he Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

The Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

Part III: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

This week, Iran marked the anniversary of its 11 February 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi. Massive rallies, especially in Tehran, were held. As usual, and in spite of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and secret cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, the rallies were accompanied by anti-American displays as well as the customary anti-Israel chants and banners. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, addressing the crowds, promised to “spare no effort” to protect the Islamic Republic’s rights as it negotiates. “The sanctions have not forced Iran to enter the talks, but the impracticality of the all-out pressures on Iran and the significant advancements in Iran’s peaceful nuclear program made the United States come to the negotiation table.” That is the way the narrative runs in the topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland world of Iran.

The 1979 change was more of a coup than a revolution with a group of religious fascists succeeding a more secular clique of secular fascists, though, in contrast to his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shah Pahlavi, the son, was Western-oriented and not a Germanophile. Reza Shah Pahlavi seized power in 1925 in what was then called Persia. When Adolph Hitler seized power in 1933 in Germany, the Shah was obsessed with Hitler’s concept of racial purity and an Aryan master race. In 1935, Pahlavi changed the name of the country to Iran, in Farsi, Land of Aryans, to emphasize the connection between Nazi Germany and the Indo-Persian lineage. When war began in 1939, the mufti of Jerusalem served as middle man to trade Iranian oil while organizing active Islamic participation in the murder of Jews in the Mideast and Eastern Europe, mostly Croatia. Hitler, in turn, supported a Pan-Arab state and Arab rule over Palestine.

If Buenos Aries was a centre of Nazi activities in the Americas during WWII, Tehran served the same role in the Middle East as it teemed with Gestapo agents planning the 1941 pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad as the German ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Fritz Gobba, supported both anti-British and anti-Semitic Iraqi movements and organizations. On 31 March 1940, the pro-Nazi, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani from the party of National Brotherhood, became Prime Minister of Iraq. In July, with a letter of introduction from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, then living in Tehran, Gaylani sent his justice minister to meet with Franz von Papen in Greece and win support from Nazi Germany. However, the regent, Emir Abdul Ilah, who stood in for Ghazi’s four-year-old son, King Faisal II since Ghazi’s accidental death in 1939, removed him from office at the end of January 1941. Two months later, one year after he had assumed his role of PM, on 1 April 1941, Gaylani overthrew the regent.

Gaylani instigated a siege of the British Habbaniya airbase. The siege was fought off by British Air Vice-Marshal H.G. Smart and the Iraqi revolt was put down with British reinforcements from India, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, and troops under the leadership of Brigadier J.J. Kingstone with a mixture of regular troops, Jordanian forces led by Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, better known as Glubb Pasha, and a Jewish volunteer corps from Palestine after this odd military aggregation raced across 600 m of desert to reach Iran. When the latter reinforcements arrived on 30 May, Gaylani fled to Tehran. There, he was hosted by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

On Friday 30 May, an imam, Jani al-Gaylani, roused the worshippers with a firebrand anti-British and anti-Semitic sermon. By Saturday, the mobs that had formed saw they could make no headway against the armed forces of the British. Red hands were painted on Jewish homes and shops. On Sunday 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom in Baghdad, The Farhud, targeted the city’s Jewish minority with the mob screaming, “Cutal al yehud,” “slaughter the Jews.” Why the British ambassador, Kinahan Cornwallis, ordered the British troops to stand down, contrary to an explicit order from Winston Churchill to secure the city, has never been adequately explained. In the ensuing two days of rioting, 180 Jews were killed and many hundreds wounded. The death toll would have been much higher if Muslim friends and neighbours had not stepped forward to either protect or hide Jews. 900 Jewish homes were burned to the ground and many Jewish-owned shops were looted and trashed. Finally, later in the day, on 2 June, Baghdad police backed by British troops dispersed the rioters, killing about 400 in the process.

The anti-Semitism that Hitler had successfully helped export to Iraq persisted however. It made life unbearable for the Jewish community after WWII. There were frequent arrests on false charges of spying and public hangings of prominent Jews – that of Shafiq Ades, a prominent Jewish businessman in Basra being the most notable. Though the coup had failed, the anti-Semitism had continued and expanded underground. By 1950, almost all of the 150,000 Jews of Iraq, a 2500-year-old community, left, mostly for Israel after having been forced to abandon all their property. They constituted the militant base of the Likud party in Israel.

After the failed Iraq coup, the mufti of Jerusalem in his venomous anti-Semitism broadcasts from Tehran openly advocated cutting off all oil supplies from Iran to Britain. In October 1941, British, Russian and other Allied forces invaded Iran, deposed the pro-Nazi Shah and replaced him with his Western-oriented son, Mohammad Reza. The mufti skipped off to Berlin from where he continued to rant against Jews and advocate a pan-Arab and pan-Islamic alliance with the Nazi regime and a Middle East purified of Jews. In the bazaars of Tehran’s markets, merchants could no longer celebrate Adolph Hitler, but Iranian volunteers continued to be recruited to serve in the Waffen SS divisions in Bosnia and Croatia.

For thirty-eight years, during the second Pahlavi monarchy, Iranian Jews enjoyed a virtual golden age in Iran. Not only did they enjoy an unprecedented level of cultural and religious autonomy but they prospered economically as well. But when the worship of Cyrus the Great was traded in for Mohammed and puritanical adherence to Islamic values and dogmas, there was no need for Jews to be affected by this anymore than Christian reversion to fundamentalism need target Jews. Theoretically, the turn could go either way.

