Netanyahu calls for action after violent assault on Argentina chief rabbi
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Netanyahu calls for action after violent assault on Argentina chief rabbi

Diaspora minister Bennett says world leaders failing ‘to learn the lessons of the past’; Jewish Agency chief decries attack by ‘human garbage’

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

The violent assault on Argentina’s chief rabbi overnight drew widespread condemnation in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with lawmakers and Jewish leaders, demanding that more action be taken to combat rising anti-Semitism worldwide.

At 2 a.m. Monday morning, unknown assailants broke into the Buenos Aires home of Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich and beat him severely. The intruders, who also stole valuables and money from the home, shouted: “We know you are the rabbi of the Jewish community” during the attack, according to local reports.

Davidovich’s wife was reportedly restrained and the assailants took money and belongings from the home before fleeing.

Netanyahu condemned the attack, saying in a brief statement Monday morning that “anti-Semitism must not be allowed to rear its head.”

“I strongly condemn the recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents and I call upon the international community to act,” Netanyahu said.

Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett wished Davidovich and his wife a speedy recovery, and said world leaders were failing to protect Jewish communities from hate crimes.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Enough is enough — it is time for action,” he said in an English-language statement. “Today the leaders of the world in Europe, in South America, all over are failing in their responsibility to learn the lessons of the past.”

Bennett said that attacks like the one on the Davidoviches showed why it was necessary for a Jewish state to exist.

“A strong Israel is the only answer [to anti-Semitism] — our enemies should know, Jewish blood is not cheap.”

Argentina’s Chief Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich. (courtesy AMIA)

Bennett called on Argentinian authorities to find and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent possible.

Israel Resilience party chairman Benny Gantz also denounced the assault on Davidovich and vowed to fight “firmly” against anti-Semitism wherever it manifests in the world.

His political partner in the Blue and White alliance, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, similarly said that “Israel is prepared to fight anti-Semitism anytime and anywhere.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri linked the attack to other anti-Semitic incidents, and called on Argentinian authorities to find and prosecute the assailants.

“Anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head in European countries and the United States, and last night it reared its ugly head in Argentina,” he said in a statement.

Labor party leader Avi Gabbay wished Davidovich a full recovery and said Israel was “embracing members of the community.”

“We are with you together in this struggle against anti-Semitism, whether in France, Argentina, or anywhere else where the darkness will try to harm us,” he said in a statement.

Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog extended his well wishes, and said in a statement that it was “imperative we fight against the human garbage who are driven by their hatred of Jews.”

Herzog said his agency was working with governments and other Jewish groups to combat the “terrible scourge that is rearing its head in the most disturbing manner.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (L) speaks with Education Minister Nafatli Bennett during the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, Jerusalem, October 31, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Davidovich was hospitalized in serious condition with several fractured ribs and a punctured lung, Argentinian media reported.

According to the La Nacion newspaper, police were investigating the crime as a robbery, though the local Jewish community said the early morning assault was clearly anti-Semitic.

AMIA, Argentina’s umbrella Jewish group, said in a statement that the comments by the attackers were cause for “alarm.”

“With extreme consternation, [AMIA]… expresses its deep concern,” the group said in a statement.

The Jewish community political group DAIA and the Avoda Labor Zionist group also called the attack anti-Semitic and urged authorities to take action.

World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer said the reported singling out of Davidovich as a Jew was “disturbing and worrisome.”

“It is not yet clear whether this was a targeted crime of hateful antisemitism or a barbaric criminal act, but we trust that the authorities will continue to do everything in their power to determine the motive and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Singer said.

Anti-Defamation League official Sharon Nazarian urged Argentinian authorities “to swiftly investigate this heinous assault and call on faith leaders and other officials to condemn this judeophobic hate crime.”

“Of course it was an anti-Semitic attack,” Radio Jai director Miguel Steuermann told Ynet Tuesday morning. “The assailants broke into the house at 2 a.m., and they immediately told him that they knew he was the rabbi for the Jewish community.

“The attackers bound him, covered his head and beat him until he lost consciousness. They broke nine of his ribs,” he said. “If it was just a home invasion, they would not have beaten him.”

Steuermann said he spoke to the Davidoviches’ son, who said his father’s condition had stabilized somewhat but remained serious.

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