'No Clear Indication' Chief Rabbi Attack Is anti-Semitic, Argentinian Minister Says

Argentinian police treats rabbi attack as 'robbery', as human rights secretary calls to eradicate anti-Semitism

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File photo: Chief rabbi of Argentina, Gabriel Davidovich, speaks at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, November 8, 2018.
File photo: Chief rabbi of Argentina, Gabriel Davidovich, speaks at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, November 8, 2018.Credit: AMIA Jewish community center via AP

A attack that badly hurt Argentina's chief rabbi has alarmed authorities both in the South American nation and in Israel, who raised concerns on Tuesday that it could have been prompted by anti-Semitism.

Argentina's Environment Minister Rabbi Sergio Bergman told Haaretz that "as of now, there are no clear indications that this is an anti-Semitic act." However, he added that "when the criminals warn their victims that they know they are rabbis of the Jewish community, the assumption would be that anti-Semitism is somehow involved, even if it's a robbery, and particularly in light of the brutal and excessive violence."

Several assailants entered the Buenos Aires home of Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich on Monday and beat him after shouting, "We know you are the rabbi of the AMIA," referring to the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, one of the country's most prominent Jewish groups, which reported details of the attack.

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Davidovich was in a hospital Tuesday with several broken ribs and a punctured lung. The assailants also took money and some belongings, according to the AMIA.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri wrote a tweet repudiating the attack and vowing aid to find the attackers. His human rights secretary, Claudio Avruj, said that Argentina needs to build a society "where there are no signs of anti-Semitism, and we cannot be indifferent."

However, both Macri's tweet and a police statement on the incident failed to mention any connection to anti-Semitism, with Argentinian police treating it as a robbery. 

Minister Bergman said that anti-Semitism is on the rise in many countries, adding anti-Zionism, "which is an expression of anti-Semitism," is also spreading.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlen phoned Davidovich "to find out how you are and to express my concern about the safety of the large Jewish community you lead," according to a statement from his office.

"The State of Israel will do everything necessary to protect Jews wherever they choose to live and will take any steps to protect us from danger. We will not allow those who seek our harm us to pursue us," he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed wishes for the rabbi's recovery, saying, "We must not let anti-Semitism rear its head. I strongly condemn the recent acts of anti-Semitism and call on the international community to take action against it."

Davidovich, 62, has been the chief rabbi for Argentina's extensive Jewish community since 2013, working at the AMIA headquarters building that itself was the target of the country's worst terrorist attack in 1994 — a bombing that killed 85 people and injured hundreds. Prosecutors have blamed on officials of the Iranian government, which has denied involvement and refused to turn over suspects.

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