Not in Iran. Jews had benefitted greatly under the Shah and had been protected by him. Further, they had been leading voices in the embrace of modernism to which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was much more opposed than to Jews per se. Jews were also leading figures in the culture of America in the eighties. In conspiratorial world views, some force had to be behind what Khomeini regarded as the diabolical turn in the world. The explanation was to be found in the confluence of a fundamental metaphysical construction of the world rooted in Persian Zoroastrianism going well back before Cyrus the Great where the world was governed by two opposed forces, Spenta Mainyu (progressive mentality) and Angra Mainyu (destructive mentality) under one God (Ahura Mazda, Illuminating Wisdom). Filtered through selective Shia Islamic beliefs and the Nazi heritage of anti-Semitism, Zionism was stamped as the Angra Mainyu, the evil force that had seeped into human minds. Within this Manichean world view, credit for the focus on Zionism and anti-Semitism can not only go to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, but also the success of Zionism in the Middle East so that even Egypt embraced Israel in a peace agreement in 1979. Zionism became the Leviathan behind all the “horrific” changes in the world.

This is how Khomeini opens his book Al-Hukumah Al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Governance) that he wrote while he was still in exile in Paris. “Since its inception, the Islamic movement has been afflicted with the Jews ‘who’ established anti-Islamic propaganda and joined in various stratagems, and as you can see, this activity continues down to our present day.” The Jews of the Banú Qurayza were exterminated by the Prophet Muhammad because they corrupted Islam. Unlike the anti-Semitism of Nazism, the Jews were not genetically evil. If kept in their place, as the 25,000 Jews who remained in Iran were, they were not a problem. As long as the Jews and the Chief Rabbi of Iran, then Yedidia Shofet, recognized this, as long as Zionism did not contaminate the Iranian Jewish community, Jews could be tolerated. But if Islam allows itself to be infected and weakened by the Jewish Zionist virus, Iran and Islam will be destroyed.

How do you keep from being infected? By Shia purity, by avoiding contact with the impurity of unbelievers, by making sure that both your body and your mind are not contaminated. Don’t buy food from infidels. Don’t read books by unbelievers. Don’t allow Jews to rise above their inherent inferior status. In other words, do not allow the prime source of impurity, chizhaye napak, infect your souls, the virulent infection exemplified by the Bahá’i who were ruthlessly persecuted in Iran almost immediately upon Khomeini’s return. Even more despicable were the Christians, though, for Khomeini, almost nothing could be worse than the disease of Zionism and infected Muslims like the Bahá’i.

Within ten years, by 1989, anti-Semitism in this form of anti-Zionism had become commonplace. “For their transgression, cursed were the unbelievers of the Children of Israel.” And the military and intelligence services were ordered to develop a combat strategy both to prevent the infection from spreading and to destroy the disease to make sure not only that Iran remain immune from the infection, but to protect all other Muslims. For Khomeini was a modern globalist. Khaybar was the Jewish oasis besieged and conquered by the Prophet. Khaybar became the archetype of victory over the Iraqi Sunnis in the Iran-Iraq war and, subsequently, the basis for combating worldwide Zionism in all its forms as evidenced by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion widely available in Iran.

Clearly, the struggle with Israel was not just a struggle between two emerging nationalities, one Jewish and one Palestinian. Nor was it a dispute over territory and settlements in the West Bank. It was a Manichean dispute between Good (Shi’ite Islam as interpreted by Ayatollah Khomeini) and Jews and Zionism. The very survival of Islam was at stake. The struggle against Zionism was an existential struggle.

It is in that context that the work on nuclear plants and the bombing of both the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community centre must be understood within the first fifteen years of the 1979 revolution. What do we believe we know about Iran’s involvement in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries in 1992 and the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aries in 1994?

  • Iranian intelligence planned both operations
  • The Iranian Supreme Council for National Security approved both plans
  • The plans of both operations followed the same trajectory
  • The plans were developed by Iran’s VEVAK, known as Vijeh, intelligence agency
  • The plans for the 1994 bombing were approved in August 1993 by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council with the Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the chair
  • Others in attendance included President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), Ali Fallahian, Minister of Intelligence, Muhamed Hijazi, intelligence and security adviser to Khamenei, and Ali Akbar Velayati, Foreign Minister.

Rafsanjani was the de facto commander-in-chief of the Iranian military during the Iraq-Iran War and thought to be the richest person in Iran. He has a reputation as a pragmatic centrist and is often portrayed as a softie, but since he was in charge of the assassination in Europe of the regime’s opponents as well as domestic dissidents and Bahá’is, since he refused to lift Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, this is a very questionable presumption. More to the point, for our purposes, Rafsanjani strongly supported Iran’s nuclear program while insisting it was only for peaceful purposes, which, in part, helped him earn a reputation within Iran as the only Iranian with both the guile and clout to negotiate a deal with the West acceptable to Iran. Rafsanjani was very careful with his words and is often quoted about Jews as saying, “We have no problems with Jews and highly respect Judaism as a holy religion,” but that was fully consistent with Khomeini’s version of anti-Semitism.

