Buenos Aires police identify suspects in violent assault on chief rabbi

Visiting official from Argentina’s ruling party says gang that badly beat Gabriel Davidovich during home invasion last week was caught on surveillance camera

The chief rabbi of Argentina, Gabriel Davidovich, speaks at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. on November 8, 2018. (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish community center via AP)
The chief rabbi of Argentina, Gabriel Davidovich, speaks at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. on November 8, 2018. (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish community center via AP)

A number of suspects connected to last week’s violent assault on Argentina’s chief rabbi have been identified, a visiting politician from the south American country said.

Davidovich was beaten and seriously injured by assailants who broke into his Buenos Aires home in the middle of the night last Monday, while he and his wife were there, taking money and personal effects.

Jorge Macri, a top official in Argentina’s ruling Republican Proposal party, told journalists at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday that authorities were making progress investigating the attack against Davidovich, Radio Jai reported.

Macri, who was in Israel to attend the International Mayors Conference in Jerusalem, said Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and Environment Minister Diego Santilli informed him that Buenos Aires police gleaned the attackers’ license plate numbers from surveillance videos in the neighborhood.

Davidovich was hospitalized with serious injuries, including nine broken ribs and a punctured lung. The intruders, who also stole valuables and money from the home, reportedly shouted: “We know you are the rabbi of the Jewish community” during the attack.

Police have not said if they are investigating the attack as a hate crime, but Jewish groups and political leaders in Argentina and Israel immediately denounced it as “anti-Semitic.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among many Israeli lawmakers to condemn the attack, linking the “vicious” assault to the recent wave of an anti-Semitic incidents in the West.

AMIA, Argentina’s umbrella Jewish group, said the attackers’ comments were cause for “alarm,” while its president, Jorge Knoblovits, has asserted the robbery was a pretext for “an anti-Semitic act.”

However, in the days that followed the attack, Davidovich and his son cast doubt on the anti-Semitic motive.

“It could have been a robbery or a political issue… I do not know if it was an anti-Semitic attack,” Davidovich said Tuesday evening from the hospital in a WhatsApp interview with Clarin, Argentina’s largest newspaper.

In an interview with Israel’s Walla news website last week, his son Aryeh Davidovich said the attackers “didn’t say it was anti-Semitic, they just said he was the Jewish community’s rabbi, so he must have a lot of money and they beat him up badly.”

“My father is recovering slowly. He’s slowly improving,” he added.

According to local media reports, Argentinian police have concluded Davidovich was intentionally targeted, but have not yet determined if the movie was anti-Semitic.

Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, center, pictured with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Sara Netanyahu at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 11, 2017. (AP/Israeli Government Press Office)

The La Nacion newspaper said police were investigating whether the assault was an act of revenge for a marriage annulled by the rabbi a few years prior.

The Hebrew-language Kikar Hashabbat news website reported that Davidovich received death threats in the wake of the marriage annulment.

The attack targeting Davidovich followed the vandalism of nine gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in the province of San Luis over the weekend.

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