June 19, 2013
MOU with Iran a ‘step over the precipice,’ not ‘paradise’
CHARLESTON, South Carolina — There was a starkly revealing moment during the debate in the Lower House. It came prior to the ratification of the “memorandum of understanding” with Iran to form a “truth commission” on the1994 terrorist bombing of AMIA, the Jewish social centre in Buenos Aires, which claimed the lives of 85 people and injured another 400.
Federico Pinedo, a deputy for the centre-right PRO, asked Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman a simple question: was it “a requirement of Iran that the memorandum be signed on Holocaust (Remembrance) Day?”
He lashed into Pinedo: “For shame. I never thought you could be so base as to ask me that. Withdraw your words, Deputy Pinedo.” The foreign minister went on to say he had been offended “to the depths of my being” and that he was ready to stay in the chamber until two in the morning if necessary to get Pinedo to retract his words.
Surprisingly calm in the face of a tempest of anger from Timerman, Pinedo explained that he phrased his question diplomatically assuming that the Iranian authorities had insisted that the memorandum of understanding (MOU for short) be signed on January 27 because he was sure that Timerman, who is Jewish, would not voluntarily sign on that day an agreement with a government that does not recognize Israel as a state and whose president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) denies the existence of the Holocaust.
Timerman's offence at the question, expressed in a torrent of words, secured what the foreign minister wanted. He was able to dodge the question entirely. But the question should not remain unanswered. Did Timerman, and his staff, overlook the date and its enormous significance? Or were they conned by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his crafty diplomats.
The “memorandum of understanding” has already resulted in massive misunderstanding. President Fernández de Kirchner and Timerman claim that their sole motive is to try to find out who masterminded the AMIA atrocity and bring them to justice. Already, however, the decision to agree to talks with Iran, after rejecting Tehran's overtures for many years, has muddied already muddy waters.
The MOU, which may well be unconstitutional, cannot possibly advance justice. I think that the agreement is a clever trap of the Iranians that Timerman walked the President into. It is becoming bizarre, like so many issues that the Kirchner administration has taken on. The President's remarks in her speech to Congress on the AMIA case and the deal with Iran introduced a further complication. President Fernández de Kirchner believes that the attack on AMIA was the work of Syria.
That places Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral and Prosector Alberto Nisman in an intolerable situation because their evidence points to Iran as the culprit, in conspiracy with the Hezbollah guerrilla army in Lebanon.
The debates in the Senate and the Lower House generated a huge volume of sound and fury, but no enlightenment on the part of the congressional lambs who meekly waited for the moment when they would vote as the government wanted — 39 to 31 in the Senate and 131 to 113 in the Lower House.
I hoped against hope that some of the Kirchner legislators would respond to calls to heed their consciences from Jewish community leaders and what appears to be a majority of the relatives of the victims of the AMIA attack who oppose this embrace of Iran.
I was moved by the testimony of the presidents of AMIA and the umbrella organization DAIA.
AMIA President Guillermo Borger noted that both his parents were survivours of the Holocaust and that his mother still has the concentration camp number she was assigned indelibly marked on her arm.
Borger appealed to the legislators to “vote your conscience, not dutiful obedience.” The agreement, he said, was “confused, careless, ambiguous and dilatory.” It was not a simple step forward, as the government claimed, it was a step “over the precipice.”
DAIA President Julio Schlosser explained why he and Borger originally gave their support to Timerman when he returned from signing the agreement in Addis Adaba. He used a metaphor. He spoke of a visit he made with his wife to Germany and a trip they made from Berlin to the lake district of Wannsee. He said Wannsee, with its beautiful scenery, with fine mansions nestled in the surrounding forest, was “like paradise.” Later he realized the “paradise” of Wannsee was where, in one of those gorgeous mansions, Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann met with other high-ranking Nazi officers and Hitler's top civilian officials to plan the details of the “Final Solution” — the murder of all Jews in lands controlled by the Germans.
(There is a magnificent film Conspiracy that captures that terrible moment when that monstrous plan was outlined in a sumptuous mansion in glorious Wannsee. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_(2001_film)
Schlosser said that the agreement with Iran, as presented by Timerman, also seemed “like paradise.” It was not until later, when he examined it in detail with the help of legal experts, that he realized that it was unacceptable.
I sensed the shadow of the Holocaust as I watched the hearings on the agreement with Iran. Initially it was a shock when Timerman expressed irritation and said that he didn't go to the meetings with the Iranians to talk about the Holocaust, He went to talk about AMIA.
Then, after the agreement was signed on January 27, with Timerman unaware of its significance, the foreign minister became irritated with Israel.
When Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that agreeing to the so-called “truth commission” was equivalent to “inviting the murderer to participate in a murder investigation,” Timerman lost his temper
According to a report in the left-of-centre newspaper Haaretz, Timerman summoned Israeli Ambassador Dorit Shavit and accused her government of providing “ammunition to anti-Semites who accused Jews of dual loyalties.” The foreign minister reportedly said, “Israel has no right to demand explanations. We are a sovereign state and Israel is not entitled to speak on behalf of the Jewish people and does not represent it.”
Shavit is said to have replied that Israel was entitled to be concerned about the welfare of Jews throughout the world. She may have mentioned that his father, the renowned journalist Jacobo Timerman, was probably saved from becoming one of Argentina's “disappeared” by Israeli diplomacy.
Héctor Timerman should not need to be reminded that Israel welcomed his father when Jacobo was stripped of his Argentine citizenship and deported to Israel. And he should not need to be reminded that January 27 is a significant day. If he is going to talk to the Iranians about the AMIA crime, which they deny committing, he should also talk about the Holocaust. If they continue to deny that, they will deny anything and everything.