The other members of the Iranian clique that decided to bomb the Israeli embassy and the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries were of the same ilk. Ali Fallahian presented himself as an economic reform candidate, advocated ending the uranium enrichment program and was in favour of outreach to the West – the latter prospect having a particular inducement for him since he was wanted by Interpol for the AMIA bombing, by the German justice system for the murder of four Kurdish-Iranian opposition leaders, including Sadegh Sharafkandi, in the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, and by the Swiss courts which -indicted him for sending his agents to Geneva to assassinate Kazem Rajavi. Within Iran, he was the organizer of the 1998 “Chain Murders” allegedly by Saeed Emami, a deputy minister of intelligence. Saeed, widely rumoured to be Jewish, which might partly explain his role as an early Iranian Holocaust denier. He was indicted as a co-conspirator in the AMIA bombings. Arrested for the 1998 Chain Massacres; in prison, Emami purportedly tried to commit suicide on 16 June 1999 and died three days later. I believe, like many others assassinated by the Iranian intelligence service, he himself was murdered because he knew too much.

Hasin Baro, a member of Hezbollah, implemented the bombing of AMIA. Much of the information comes from Mossad, Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former VEVAK agent, from Interpol, from the investigations and charges of German and Swiss departments of justice, and mostly from the Argentinian investigations. Recently, the pattern was repeated in Uruguay where 32-year-old Iranian diplomat Ahmed Sabatgold left Uruguay because the Uruguayan intelligence services had evidence that he was involved in plans to blow up a building housing Israel’s new embassy in Montevideo. These boys were more akin to Mafia mobsters than religious clerics.

Why was AMIA targeted? For two reasons. First, in revenge for Argentina reneging on the Iran-Argentina dealings over Argentinian nuclear expertise and supplies. Secondly, because, for both the Argentinian and Iranian intelligence services, Jews were expendable.

Enough is known about Argentinian-Iranian nuclear negotiations to offer a reasonable portrait of motivation. Argentina did not have nuclear weapons. But it had a covert nuclear weapons program as well as an overt peaceful one. Argentina had refused to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and did not sign the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (the Tlatelolco Treaty). From 1983 until the early 1990s, Argentina also had missile development underway, the Cóndor II program.

However, all of this became moot when Argentina and Brazil negotiated a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and on 24 March 1993, ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco. What to do with all the expertise, equipment and end enriched uranium? The nuclear program, which had been supposedly mothballed with the return of democracy on 10 December 1983, was not the only one that was being scrapped. Under U.S. pressure, President Menem had also cancelled the Cóndor 2 missile program.

The Military Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, VEVAK, which, because of the shared roots of both the Iranian and Argentinian intelligence programs in anti-Semitism, came shopping. Just as Juan Perón had run a two-track program, favouring and protecting Nazis while, at the same time granting Jews full rights as citizens, the two track program now became vertical rather than horizontal, with a subterranean negotiations over nuclear and missile technology and an overt renunciation of nuclear weapons. While President Raúl Alfonsin put the missile and nuclear weapons programs on a shelf, it also became a commodity to trade with Iran for oil and cash, the cash intended to line the pockets of the negotiators, including Carlos Saúl Menem who had been elected President in 1989. The once covert nuclear program and the recently cancelled missile program had become a covert trading package even though Menem had appointed many Jews to his cabinet and released the files about Argentina’s coddling of Nazis under Juan Perón. Nevertheless, if there was a personal profit to be made, nuclear and missile knowledge and materials were offered up to the Khomeini regime. Only the mechanisms for transfers remained to be worked out.

But Menem undercut his own intelligence negotiations with Iran and cancelled the deal. Why is uncertain. Fear of U.S. retaliation, the threat to make the bribes he received public? I do not know. What we do know is that Iran was furious at Argentina for cancelling the covert oil and cash deal for knowledge and materials. It is not known if this rage was also motivated because Menem had already benefited with the deposit of his bribes in Menem’s bank account in Switzerland. Whether or not suggested to Iran as expendable targets by Argentinian intelligence agents, the plot first to bomb the Israeli embassy followed with a bombing of the Jewish community centre was hatched. To what degree the Argentinian intelligence service or some of its agents were involved, is not known, at least not by me. What is known is that Iran was surprised at the reaction to the AMIA bombing since Iranian intelligence knew that the vast majority of Argentinians held the belief that Jews were only interested in money and half of Argentinians believed Jews used the Holocaust to promote their own advantage.

3,000 of the 15,000 to 30,000 disappeared had been Jews even though Jews only made up one per cent of the Argentinian population. Soon more Jews as well as non-Jews would be sacrificed on the twin pillars of aborted international diplomacy and anti-Semitism, both compounded by corruption. Nisman’s later revelations of Iranian-Argentinian arrangements to cancel the inquiry onto the bombings in return for oil seemed to be of the same ilk.

Sunday: The Washington Corn

The Argentinian Nazi Swamp

The Argentinian Nazi Swamp

Part II: The Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran-Washington Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

Unlike my knowledge of Africa, I know very little about Latin America except what I have learned from my oldest son’s books and articles. Jeremy Adelman is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University where he once chaired the History Department and directed the Centre for Latin American Studies. He is an authority on Argentina. So what I know is mostly stolen from him. The mistakes are all mine.

As many of you know, this year I have been living in Mexico for the winter. Most readers are familiar with the scandal of the disappearance of 43 students here. On 26 September 2014, a group of Ayotzinapa rural teachers college students in the state of Guerrero, in the southwest of Mexico, were traveling to participate in a protest in nearby Iguala. Along the way, they were ambushed, evidently by the police. Three died and several were injured. A few escaped to tell the tale, but 43 disappeared. What happened to them?

What you probably do not know is that the parents of the missing students hired an experienced Argentinian investigative team that had honed its skills originally in the hunt begun in 1984 for Argentina’s 9,000 “disappeared” under the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Mexico’s government claimed that the youth were handed over by the police to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel who killed them, burned their bodies in Cocula in southern Guerrero, threw the remains onto a garbage dump where they were burned and then flushed the ashes into a river to hide the evidence. Using forensic evidence on the ashes, the investigative team could only identify one student.

