Exactly 25 years ago, the Lebanese terror organisation Hezbollah bombed the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires - with the intention of murdering innocent civilians. Their evil attack killed over 85 people and left hundreds injured.
Those of us who recall this awful attack can readily recall the sense of horror and incomprehension with which we received this news.
The shock was magnified in the Argentinian population because it was so unexpected. Argentina’s Jewish community has a long and peaceful history, dating back to the early 16th century, following the Jewish expulsion from Spain. Jews have been in Argentina for centuries, living harmoniously side by side with their fellow citizens. At one stage, there were even Jewish Gauchos – Argentinian cowboys.
However, despite the many good times, the history of Argentinian Jews was overshadowed by this awful terror attack on AMIA in 1994. It is by far the deadliest terrorist outrage on Argentinian soil to date.
It is poignant that the commemoration of the bombing has become a significant anniversary for Argentina every year. It is marked by nationwide exhibitions and ceremonies, and, at 9:53 am, the time of the bombing, radio stations, television channels and police cars sound sirens all across Argentina.
As World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder rightly said: “Twenty-five years after this heinous attack, the families and loved ones of the victims are still waiting for justice to be served, and for the perpetrators, both local as well as those working for the long arm of Iran, to be brought to trial. We must not wait another 25 years to put an end to this chapter in Jewish and Argentinian history…”
Hezbollah has a notorious history of terrorism and violence and remains an imminent threat to Jewish and non-Jewish institutions alike across the world. For more than 35 years, the organisation has launched attacks against European and Jewish civilians worldwide.
Twenty-five years following the AMIA bombing, it is time to understand and confront the danger Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are posing to Jewish and non-Jewish institutions around the world. Indeed, we in the UK were shocked by the which emerged last month that the organisation had tonnes of explosives which were discovered in North-West London three years ago.
In this country, we have taken a massive step forward in our quest to have this disgraceful organisation delegitimised. We are grateful that our Government has finally taken the principled and important step of banning Hezbollah in its entirety. The ban makes membership of the group, or supporting, it a criminal offence with a potential jail sentence of up to 10 years. It is a step that other countries should also consider and take.
This legislation sends the right signals across the world. It is not just about Hezbollah but other terrorist organisations that seek to undermine democracy and the rule of law in our country. It is also a clear message to the Iranian regime that supporting and financing terrorist groups won’t pay off.
Today it remains more important than ever before that we are vigilant. Radicalisation and violence need to be fought wherever and whenever they occur. We need to stand together in unity and fight terrorism together as one.
It might be tough, but I believe that we will succeed. Jewish history is nothing if not a triumph over adversity.
Sheila Gewolb is Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This piece was originally published in the Jewish News of London.