July 9, 2019
A quarter-century after the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the president of Argentina is reportedly planning to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
According to La Nacion, one of Argentina’s leading daily newspapers, Argentine President Mauricio Macri is expected to sign the declaration, in the form of an executive order, on July 18, the 25th anniversary of the AMIA attack, which killed 85 people and injured 300 others.
In 2007, the official Argentine investigation concluded that Iran was responsible for the 1994 attack and the suicide bomber who drove his car into the building was a member of Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah. Still, no arrests have ever been made.
If signed, the decree would be a significant gesture from the Argentine government – a long-awaited step toward holding the perpetrators responsible for the 1994 bombing, the worst attack on a Jewish target outside Israel since the Holocaust.
“It holds Hezbollah accountable for what it did,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA). “In Latin America, you can fundraise for Hezbollah, raise a flag for Hezbollah and no one says anything because it’s not declared a terrorist organization. That is part of impunity. The fact that countries continue to have relations with Iran without holding it accountable for what it did, that’s also part of impunity. By declaring it a terrorist organization, you hold the responsible party accountable, but also you put some preventive measures in place so future attacks don’t happen.”
For those who lost loved ones in the AMIA attack, the last 25 years have been punctuated by disappointments. Despite the findings of the official investigation, Argentina and Iran agreed in 2013 to jointly investigate the attack, which AJC CEO David Harris likened to “asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht.”
Earlier this year, two Argentine officials, including a former federal judge in the investigation, were jailed for concealing and violating evidence.
The anticipated decree would build upon a growing awareness of terrorism and antisemitism in Latin America, said Siegel Vann.
Last month, at AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) denounced Hezbollah as a terrorist organization that has a "solid base of operations in South America" and made news by announcing his support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
“In addition to Almagro, it’s really creating a framework to place the dangers of antisemitism and terrorism in the rightful place,” Siegel Vann said. “They see it as not only a danger for the Jewish community but a danger against all the nations of the Americas and their societies. That’s why it’s so important. It really heightens this from being only a Jewish issue to an issue that has a much wider scope of implications.”
For nearly 25 years, AJC has been pushing Argentina to limit Hezbollah's activities in the region. In April, AJC launched a global campaign to press the international community to hold Hezbollah accountable for its terrorist activities and designate the group in its entirety a terrorist organization.
“This action from Argentina would set a precedent,” Siegel Vann said, “and a model for its neighbors and for the rest of Latin America.”