Further, the Argentine Forensic Anthropologists team said that there was absolutely no scientific evidence to support the Cocula garbage dump thesis. The narrative concocted by the office of attorney general Jesȕs Murillo Karam, supposedly based on 39 confessions, 386 declarations, 487 forensic tests, 16 raids and two reconstructive investigations, was suddenly highly suspect, especially when tests showed a dump fire could never turn a human body to ashes since the temperature would never be hot enough. The tooth found was from a denture and none of the students wore dentures. Most significantly, the attorney messed up the process of collecting 20 genetic profiles from family members, making then totally useless. Yet the mayor of the town of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda, have been in prison since November, along with 90 police accused of the crime.

Critics have insisted that the federal authorities and police were complicit in the crime all along. Key witnesses had been tortured according to Anabel Hernández, the lead investigative reporter for Proceso, and Steve Fisher of the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California Berkeley.

What has this to do with the 18 January mysterious death of the Argentinian federal prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, hours before he was due to testify on his investigations of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community centre, Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires which left 85 people dead and 300 more injured? The large number of civilian dead, the alleged attempt to cover up the crime by federal officials, finding evidence in the trash (in the Argentine case, the discovery of a draft arrest warrant for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Nisman’s garbage), the whodunit common theme, the involvement of security forces, the mixture of incompetence and corruption, and the ultimate irony of Argentinians, who cannot get to the bottom of their most puzzling case in history, helping unravel Mexico’s scandal.

The Argentinian case is more interesting because it involved, probably until very recently when it was dissolved by the President, the Argentinian intelligence service. A former investigator into the case, Claudio Lifschitz, claimed he was abducted and tortured by SI agents. The Argentinian case also involved a foreign government, Iran, allegedly in cahoots with the government in Buenos Aries. After the AMIA bomb went off, corrupt police officers were arrested, but extraditions were deliberately bungled. An Iranian spy, Abolghase Mesbahi, had reported that Tehran had deposited $10 million into the Swiss bank account of Prime Minster Menem to thwart an investigation. Juan José Galeano, overseeing the case, was impeached 10 years later. In 2006, Nisman accused Tehran of abetting the Lebanese militants, Hezbollah, in the bombing.

But I want to go back to a much earlier period in Argentina well before the Iran-Argentina AMIA bombing link link via earlier Nazi connections and the swastika. The Iran link will be developed in a separate blog.

Before and during WWII, Argentina had close links with the three axis powers, Germany, Spain and Italy, the three major sources of European immigrants to Argentina. A solid phalanx of Germans lived in Argentina and preserved their language and culture. In the thirties and during WWII, Nazi agents were very active in Argentina and both Jewish and Polish immigrants in Argentina bore an understandable animus towards their “German” fellow citizens.

Juan Perón went even further when he took power in 1946. He had been a fascist admirer if not an outright fascist and had served as a military attaché to Benito Mussolini in the late thirties. He not only tolerated the Nazi presence in Argentina, but, through his agents, recruited Nazis as immigrants to Argentina, including wanted war criminals like Adolf Eichmann (Ricardo Klement in Argentina). Other Nazis fleeing prosecution included: the infamous Josef Mengele (Helmut Gregor in Argentina), the “Angel of Death” notorious for his “scientific” racial experiments and whose notoriety was publicized in the film, The Boys of Brazil; the Prussian aristocrat, Ludolf-Hermann Emmanuel Georg Kurt Werner von Alvensleben (Carlos Lücke in Argentina), nicknamed “Bubi” (Little Boy), the SSGruppenführer and Major General of the Police responsible for the Intelligenzaktion in Pomerania in the “Fordon Valley of Death” and mass murders in Piaśnica; Eduard Roschmann (Frederico Wegner in Argentina), the commander of the Riga concentration camp (the Butcher of Riga) known best through his portrayal in Frederick Forsyth’s novel, The Odessa File, and the movie adapted from it.

Aribert Ferdinand Heim (Tarek Hussein Farid in Cairo), a member of Hitler’s Waffen SS, the Doctor Death at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps, was also rumoured to be hiding in Argentina, but had actually relocated to Cairo, whereas Adolf Eichmann, who was for years rumoured to be hiding in the Middle East, had actually relocated to Argentina.

Most of these Nazis were assisted in their escape from war prisoners’ camps after the war, provided with temporary false German identification papers until they were spirited out of Germany on passes supplied by the International Red Cross with the assistance of Alois Hudal, a titular bishop of the Catholic Church in the Vatican who had published a book, The Foundations of National Socialism (1937). Hudal was a critical nexus in the so-called ratline used to relocate Nazis fleeing arrest warrants to Argentina. In Argentina, the so-called Odessa network helped them find jobs or become managers and owners of businesses, often in Perón-sponsored cover firms for Third Reich technocrats. Though he had none of the requisite engineering skills, Adolf Eichmann was soon working for Compañia Argentina para Proyectos y Realizaciones Industriales, a company incorporated to provide electricity in the City of Tȕcamán.

