Argentine activists feud four years after deadly attack

BUENOS AIRES, July 22 (JTA) — The fourth anniversary of the bombing of a central Jewish community building is being marked by a divided Argentine Jewish community. As evidence of the divisions, three separate ceremonies were held here in the past week to commemorate the July 18, 1994, attack on the Argentina Israelite Mutual Aid Association, or AMIA, which left 86 dead and close to 300 wounded. The AMIA attack was the second major attack against a Jewish target in Buenos Aires this decade. The first, against the Israeli Embassy in 1992, claimed 29 victims and wounded more than 200. Last Friday, the Argentine Jewish umbrella organization DAIA sponsored a commemoration, without the participation of the grass-roots group Memoria Activa, which includes relatives of the bombing victims. DAIA’s president, Ruben Beraja, said he would not “give a space to people who insult us and denigrate our work.” The rift between the two groups, which has grown as the investigation in the attack appears to remain far from finding those responsible for the bombing, exploded last year during the ceremonies marking the third anniversary of the bombing. As more than 30,000 people paid homage to the victims, the ceremony soon turned into a demonstration against the government and against Jewish community officials. The crowd booed and interrupted Beraja, who represents the Jewish community with the government. Several Cabinet members present at the ceremony were also booed, particularly Interior Minister Carlos Corach, who is Jewish. This year, several Jewish youth organizations gathered 3,500 people at their own memorial demonstration on Saturday. On Monday, Memoria Activa had its own, small ceremony marking the anniversary. Unnoticed amid the ongoing feud was the fact that this year’s ceremonies all told gathered only a fraction of the 30,000 that attended the unified memorial last year. Meanwhile, the bombing was also commemorated in the United States. Memorial ceremonies were held in several cities and the American Jewish Committee released a report examining the investigation into the attack. The report details what has been learned from the AMIA investigation and why some believe the bombing remains unsolved. “Agents of the state are implicated in the bombing,” says the report, “Still No Justice — Four Years After the Bombing of the Argentine Jewish Community Headquarters in Buenos Aires.” “The investigation of the AMIA case exposed an advanced state of corruption in Argentina’s largest police force,” it adds. “Eleven provincial policemen, including high-ranking officers, remain under arrest on charges related to the bombing.” Another obstacle in the investigation, according to the report, is the fact that the Argentine judiciary system is inadequately prepared to handle international terrorism. “Even if conclusive proof is found of Iranian involvement, it is hard to find an Argentine, particularly an Argentine Jew, who believes that the local accomplices of the terrorists — will be punished,” the report says. On Monday, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York marked the anniversary with a “call for justice” for the victims of the bombings. Candles were lit as the names of the victims were read. Public officials and civic and religious leaders called on the Argentine government to take increased action to apprehend the perpetrators of the attacks. Gedale Horowitz, president of the JCRC, called upon Argentine President Carlos Menem to “do everything that can be done” to punish those responsible for the crimes. (JTA intern Julia Strongwater also contributed to this report.)

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