OpEd | Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA): No news, bad news - World Jewish Congress

OpEd | Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA): No news, bad news

Claudio Epelman
Claudio Epelman
WJC Commissioner for Interfaith Relations, World Jewish Congress
OpEd | Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA): No news, bad news

World Jewish Congress

  The following text originally appeared in LA NACION.    

"No one can believe, half an hour after the bomb exploded, that Pasteur Street at 600 turned into this pathetic pile of rubble among which people were found alive."

The words, crudely descriptive, accompanied an image in the morning edition of LA NACION on July 19, 1994. The dust had not yet settled on the streets of Once (the neighborhood of the AMIA building), and rescuers were still looking for hopeful survivors of the attack. In studies and newsrooms names, suspicions, hypotheses already sounded: that the lack of adequate intelligence structures would have facilitated the attacks, that previous alerts were ignored, that an Islamic terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack. 

As I sat down to write these lines, I spent a few minutes browsing the journalistic material of that week. Two things powerfully caught my attention. The first: familiarity. Not because the attack´s facts are so well known (which they are), or because that day´s images are recorded in the eyes of millions of Argentines, but because of the information. Twenty-nine years have passed since those covers. Almost three decades in which the news, over and over again, was repeated. The same names, the same suspicions, the same hypotheses. However, there is a cover, a scoop that we are all waiting for, and never arrives. Because when it comes to justice, to date, we have no news. We only have judicial processes that culminate and begin again, while still no one has been convicted of the bloodiest attack in Argentine history. 

And I also found the headline of LA NACION: "It didn't happen to the Jews, it happened to all of us." A simple, forceful statement, and above all, real. Although it appealed to the specific act of that July 18th the expression also accounts for the nature of terrorism, which is unaware of nationalities and borders. In its shock wave, it destroys everything in its path, leaving behind only hatred and destruction. Therefore, the only way to counteract it is by working in the same way: together and coordinated. 

In this spirit, this week the Latin American Jewish Congress, an organization that brings together and represents the Jewish communities of the region, and the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism of the Organization of American States, convened a "Meeting of Specialists for the Prevention of Terrorism and Violent Extremism”. There, 80 senior government officials and experts in terrorism - ministers, judges, prosecutors, and heads of security forces - exchanged knowledge and experiences in the fight against terrorism. 

It was a true regional cooperation effort, with representatives from eight Latin American countries that deal daily with the risks of terrorism. Of course, there were conversations about public policies and strategies, in addition to the formalities of the positions of those present. However, the human factor reigned. Because at the end of the day, the meeting was also a meeting between colleagues, the opportunity to meet and learn from each other. To shudder together at the story of Daniel Pomerantz, Executive Director of Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), who recalled the shock of the first moments after the attack while trying to get out of the rubble; or to say "present" at the official commemoration ceremony. 

The meeting was broadcast in the media as one more amongst the news included the main newspapers of Argentina, echoing a new anniversary of the attack. 

29 years after July 18th after countless acts, claims, editorials, communications, what's new in the AMIA case? Of justice, we have said it, no news. Meanwhile, in a scenario of familiar-sounding front pages and newsworthy stories, the gathering opened the door to novelty. An unprecedented meeting in terms of awareness and prevention against terrorism, which contributes to a more secure world where justice and memory are at the forefront; as well as a different tribute to the 85 fatal victims of the attack. And finally, the confirmation of that phrase on the cover of LA NACION 29 years ago: "It didn't happen to the Jews, it happened to all of us." And maybe all of us, working together, can prevent a similar event from happening again.