Argentina was not only a haven for Nazis, but the largest centre for Nazis in the Americas. They dreamt of resurrecting National Socialism. It would take far more than this short blog to indicate the extent that Argentina had been a haven for Nazis. Note, I do not call them ex-Nazis because to a man they retained their allegiance to National Socialism throughout their lives. But the following additional select list can give you a sense not only of the Nazi presence in Argentina, but of the Nazi war criminals who found a relatively safe haven in Argentina. Most died natural deaths in Argentina, but some fled to Paraguay and Brazil when things became hot in Buenos Aries. Others returned to Europe. A few were caught and tried like Adolf Eichmann in Israel and Josef Franz Leo Schwamberger in Germany. Most were protected by the Argentinian government which refused requests for extradition.

  • Hans Fischböck, finance minister of occupied Holland, responsible for the expropriation of Jewish property and sending Jewish labour to work in the arms industry
  • Hans Hefelmann responsible for the Führer’s office for euthanasia and aiding in the murder of 75.000 people
  • Fritz Lantschner, Gauamtsleiter. Government Director of the Reichsstatthalterei Tyrol-Vorarlberg; arrived in Argentina in 1948, subsequently becoming an Argentinian citizen; managed a building company in San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro
  • Erwin Fleiss, former SS Sturmbannfȕhrer leader of the SS in the Gauleitung Tyrol and active in the pogroms in Innsbruck; arrived in Argentina ten years later and lived in Río Negro where he died in 1964
  • Franz Rubatscher, police officer for the illegal NSDAP, arrived in Argentina in 1947 but was subsequently allowed to resettle back in Europe
  • Fridolin Guth, SS-Hauptsturmfȕhrer, accused of taking part in the murder of French Partisans; arrived in Argentina in 1948
  • Josef (Francisco) Vötterl, SS-Hauptsturmführer; arrived in 1948 and lived in Buenos Aires
  • Josef Janko (José Petri), SS-Obersturmfȕhrer, arrived in Buenos Aires in 1951 and in 1955 obtained an Argentinian residency permit
  • Josef Franz Leo Schwammberger, SS-Oberscharfȕhrer and commander of the forced labour camp in Rozwadów and then in the Przemyśl Ghetto, which was officially declared a work camp; arrived in Buenos Aires in 1949 and became an Argentinian citizen under his own name until an arrest warrant was issued by Argentinian authorities after which he arrested in 1987 and extradited to Germany where he was sentenced to life imprisonment
  • Erich Rajakowitsch, member of the SS responsible for the deportation of Jews in the Netherlands; moved to Buenos Aires in 1947 but returned to Graz in 1952 where he lived for the rest of his life
  • Gerhard Böhne, a lawyer with a doctor of laws, a Nazi war criminal guilty of the extermination of 62,000 people in psychiatric hospitals deemed too “defective” for a pure society and one of the very few Nazis who settled in Argentina in 1949 who was extradited back to Germany in 1966 to stand trial, a pyrrhic success since he was found to be unfit to be tried
  • Johann von Leers, a legal scholar on racial-based legislation, who fled to Argentina in 1950 and five years later followed Aribert Ferdinand Heim (Tarek Hussein Farid) to Cairo to be reborn as Amin Omar van Leers
  • Josef Vötterl, a member of the German Einsatzgruppen who arrived in 1949, returned to Germany in 1955 only to return once again to Argentina three years later to a good position
  • Kurt Christmann, a twin of Josef Vötterl with a similar criminal record, head of the Gestapo in Klapenfurt and Salzburg, and in Russia served as head of the Einsatzgruppen in the town of Kransnoda, spent 5-7 years in Argentina before returning to Germany where he was tried and sentenced to ten years in prison.

There were many more. Most of these Nazis landed on their feet, most with new identities, jobs and financial security. They could, like Adolf Eichmann, even risk reuniting with their families. They also enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow Nazis, even publishing Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda in the newspaper, Der Weg. Further, they had the additional support of Argentinian homegrown Nazis like Eberhard Ludwig Fritsch head of the Dȕrer publishing house in Buenos Aries, and the fawning services of a skilled “journalist,” Wilhelmus (Willem) Sassen. Adolf Eichmann may have been a very big fish in the Dȕrer swamp, but he still suffered mostly from the enforced anonymity in the world at large where he dreamed of recognition for what he believed were his great accomplishments in the extermination of the Jews.

In 1948, when Dr. Otto Günth, went to Buenos Aires as the first post-war Austrian consul, the sole focus was economic, not the repatriation of alleged war criminals. The Austrian Amnesties of 1955 and 1957 further reduced even tiny efforts to render justice for these escaped murderers. Austria was not the exception but the rule. Countries were keen on burying the past, not resurrecting tales of Nazi crimes. Argentina was just the worst in actively protecting and aiding Nazis. That is why it is so difficult to swallow the complete myth, a myth even believed in by most Jews, that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. In my research in UN archives, I could not find one reference to the Holocaust as a motive for supporting the partition resolution in 1947. What to do with the 200,000 Jewish refugees in Europe was a problem since no country then wanted them. As Bettina Stangneth wrote in her book on Eichmann, “Today it’s difficult to imagine what people in the early 1950s wanted to know about the National Socialist crimes – namely almost nothing.”

