Investigators probe if Argentine rabbi attacked for annulling marriage – report

La Nacion says line of inquiry examining whether home invasion, assault were ordered in revenge for ruling by Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich several years ago

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)

Investigators are examining whether the attack on Argentina’s chief rabbi may have been ordered in revenge for a ruling, the Argentine daily La Nacion reported Wednesday.

Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich was beaten and seriously injured on Monday by assailants who broke into his home while he and his wife were there, taking money and personal effects.

According to La Nacion, investigators are working to determine whether the targeting of Davidovich was motivated by anti-Semitism, or was an act of revenge for a marriage annulled by the rabbi a few years prior.

Investigators were said to have concluded that the rabbi was deliberately targeted by his attackers.

The head of Argentina’s main Jewish group said the assault was an anti-Semitic attack. Jorge Knoblovits, the president of the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Aid Association (AMIA), said seven men were involved in the assault Monday in Buenos Aires on Davidovich, who is 62.

AMIA’s head quoted Davidovich’s assailants as saying, “We know you are the rabbi of AMIA.”

Jorge Knoblovits (Screen capture: YouTube)

Knoblovits said the robbery was merely a pretext for “an anti-Semitic act.”

“In the world, there is a lot of room for ignorance, and where there is ignorance, there is space for anti-Semites,” he said.

Argentina has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, with 190,000 people.

Argentine authorities have opened an investigation into the attack, which followed the desecration of nine tombs at a Jewish cemetery in the province of San Luis over the weekend.

Police have not said if they are investigating the attack as a hate crime, and some, including the rabbi’s son, have questioned if the assailants had anti-Semitic motives.

“They 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,” Aryeh Davidovich told the Walla news website.

During the attack, the rabbi and his wife put up no resistance, but the assailants threw Davidovich to the ground.

“They broke nine of his ribs, affecting a lung, and left him disfigured,” Knoblovits said.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri sent 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.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Davidovich and his wife were “viciously assaulted” and condemned the incident as part of an anti-Semitic wave.

“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,” Netanyahu said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, his wife Sara, and Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, left, take part at a ceremony at the site of the 1992 attack at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 11, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

He spoke to Davidovich and called for the perpetrators to be swiftly caught, according to a statement from his office late Tuesday.

Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body that deals with Jewish immigration to Israel, said after speaking to the rabbi that “he suffers from severe pain and fractures, but his spirit is strong.”

“I had the sense from his remarks that the incident had obvious anti-Semitic characteristics. I wished him a full recovery from all of us. The Jewish Agency will help him and his community as much as necessary,” he said.

1990s bombings of Jewish targets

Argentina’s Jewish community has experienced brutal attacks in the past.

The headquarters of the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association was the target of a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people and wounded 300.

The aftermath of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires. (Newspaper La Nación (Argentina/Wikipedia Commons)

Two years earlier, a suicide bomber killed 29 in an attack on Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires.

Both bombings have been blamed on Iran-supported operations by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, but Iran has denied responsibility.

In 2017, Netanyahu visited Argentina and attended memorial ceremonies for both attacks.

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