On July 18, 1994, a van loaded with explosives destroyed the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), murdering 85 innocents and injuring over 300. The government accused Hezbollah, but it was not until 2006 that sufficient legal evidence was gathered to request warrants for the arrest of those allegedly responsible.
On January 19, 2015, the chief investigator of the case, prosecutor Alberto Nisman, was found murdered (though it had been made to look like a suicide). Nisman had been on the verge of delivering warrants for the arrest of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, which would have exposed the Argentine government’s complicity in a coverup.
On Thursday, March 26, at the Luxe Hotel in Los Angeles, the Horowitz Freedom Center and Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors will present Gustavo Perednik, the author of fifteen books, who will be discussing his latest, To Kill Without a Trace, a novelization of the AIMA bombing and subsequent investigation. Based on reported facts and legal documents put at the author’s disposal by Nisman himself, the book recounts the events leading up to the bombing and beyond, exploring the implications both for Argentina and the world.
I recently posed to Mr. Perednik some questions about his book, the bombing, the investigation, and Nisman’s assassination.
Mark Tapson: You’ve written both novels and works of nonfiction. Why did you choose a fictional framework for this story?
Gustavo Perednik: Sabra is my last novel, coauthored with Marcos Aguinis and published four months ago. I believe that the reason for which it became a bestseller straight away is that it is written as historical fiction. It tells the real story of the First Aliyah and the Jewish history during World War I, as well as the biography of Absalom Feinberg, “the first Sabra.” Although it is entirely factual, it is told as a novel because in this way it can appeal a broader audience. One can add more suspense and literary creativity in blending the fiction and non-fiction styles.
The same can be said of To Kill Without a Trace. I reveal Alberto Nisman’s investigation and his work, but instead of a dry narrative I can delve into the psychology of the character and include some philosophical insights. I believe it is more compelling and it does not sacrifice even one bit of historical truth.
MT: How did you come to know and work with Alberto Nisman, and whom do you believe is responsible for his murder?
GP: About ten years ago I published an article on terrorism and I got an approving email from Nisman with the suggestion that we meet. He was the Prosecutor of the AMIA case. At the beginning I thought someone was kidding me, but he insisted and the following day we met at the Prosecution Unit. He then told me that he knew me because as a teenager he had heard my speeches at the Jewish institution which I had headed in Buenos Aires. The chemistry between us was immediate and we became good friends. I frequently brought to him my students to listen to his explanations about the AMIA case, and after some months I decided to write a book about it. He agreed and we started meeting at cafés or at my home. At the end of 2007 I brought him to Israel for the first time. I organized his scheduled that included lectures, interviews and meetings with Israeli personalities. He became quite well-known in Israel.
He was assassinated by his enemies. Firstly, the Iranian government whose terrorism he exposed in several countries; also by Iran’s allies in Argentina – violent gangs that are active with impunity, close to the government.
MT: At the risk of giving away spoilers from your book, can you elaborate a bit on what Nisman had discovered about Iran’s responsibility for the bombing and the Argentine government’s nuclear collusion with Iran?
GP: Firstly, Nisman attained all the evidence to prove that Iran perpetrated the terror attack. He showed that the dates on which the Iranian “diplomats” flew time and again close to the attack, the money transfers to a terror account in the Deutsche Bank, the phone calls before and after the attack – every single piece matched the big puzzle. We must remember that at the beginning a few Argentine policemen had been incriminated in the attack; therefore Nisman’s exposure of Iran came as a turning point.
On a second stage of his investigation, Nisman demonstrated that the State of Iran was not only the perpetrator of the attack on the Argentine Jewish community, but also the head of a world terror network that still has dormant cells in several countries. These cells are not operating precisely thanks to Nisman’s success in exposing Iran.
In the third and last stage of his investigation he focused on how the Argentine government colluded with the terrorists by whitewashing the ayatollahs in exchange for huge business. This stage was the most dangerous, and tragically his enemies prevailed.
MT: Do I understand correctly that your book was first published in Argentina? What sort of impact did it have there among readers?
GP: Indeed, it was published in Buenos Aires in 2009. At that time it was quite successful because people started to understand the true nature of the Iranian aggression. But as soon as Nisman was assassinated the book became an instant bestseller; it is considered foretelling since it refers several times to the life threats on Nisman. Even its title became premonitory.
MT: What are the lessons for us of the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires? Apart from the terrible loss of life, why is it important to us today?
GP: The main lesson is that terrorism has to be exposed and fought, not appeased. That with the Iranian regime that exports terror to the world, you don’t negotiate. You defeat its methods and its aim to destroy Israel and to impose on the world the worst face of Islam.
MT: Countless thousands of Argentine citizens took to the streets to protest the murder of Nisman. Does this encourage you to believe that the government will not be able to suppress the truth, that justice will indeed prevail?
GP: It was heartening to see almost half a million people under heavy rain under the motto “We are Nisman.” However, I don’t think there is any chance that justice will triumph under the current government. At least we see that people are more and more appreciative that Nisman was a true hero, and that we should emulate his passion, perseverance and courage in the struggle against Islamist terrorism.
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