1955 was a turning point for two reasons. Juan Perón was deposed. The most active protector of the Nazis in Germany was gone. Further, scholarly books began to appear on the Holocaust. The Jews were not the only ones to suffer from this bracketing of history. So did Adolf Eichmann. In 1955, the French documentary Night and Fog was being shown around the world. Scholarly book after scholarly book was published documenting the atrocities of the Nazi regime with Eichmann’s name repeatedly mentioned as the orchestra conductor of the extermination. This should have made Adolf Eichmann alert to the dangers of his position, as it did Mengele who fled to Brazil. But Eichmann grew even more careless and, as the world knows, Israel’s Mossad finally tracked him down, abducted him and he stood trial in Jerusalem. There he was able to convince even as astute an intellectual as Hannah Arendt that he had only been a cog in a bureaucratic machine, an expression of the banality of evil, rather than a committed and innovative exterminator. However, convincing Arendt was a pyrrhic victory for that was precisely how he did not want to go down in history. He eventually received a posthumous victory of sorts in spite of his skillful acting in the courtroom in Jerusalem in the effort to avoid the death penalty.

However, the Eichmann trial had succeeded in making the Holocaust part of our world historical memory instead of just a subject of study for a small coterie of committed scholars. Eventually, it would lead to the resurrection of Adolf Eichmann as the operational head of a mass extermination machine and not a no-name bureaucrat.

If we transition through the years of Argentinian military dictatorship and the “Dirty War” from 1976-1983, a highly disproportionate number of Jews were among the estimated 9,000 (Nunca Más) disappeared; the Mothers and Grandmothers of the disappeared claim a figure of 30,000. Richard H. Curtiss in his book, In Memoriam: Jacobo Timerman, 1923- 1999, offered a figure of 15,000. In either case, there were many more than the 43 Mexican students who disappeared this past September. Jacobo Timerman, the famous Argentinian-Jewish journalist and publisher, founder of Primera Piana in 1962 and another news weekly, Confirmado, in 1965, both repressed by the military dictatorship that took power in 1966, founded La Opinión in 1971, the Le Monde of Latin America. On 27 July 1972, he was one of the targets of the 20 bombings in Buenos Aries on the twentieth anniversary of Eva Perón death.

In 1973, Juan Perón returned to Argentina when his front, Héctor Cámpora, was elected President but stepped aside upon Perón’s return. Juan was succeeded by his wife, Isabel Perón, when he died the following year. It might appear that after a hiatus of twenty years, the anti-Semitic fascists were back in full power. But, by and large, they had really never left power except for a few years of democracy, and, even then, they had only gone underground. Only the Peronist populist version versus the Catholic religious or the military faction resumed power. The military, just as they had in 1955, returned once again with a coup in 1976 and General Jorge Rafael Videla initiated military rule – el Proceso. .

Anti-Semitism continued to increase throughout the 1970s especially targeting Jews in the media. In 1977, Plan Andinia was published accusing the Jewish international conspiracy of trying to control Argentina. Bombs targeting Jews were going off at the rate of ten per month. An enormous bomb went off when Victory at Entebbe was screened in Córdoba causing enormous damage and many deaths. Timerman was soon arrested, but in 1979 was exiled to Israel where he wrote his 1981 famous book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, about the years of Argentinian misrule, his torture and the anti-Semitism permeating Argentina. When he was being escorted out of Argentina, he learned that, “fifteen minutes after departure from my house, a group of military men arrived intending to kidnap me.” He would have become one of the disappeared.

Jacobo Timerman’s son became a famous Argentinian human rights advocate, then a diplomat and is currently Foreign Minister of Argentina. How did he become involved in alleged negotiations with Iran and the purported cover-up of the investigation of the 1983 Jewish community centre bombing? Or was he also a target of leaks from the intelligence service with its long tradition of anti-Semitism? Two years before the destruction of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aries, the Israeli Embassy in Argentina was partially destroyed by a car bomb on 17 March 1992. What is the connection between these two culminations of a half century of anti-Semitism in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 and Tehran?

Two intervening tales need to be told. One is the story of the Argentine intelligence service and the other of the Iranian connection. Until the late 1990s, and, to some degree, right up to the present, the despicable role of the intelligence service and of the government has not been sufficiently exposed. In 1998, when the Argentine foreign minister Guido di Tella was opening the Commission for the Clarification of Nazi Activities in Argentina, he described the collaboration between Argentina and Nazi Germany as a ‘painful and shameful’ episode in Argentina’s history.

Let me finish by quoting my son. The origins of the Argentinian intelligence service “date to the first Juan Perón government (1946–55), which enlisted Nazi war criminals to serve as Perón’s spies. During the military junta’s rule in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the services were deeply involved in repressing the opposition and colluding with neighboring dictatorships.” (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2015/02/alberto_nisman_s_mysterious_death_and_president_cristina_fern_ndez_de_kirchner.html) It was the intelligence service that provided the leaks of immanent arrest warrants for Nazis in Argentina in the 1950s as regular scoops, thereby giving the Nazis time to flee to Paraguay or Brazil. It was the intelligence service through Antonio Stiusso who, like Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal, was feeding the key information of wiretapped conversations between top aides of Fernández and senior Iranian officials, to Alberto Nisman about squelching the AMIA inquiry and food-for-oil bargaining. The intelligence service may also have been responsible for Nisman’s death. Finally, following his death and the zig-zag responses of the government, President Fernández dissolved the intelligence service.

Tomorrow: The Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

Part I: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

A brouhahah is building up steam as we approach Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled 3rd of March address to both houses of Congress in response to the 21 January invitation of U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader, John Boehner (with the concurrence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but NOT the Democrats in either the House or Senate, who were not informed about the invitation). Bibi is scheduled to address Capitol Hill in a joint session of Congress on the subject of Iran. Boehner did not coordinate the visit with the White House in an alleged breach of protocol. On the basis of separation of powers, Boehner denied any protocol breach. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, argued that proper protocol required Boehner to inform the White House, not Israel, and that is why he did not raise the issue with John Kerry in their two-hour meeting; that, he argued, would be truly “inappropriate.”

