More than 40,000 people gathered on the streets of Buenos Aires this week to demand that those responsible for last year’s bombing of the Jewish community’s central headquarters be brought to justice.
Exactly one year after the devastating attack, Argentines paid tribute to the 86 Jews who died in the July 18, 1994, explosion. The silent crowd listened as the names of the victims were read and then observed a moment of silence.
Tuesday’s rally and memorial service that followed were two of dozens of ceremonies across the country. Commemorations were also held elsewhere around the world, including in New York, where the Anti-Defamation League sponsored a tree-planting ceremony and memorial service.
The anniversary commemoration in Buenos Aires was attended by former Argentine President Raul Alfonsin, Israeli member of Knesset Benny Temkin of Meretz, Argentine opposition politicians and government ministers and officials.
Reflecting the frustration of the crowd at the lack of progress in the investigation of the attack, Argentine Interior Minister Carlos Corah – – himself a Jew — was booed. Argentine President Carlos Menem did not attend.
Luis Czyzewski, the father of Paola, a 21-year-old victim of the bombing, accused the Argentine government of neglecting to investigate anti-Semitic threats and discrimination in the country, thus making it possible “for murderers to operate here.”
“My daughter died because this country opened its doors to those who carried out the Holocaust 50 years ago,” Czyzewski said. “She died because impunity is rampant here and that makes Argentina an ideal target for terrorists.”
Ruben Beraja, president of DAIA, the umbrella political organization of the Argentine Jewish community, said although “we have faith in our democratically elected authorities, we have to push them to investigate the bombing and catch the culprits.”
“There is suspicion of neo-Nazi complicity, of conspiracies, of anti-Semitic elements blocking he investigation,” he said. “We all know that. We talk about it in bars, among friends, off the record. Well, it is time we discussed it openly, to know the truth.”
Alberto Crupnicoff, the president of AMIA, the community’s social service agency and the main occupant of the building that was destroyed in the terrorist attack, sounded a note of resolve in the community.
The bomb “did not destroy Jewish life in Argentina,” he said. “We have a 1,000- year-old experience in rebuilding ourselves, and AMIA is functioning again,” he said.
Later in the evening, Rabbi Avi Weiss of New York was taken to task for hi allegations that top Argentine officials are covering up for those responsible for the attack.
Menem rejected the charges, which first appeared by Weiss in La Nacion, Argentina’s most respected newspaper. Argentine Jewish leaders also distanced themselves from his remarks.
Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who is heading the investigation, reportedly summoned Weiss on Wednesday to present proof of his charges.