in another part of the building.
Eighty-five people, Jews and non-Jews, ages 5 to 73, died in the terror attack. An additional 300 were injured. Families of the victims and survivors are still scarred. "My life changed forever," says Anita Weinstein, who was inside, preparing for the organization's centennial celebrations.
A strike in the capital of the Latin American country with the largest Jewish community raised the specter that someone outside Argentina had plotted the attack. And it came only two years after Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed.
Astonishingly, no one has been apprehended or convicted for either heinous crime - even though the culprits behind the AMIA case are known, thanks to the determined efforts of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman. He concluded in 2007 that Iran bears direct responsibility for the attack, and Interpol has since been seeking the apprehension of five Iranian officials. One of them was Iran's cultural attache in Buenos Aires.
Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and has partnered with its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, since the AMIA bombing to strike at targets around the world. "The AMIA bombing did not constitute an isolated event," wrote Nisman in his 500-page report, released last year, on Iranian-sponsored terrorism. "It has to be investigated and understood as part of a larger effort by Iran to infiltrate Latin America."
The depth and breadth of the Iranian terror threat are extensive. But Iran has excelled in blocking efforts to resolve the AMIA case. Tehran managed to reach an accord last year with an all-too-willing Argentine government to establish a "truth commission" to jointly investigate the bombing. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, compared it to "asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht."
Fortunately, that agreement was nixed in May by an Argentine federal court. Unfortunately, the effort to resolve the case is back to square one.
Next month, on the 20th anniversary of the bombing, members of Philadelphia's Jewish and Latino communities, as well as city and civic leaders, will gather near the Liberty Bell at the same time the bomb exploded to commemorate the victims and call again for justice.
Marcia Bronstein is director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Philadelphia region.Date: 6/10/2014 12:00:00 AM