Saturday, February 09, 2013

Home truths from Buenos Aires

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman has told the Israeli government to stay out of his country's affairs and not insult its sovereignty, after the Israelis objected to an agreement with Iran, under which a "truth commission" will investigate the bombing in 1994 of Buenos Aires Jewish community premises.

Timerman, who is Jewish himself, told the Israeli ambassador that Israel did not speak for the Jewish people and did not represent it.  By claiming to act for Argentine Jews it was giving "ammunition to antisemites who accuse Jews of dual loyalty" .

Before the Zionist state or its hacks in the West start writing off Hector Timerman as some kind of traitor or "self hater", they had better remember who he is. His father Jacobo Timerman was a famous victim of the right-wing military junta that ruled Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s. Arrested on April 14, 1977 because of alleged links between a partner in his newspaper and funding for Montonero guerrillas, Jacobo Timerman was tortured and interrogated, not about the guerrillas, so much as about fantastic Jewish conspiracies including plots to establish a second Jewish state in Patagonia.

He wrote about his experiences in his book 'Prisoner Without A Name, cell Without A Number'.

The Israelis are claiming now some responsibility for obtaining Jacobo Timerman's release a year later, after which he was deported to Israel. But his son Hector may well be aware of the context in which this happened, of Israeli arms supplies to Argentina, and collaboration between intelligence and security apparatuses. During this period there was a disproportionate number of Jews among the junta's victims, many of them not even arrested but simply "disappeared".

The 1982 Lebanon war, the bombing of Beirut and later massacres of Palestinians led to Timerman's disillusionment with Israel. He wrote a book about this, 'The Longest War', and eventually returned to Argentina.    

Some 85 people were killed and hundreds injured in the bombing of the Alliance Mutual Israelita-Argentina (AMIA) building on July 18, 1994. The victims included unemployed people queuing for benefits, as well as welfare workers and other staff, not all of them Jewish. A massive demonstration was held in Buenos Aires to show solidarity with the victims and denounce the attack. The AMIA bombing came two years after that of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires.

It also occurred after the Menem government had authorised an investigation into what happened to Nazi gold shipped to Argentina with the fall of the Third Reich, which assessed the influence former Nazis gained in the country's business and state authorities. There were suggestions, probably erroneous, that some evidence was being kept in the AMIA building.

Various allegations and investigations were held, some pointing to the involvment of Hezbollah acting as agents for Iran, and a court case involving police officers implicated in the bombing. But there has been no satisfactory explanation or successful prosecution. Israeli and US Jewish organisations have insisted it was the work of the Iranian regime but with little explanation as to motive. A former Iranian diplomat was arrested in London in 2003 on an Argentine warrant, but released after the Home Office said there was insufficient evidence to justify extradition.

Last year the Argentinian government told the UN General Assembly that it was having talks with Iran, and on January 27, 2013 it announced that the two governments had agreed to set up a "truth commission".   On hearing of this,  the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the Argentine ambassador for a reprimand, during which the ministry's deputy director general for Latin America, Itzhak Shoham, objected to the deal and demanded explanations.

The Argentines were furious, and in response, Timerman summoned Israeli ambassador Dorit Shavit for a reprimand on January 31. According to Israeli Foreign Ministry sources who saw Shavit's account of the meeting, Timerman was "upset and really angry" that Israel had demanded explanations of the Argentine ambassador.

"Israel has no right to demand explanations; we're a sovereign state," Timerman reportedly told her. "Israel doesn't speak in the name of the Jewish people and doesn't represent it. Jews who wanted or want to live in Israel moved there, and they are its citizens; those who live in Argentina are Argentine citizens. The attack was against Argentina, and Israel's desire to be involved in the issue only gives ammunition to antisemites who accuse Jews of dual loyalty."

Summoning the Argentine ambassador and then leaking the fact to the media was unacceptable behavior, he continued. "Argentina doesn't summon the Israeli ambassador for explanations. If we wanted to, we could summon you here twice a month to demand explanations about a military operation in Gaza or construction in the settlements. But we don't do that, because we don't want to intervene in your sovereign decisions."

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