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The 1990s Argentina bombings have come back to haunt Arab and Muslim communities

August 2, 2022 at 2:56 pm

Rescue workers sift through the rubble at the site of a car-bombing at the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 18, 1994 [Diego Levy/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

The bombings which targeted Argentina’s Jewish community in the 1990s have returned to haunt Arab and Muslim communities in the South American country following a new investigation by the Israeli Mossad spy agency in which Hezbollah is accused of being responsible. The report rejects suspicions that Argentinians were complicit or Iranian officials in Buenos Aires were involved. The governments of Argentina, Israel and the United States have long accused Iran of having an operational role in the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people and wounded 242, and the July 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Centre in the Argentinian capital, in which 80 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded.

A Mossad investigation, the written findings of which were shared with Haaretz and the New York Times, provides details of how the two terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires were planned, and how explosive materials were smuggled into Argentina in shampoo bottles and chocolate boxes. According to the inquiry, chemicals used to make the bombs were acquired by a trading company used as a cover for Hezbollah’s South America operations.

“However, the Mossad inquiry found that Iran had not been involved in carrying out the attacks or in providing assistance,” said the New York Times. The two attacks were carried out by a “secret Hezbollah unit.” According to Mossad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah had used secret infrastructure built up over the years in Buenos Aires and other South American locations to plan the attacks. “Hezbollah carried out the two operations, in retaliation for the operations carried out by Israel inside Lebanon,” added the agency.

Latin America affairs specialist Ali Farhat told me that the Mossad investigation is a repeat of what Israel has been alleging for 30 years. “From the first moments of each explosion, Israel was quick to accuse Hezbollah and Iran. Ever since, it has been putting pressure on Argentina to reach the conclusion that the occupation state wants.”

The reopening of the bombings’ file, he explained, is once again related to some plans of the US and Israeli intelligence agencies to tighten the screws on Arab and Muslim communities in Latin America.

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According to Farhat, the media that is relatively sympathetic to the Arab and Muslim communities in Argentina is left-leaning, and somewhat weak in comparison with others further to the right. “Hence, most media outlets tend to adopt the US and Israeli narrative on Middle East issues.” This puts pressure on public opinion to do the same, to the detriment of the communities in Latin America.

Arab and Muslim businessmen are under the spotlight and surveillance, he pointed out. “Whenever such campaigns start across Latin America, we know that there is something related to the security of the Arab and Islamic community about to happen in the region.”

Mossad believes that the planners and bombers are alive and well, and living in Lebanon, having evaded justice for decades. Interpol has now apparently issued “red notices” against two people accused of involvement in the Buenos Aires attacks; both have been identified by Mossad as Lebanese Hezbollah operatives. A third person remains wanted by the United States. Hezbollah’s operations commander, Imad Mughniyeh, was killed in 2008, though; Mossad claims that he was in charge of the Hezbollah unit which carried out the bombings.

However, Ali Farhat believes otherwise. “Over many years, investigations and international intelligence services have not been able to prove that there was a Lebanese Hezbollah presence in Argentina or Latin America in general at that time.”

So what was the point of Mossad raising this issue again now, 30 years after the events? As far as Farhat is concerned, the main goal is to put pressure on the Arab and Muslim communities in Latin America and pursue some major personalities within them. The bombings have come back to haunt the communities in a big way.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.