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Synagogue Bombings in Peru and Colombia Are Seen As Part of a Growing Wave of Anti-semitic Violence

December 29, 1982
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Recent attacks against a synagogue in Peru and one in Colombia were the latest in a growing wave of anti-Semitic violence that has alarmed Latin American Jews in recent months, according to Rabbi Morton Rosenthal, director of Latin American Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

He warned that terrorism inspired by the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Arab groups is sharply on the increase in Latin America.

Both synagogues were attacked on the evening of December 3. In Lima, Peru, the Great Synagogue was bombed, leaving windows shattered, moments after several hundred worshippers had vacated the premises. It was the first time that a synagogue had been attacked in Peru, a country where violence has never been directed against houses of worship. Rosenthal said.

The attack was denounced by Peruvian President Fernanda Belaunde Terry, who said it was linked with organized international terrorism. Peruvian Jewish leaders subsequently issued a statement declaring that since the opening of a PLO office in Peru, that country has been flooded with anti-Semitic and hate-filled propaganda inciting Peruvians to acts of violence.


In the second attack, six masked persons wielding machine-guns invaded a synagogue in Medellin, Colombia. The attackers ordered a small group of elderly Jews to line up against a wall.

Then they proceeded to desecrate the synagogue, Rosenthal said, burning and scattering Torah scrolls, setting the reader’s desk on fire, splashing acid on draperies and smearing pro-PLO slogans on the walls with red paint. One of the worshippers was burned by the acid.

The terrorists swore “vengeance” for the Beirut camps massacres and proclaimed, “Death to Israel and Yankee imperialism,” according to Rosenthal. Then they unfurled two flags which they had brought with them — an Israeli and on American — and burned them before the horrified worshippers.

The hand of the PLO was also evident in another attack, two months earlier, on the Jewish center of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Rosenthal said. In that attack, bus loads of university students shouted “Zionists, murderers” as they scrawled “PLO ” in black paint on windows, walls and floors of the building.

Rosenthal pointed out that PLO-inspired vandalism of Jewish institutions has also taken place in Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador, and bomb attacks have been directed against Israeli embassies in Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala.


Arab terrorists and native Latin Americans linked to them, Rosenthal said, have established a clandestine network of terror in Latin America which they are willing to acknowledge publicly.

A Colombian terrorist who identified himself as “Commander Four” told a reporter for the Colombian magazine “Cromos” late last year that he was organizing a guerrilla force to oppose “Jewish and North American imperialism.”

Rosenthal said the incursion into the synagogue in Medellin “may well be linked to the formation of such a guerrilla force.” He added: “Not only do these terrorist groups pose a danger to Jewish communities but they create additional instability in nations which are already beset by social and political unrest.”

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