Julian Schvindlerman

Hector Timerman´s Lament

Former Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs (2010-2015) Hector Timerman is now under house arrest. He is not in prison only because he is terminally ill and he was granted the privilege. He was accused of betraying his country by secretly negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran together with other officials of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner´s government. Prosecutor Alberto Nisman denounced that the ultimate goal of that pact was to exculpate the perpetrators of the 1994 AMIA attack. Shortly before presenting his evidence to the National Congress, he was found dead with a shot in the temple. The Argentine Justice has just determined that he was murdered.

Mr. Timerman has responded to the charge of treason to the nation through his lawyers. He also reacted publicly, through letters, articles and interviews in which he sought to present himself as a victim — of the national political powers as well as of the local Jewish community.

In one of his most “dramatic” acts -a performance of feigned indignation, in fact- Timerman resigned as a member of AMIA, taking advantage of the indecision of the local Jewish authorities as to whether to expel him from the institution, or not. He was, after all, the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country, and the community leadership feared for the repercussions of such a decision. In a letter sent to AMIA and DAIA (the political representation of the Jewish community) in April 2015, Timerman compared himself to Theodor Herzl:

“I have noticed with displeasure that the referents of AMIA and DAIA have fallen back into the vulgar accusation that every Jew who criticizes their actions, and they are not few, be branded with the worn-out argument of being ‘shameful Jews’. They should remember that the first Jew to be accused in such a way was Theodore Herzl, founding father of modern Zionism. It happened in 1898 when Karl Strauss accused him of hating the Jews so much that he wanted to eradicate them all from Europe. Since then, this accusation is valid only for those who believe they can measure the Jewishness of others.”

After his house arrest in December 2017, Timerman gave an interview to the leftist, pro-Kirchnerismo newspaper Página12 in which he once again underlined his Jewishness by presenting himself as a victim of historical prejudices. “It hits me twice because I am a Jew. Jews are often accused of double loyalty, as if we were second-class Argentines. It makes me go back to my childhood, when they pressured us asking us if we were loyal to Argentina or Israel. It is an infamy.”

Recently, Timerman reiterated his anguished protest in the opinion page of The New York Times in an article in which he defined himself as a “political prisoner” and a “target of the anger of the Jewish community.” He also claimed that the pact with Iran aroused “vindictive anger” against him. He accused the judge who ordered his house arrest to deny him medical attention in time, which “is like condemning me to death.” “Argentina´s Constitution does not permit the death penalty,” he said with a heavy-heart, “but with a judge like this, that is little guarantee.”

Needless to say, all of these protestations are exaggerated falsehoods. The authorities of AMIA and DAIA do not question the Jewish identity of their Jewish critics, nor has Judge Claudio Bonadio denied him timely medical attention. What is killing Mr. Timerman is a cancer, not a judge. His double-loyalty complaint for being Jewish is especially curious, given that he was more loyal to Tehran than to Argentina or Israel in signing the controversial Memorandum with legendary Shoa-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad´s Iran on January 27 –International Remembrance Holocaust Day, incidentally. What he calls “vindictive anger” is nothing more than legal retribution for his crimes against his own country, and of course he is not a political prisoner detained because of his ideas. In what can be seen as an act of personal despair, he resorted to the memory of his late father Jacobo, who was indeed a politically-persecuted man during the time of the dictatorship, 1976-1983. “Sadly, it is not the first time that my family has been a victim of political persecution,” he wrote in The Times, “my father, the journalist Jacobo Timerman, was also a political prisoner.”

The former minister has something in common with his late father, although not exactly for being a political prisoner. After being rescued by Israel from the torture chambers of the Argentine Military Junta, Jacobo, now free to express his ideas, became a harsh critic of Israel’s policies; that is, a censor of the very nation that saved him from an almost certain death. Many considered that by acting that way, he morally betrayed the Jewish State. Approximately four decades later, by signing a pact with the main existential enemy of Israel and with the regime that murdered Argentines on its soil, his son went further still. Hector Timerman not only betrayed Argentina. He also betrayed that religious identity that he now so fondly invokes in self-defense.

About the Author
Julian Schvindlerman is an Argentine writer and journalist specializing in Middle East affairs. He lectures on World Politics at the University of Palermo (in Buenos Aires) and is a regular contributor to Infobae and Perfil. He is the editor of Coloquio, the flagship publication of the Latin American Jewish Congress. He is the author of Escape to Utopia: Mao's Red Book and Gaddafi's Green Book; The Hidden Letter: A History of an Arab-Jewish Family; Triangle of Infamy: Richard Wagner, the Nazis and Israel; Rome and Jerusalem: Vatican policy toward the Jewish state; and Land for Peace, Land for War.