Activists Protest Against Award Presented to President of Argentina

Crying “Shame, shame,” and “Why weren’t you with the families in Buenos Aires?” Rabbi Avi Weiss disrupted a gathering of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation on Monday because it was honoring Argentina’s President Carlos Menem.

Weiss was protesting the presentation of the World Statesman Award to Menem in light of Argentina’s failure to apprehend the terrorists who bombed the Jewish community building in Buenos Aires on July 18 and the Israeli Embassy there two years earlier. Weiss and a colleague from his Coalition of Concern-Amcha lay huddled together on the floor of the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Pierre.

After allowing them to speak to the media, police arrested Weiss and David Kalb, and took them to the 20th police precinct, where they were charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. They were ordered to appear in court on Oct. 24.

Weiss, who in the days following this summer’s blast flew to Buenos Aires to meet with Menem and members of the Argentine Cabinet, told reporters about the families of those who died in the bombing and his concern that Argentina’s border is so easily breached.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president and founder of the ecumenical group Appeal of Conscience, decried Weiss’s actions.

“Anyone should be free to demonstrate, but the few should not terrorize the others in the world,” he said. “We are all in the same boat.”

Noting that his organization had nominated Menem for the award months before the July bombing in Buenos Aires, Schneier said he is “satisfied that the Argentine government has brought in the CIA, the FBI, the Mossad and the French Secret Service, and is doing everything it can to bring the terrorists to justice.”

Menem, who had met with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations earlier Monday morning, told a reporter that Argentina is “in the midst of the investigation,” into the terrorist attack, which killed 99 people and wounded nearly 200.

In his speech at the luncheon, Menem made only limited reference to the bombing, saying, “This abhorrent act was an attack on the Argentine people as a whole.

“I wish to reiterate the strong commitment of the Argentine government to fully investigate this act and to find and punish those responsible.”

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