However, he said nothing about the accusation that he set in motion a precedent in inviting a foreign leader to interfere in American decision-making or in making Israel a partisan issue for the first time. As the debate over the invitation continues in Washington, the focus of the debate is really in Jerusalem over, in the first place, the impact of this dispute with Obama on the Israeli election, the impact of the dispute on Jerusalem-White House relations, the impact on relations with the American Jewish diaspora, which remains largely liberal but generally loyal, even if somewhat critical, of recent right-wing leaders in Israel, and, on a much deeper level, the extent to which Iran poses an existential threat for Israel, and, correspondingly, the way the Washington-Tehran nuclear negotiations will impact on Iran as a threat to Israel.

A parallel and seemingly unrelated imbroglio is taking place over the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman on 18 January in his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman was the prosecutor who had been investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead. At first reported as a suicide, that belief was undermined with the passing of each day. Iran is involved because Iran had not only been accused of orchestrating the bombing, but of seducing the current Argentinian government into a trade pact that entailed setting up a Truth Commission on the 1994 bombing, but doing so, not to uncover the truth, but to shunt it aside as well as the Interpol arrest warrants for those Iranians viewed as responsible for the attack. Iran is the lynch pin between the two controversies.

The impetus for the first controversy above is a deep division over President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Tehran and the negotiations over Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. Bibi is being invited to undercut Obama’s Iran initiative and, explicitly, criticize the President’s major strategic initiative. Trying to go over the head of the president to influence U.S. foreign policy is a no-no for many, even those who do not support Obama’s outreach to Iran. Would you not be furious if you worked in the White House and once again be willing to depict Bibi as “chickenshit”? The Republicans have been determined to introduce and pass new sanctions on Iran. In his State of the Union address in January, Obama promised to veto the proposed Congressional sanctions legislation. One day after Obama’s State of the Union address, Boehmer issued the invitation to Bibi. Among the anti-Iran pieces of legislation being forged in Congress is at least one that is intended to be veto-proof in instigating further promised sanctions if Washington cannot reach an agreement with Tehran before the end of June. So the Bibi-Obama dispute is merely a proxy for the conflict over the negotiations with Iran.

This is the first of a four-part series of blogs dealing with the Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran quadrangle. It will focus on the U.S.-Israeli axis and be centered in Jerusalem. I will discuss the Iran-Argentina axis centered in Buenos Aries next followed by the seemingly unrelated Argentinian-Israeli axis. I will end with the Tehran-Washington axis focused specifically on the nuclear negotiations that will be used to resolve the conundrums raised in the previous three analyses.

Iran ———2———–Argentina

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-4-                                   -3-

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U.S ———-1———–Israel

A central issue in Washington is how Bibi’s visit and how the Republican initiative will affect the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, though Obama offered as his reason for his unwillingness to meet with Netanyahu the proximity of the impending Israeli elections scheduled for 17 March. For Boehner, “There’s a message that the American people need to hear and I think he (Netanyahu) is the perfect person to deliver it…The threat of radical Islamic terrorism is a real threat. The threat of Iran to the region and the rest of the world is a real threat and I believe the American people are interested in hearing this.”

But that is not the primary issue for Israelis. In the opening to his blog yesterday morning, Rabbi Dow Marmur posed the question in a way that gave his position away. “Iran does indeed constitute a major threat to the existence of Israel. Both the pronouncements of many of its leaders and the actions of its stooges Hezbollah and Hamas point to it. It’s, therefore, not surprising that Prime Minister Netanyahu should want to alert the world to that danger and, at the same time, rightly stress that Israel is by no means the only country at risk from Iran. But a much greater threat than Iran is a rupture in the relationship between the United States of America and the State of Israel.” (my italics)

If Iran is only a major threat, then the relationship between Jerusalem and the White House ranks higher than depicting that existential threat. Further, a deep breach with Washington is “the much greater threat” for it could lead to a rupture in U.S.-Israeli relations. Of course, liberals and Democrats see the acceptance of the invitation as prioritizing Netanyahu’s domestic political interests over Israel’s relationship with the United States. Most Democrats, even Nancy Pelosi, will not boycott the speech lest they undercut even in a small way their domestic supporters, but their resentment will remain palpable.

Dow omitted, probably because he rations his words in his blogs, the consequences on Jewish diaspora-Israeli relations, for, as the Israeli consul generals in the U.S. all warned the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, fierce negative reactions can be expected to the speech from U.S. Jewish communities and many Israeli allies, including even right-wing Republicans who may agree with Bibi’s take on Iran, but are upset about the intervention of a foreign political leader in American debates over policy.

Israel has been warned of this danger by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, by many American Jews, including 7 Jewish members of Congress, and by other Israelis. On the one hand, it is totally apparent that the Iran engagement by the White House is the central plank in Obama’s foreign policy during his second term. In the fading hope that Netanyahu will change his mind about visiting Washington, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, and the casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, are painted as the two evil masterminds “misleading” Netanyahu. (Dow’s words) This is only slightly different than Tom Friedman’s portrait of the four horseman of the apocalypse – Boehner, Bibi, Dermer and Adelson – as equally insensitive and mindblind, though not villainous. “Netanyahu; his ambassador; the pro-Israel lobby Aipac; Sheldon Adelson, the huge donor to Bibi and the G.O.P.; and Boehner all live in their own self-contained bubble.” Dow Marmur reduced Natenyahu’s status in service to his own hopes.

