Last week, the 19th anniversary of the 1994 AMIA bombing went almost unnoticed outside of Argentina. In fact, I would strongly suspect that a majority of the readers of this column will have to ask, what was the AMIA bombing?
For those who are not aware, on July 18th 1994, Iranian backed Hezbollah agents detonated a bomb that demolished the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association Community Center in Buenos Aires. The force of the blast tore apart the front facade of the building causing it to collapse.
Eighty-five people were killed and more than 300 others were injured. The pain of the families directly impacted is still raw to this day, heightened by the failure to bring the perpetrators to justice. The theme for this year's commemoration service in Argentina was in fact "19 years on, the wound remains open."
Perhaps the AMIA bombing fails to motivate the world to call for justice because it is mistakenly viewed as an act of terror against the Jewish community. In fact, many of the victims were not Jewish. In any case, what must be understood is that while Hezbollah's motivation for the attack was undoubtedly based in hatred for Jews, the targeting of Western Values was at its root, a precursor (in many ways) to the 9/11 attacks carried out by radical Islamist terrorists that would follow seven years later.
In Canada, for too long we as a whole have failed to take security seriously. Consider the Air India bombing. Most Canadians dismissed it as an ethnic issue. It took a multi-year in-depth study, at which B'nai Brith was one of the interveners, to refocus thinking on this issue. AMIA should not be dismissed as an ethnic attack. It was an attack against Western values by radical Islamists. It was an attack by the ever-strengthening network of Hezbollah and its Iranian backers. Continued failure to recognize this puts the world as we know it in peril.
While the network of Al-Qaeda, the terror organization behind the 9/11 attacks, has been severely damaged and its operational capacity has been reduced by the determination of the United States and its Allies after 9/11, the reach of Hezbollah continues to expand.
Investigations over the years have left no doubt as to who the perpetrators of the AMIA terrorist attack were. A 500-page indictment filed by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman clearly implicates Hezbollah and top Iranian officials in the attack, documenting how Iran and Hezbollah have built terrorist networks across South America. Evidence all points in one direction 19 years later while the reach and strength of Hezbollah and its backer Iran grow.
Just last week Bulgaria's Interior Minister confirmed that ongoing investigations to the bombing of Israeli tourists on July 18, 2012 in that country, which in fact took place on the 18th anniversary of the AMIA attack, implicates Hezbollah. Do not forget that one of the three main suspects in that bombing was a Canadian of Lebanese origin.
Despite all this, a joint Argentine-Iranian "truth" commission was announced last year, earning the condemnation of the Argentine community. Its only purpose is to continue to bury the truth. Interpol warrants issued after the bombing remain outstanding while Iranian officials implicated in the attack continue to be shielded from justice. The Argentinian president, who skipped this year's ceremony once again, has prevented the senior government prosecutor from appearing before the United States Congress to testify as to Iran's role. Argentina, home to the largest Jewish community in South America, seems to have decided to give cover to the murderers of its own citizens.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird speaking through a spokesperson very recently recognized that Hezbollah continues to perpetrate instability and promote fear as he urged the European Union (EU) to list Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. Just now it is being announced that the EU foreign ministers have decided to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization-- but only its military wing.
This is not the strong resolve we need. In Canada, after a long debate and much effort on our part, the Federal government listed Hezbollah in its entirety, recognizing that any distinction drawn between the social and military wings of Hezbollah is artificial at best. The EU's latest decision therefore only serves to weaken instead of furthering efforts in the combat against terrorism.
The 20th anniversary will be too late for the world to resolve to move forward. Iran is closer than ever to arming its nuclear weapons. Its new president, heralded by Western media as a "reformer", has been found to be complicit in the AMIA bombing. Hezbollah's reach continues to expand, now central in the horrific fighting in Syria. Iran has instructed Hezbollah around the world as part of its shadow war against the West.
There simply is no more time to wait for justice. Justice requires bringing the perpetrators to face their crimes even 19 years later. It also requires that every country -- our leaders, each of us -- must face the fight against terrorism, its perpetrators and sponsors directly without wavering. As the current AMIA President stated in his message read at the B'nai Brith AMIA commemoration in Winnipeg last week , "We remember. We Demand Justice."