It starts with the Jews

This past week, eleven years after the event, Argentina has accepted formal responsibility for failing to solve the 1994 bombing of the Jewish communal headquarters (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. In that attack, an explosives-laden vehicle (now known to have been driven by a Lebanese Shiite suicide bomber) brought down the entire building, killing 85 people. The investigation was a travesty of cover-up and corruption, and Argentina remains the only Western country not to have solved a major terrorist attack.

I wrote an article on the context of that attack in the October 1994 issue of Commentary, where I made this point:

There is now a great backwash of extreme fundamentalists into the West, the result of crackdowns in the Middle East and North Africa. They are gaining shelter, visas, and even political asylum. While some respect the laws of their host countries, some do not. There are fundamentalists who look upon the West as one more arena for the conduct of their jihad against Western governments, their own governments, Israel, and the Jews.

If they are to be stopped, Western governments will have to show an absolute determination to keep their ground free of the violence that characterizes conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. This can best be done by preventing the entry of more fundamentalist standard bearers; by regarding those already in the West as potentially violent; and by employing every legal means of surveillance against them.

This was before Al-Qaeda, before the spread of Islamist suicide attacks, before the collapse of the Oslo process. But a handful of analysts saw the omen in Argentina, and saw worse things coming. Alas, each government in the West has required an individual wake-up call in the form of an attack, and it’s taken a decade for all of North America and Europe to get it. At the time of the AMIA bombing, people thought it was the kind of thing fanatics did only to Jews. That’s what people thought in 1933, too.