This portrait is consistent with American public opinion that 59% of voters expect little from the Republican-dominated Congress. Dow, by contrast, paints Netanyahu as a patsy in the hands of the partnership of an Israeli diplomat and an American tycoon. Netanyahu is not only a patsy, but a cynic willing to sell his country’s future relations with Washington down the drain just to win an election: “not losing the election may be more important to him than the future of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.” As Nancy Pelosi suggested, the exploitation of congress as a political tool for Israeli domestic politics is scandalous. This interpretation is consistent with Michael Oren’s, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and no bleeding-heart liberal. Thus, Dow can only fall back on his old bromide of “hope” to save the situation.

But what if Bibi’s effort is his last hurrah, his final effort to sabotage the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations that he deeply believes will endanger the future of Israel? It may be an exercise in courage – or, perhaps, rashness – in his willingness to face the stormy blowback from his decision to come and refusal to back off. Such an approach is consistent with an ambition to win the next election on 17 March because he also believes he is the only one with the talent, experience and commitment to ensure Israel’s survival in the face of its greatest danger. He needs desperately to outshine his rivals on the right. One does not have to agree with either Netanyahu’s self-appraisal or his depiction of the danger facing Israel to suggest his actions may not be that of a cynic. His position may be incorrect, but it does reverberate with many Israelis who share his fear of Tehran. Further, this self-portrayal, sincere I believe, may have the added value of distracting voters from his inadequacies as a Prime Minister.

I contend that the issue of Netanyahu’s visit is ultimately a distraction and side issue, hence the choice of the word “brouhaha” instead of “imbroglio.” It is a failure to analyze the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations correctly. For the Iranians and the White House are another duo married at the hip, with Iran determined not to provoke further sanctions from Washington while tamping down on any domestic opposition while Obama needs a deal, with Iran as his own (and only???) foreign policy legacy. If the Republicans torpedo the negotiations, then both Iran and Obama may fail, but both can blame Congress for that failure. And Netanyahu will rejoice in a victory that will be pyrrhic, since Israel will have to endure a very deep rupture with Washington. This is the gospel according to my rabbi and my dear friend.

In fact, the rupture is only really with the Obama administration. The schism has been very deep for a long time. The central issue, which Dow did not raise, is whether Bibi’s intention is to torpedo the deal (which is what I will suggest) or whether Bibi is merely trying to stiffen Obama’s spine so that the White House maintains a tough line in the negotiations. Dow’s analysis is incorrect because the diagnosis is inadequate. I will follow a circuitous route to establish that beginning with the characterization of Iran and its historic involvement in Argentina and the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the ayatollahs.

Let me make my position clear up front rather than forcing you to wait for the conclusion to know where I stand.

  1. Netanyahu may be a pragmatist, but he is not a cynic in this case; he sincerely believes that Iran is and will remain an existential threat to Israel; he sincerely believes that a negotiated nuclear deal is only of use to Iran as a mask for its strategic plans and intentions in the Middle East.
  2. Given that conviction, which runs contrary to the analyses of a great many current and retired major Israeli intelligence and military officers, any effort to disrupt the process, however much it may appear as irresponsible and disrespectful (Herzog’s depiction) of the American president, if not churlish, inappropriate, reckless and dangerous, is worth it no matter how much it ruffles the feathers of the White House.
  3. The relationship with the White House is a brouhaha rather than an imbroglio, a subtle but important distinction suggesting a temporary deepening of the rift between Netanyahu and Obama rather than a deep fissure between the American polity and Israel because of Israeli interference in American affairs; The issue, though certainly more serious, is more akin to disputes over Israeli-sponsored junkets for rabid gay-bashing evangelical Christians and democratic supporters of Israel. Though I agree that it would be preferable on a number of grounds that Netanyahu NOT go to Washington, I do not believe one whit in the thesis that Netanyahu’s initiative will seriously jeopardize U.S. long term support, goodwill and readiness to stand by Israel. As Nancy Pelosi herself said, all members of Congress place ties with Israel above any political differences of opinion, based on the two countries’ mutual respect for democratic values and the national security interests of the two. More specifically, the U.S. will continue in its efforts to stymie Palestinian initiatives at the UN and the ICC.
  4. There are many other countries with a deep interest in the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, not just Israel and Saudi Arabia, but the European states – Britain, France, Germany and Russia – that have been sponsors of the negotiations, but, for very different reasons, even countries like China, another sponsor, which has a strategic interest in Middle East stability as it strives to develop a 21st century Maritime Silk Road conjoined with a Silk Road economic belt in the region to create an economic corridor across Eurasia as a main objective in its One Belt, One Road strategy.
  5. Though initially I not only supported the effort of a breakout with Iran and thought there was more than a 50/50 chance the negotiations could succeed, now I am very dubious that a positive agreement will result. This will not be because of Republican sabotage but because the differences between Iran and the U.S. over the terms of the deal run too deep.

In summary, the term “brouhaha” is rooted in the French brouhaha, a corruption of Hebrew בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא; barúkh habá, “blessed is he who comes,” a greeting of welcome in Israel. A brouhaha is welcome rather than an imbroglio because it is only a state of social agitation in which a relatively minor incident has grown out of all proportion and articulated in a hysterical fashion. It is not a very difficult and possibly irresolvable imbroglio. The controversy and fuss will eventually prove to have been a tempest in a teapot, but a cover for the very serious issue that underlies it.

And it is to that very serious issue I must now turn, even if it is by a very circuitous route.