Argentine Jews pack synagogue, denounce recent anti-Semitic acts

BUENOS AIRES, Sept. 28 (JTA) – Some 1,000 people crowded into a synagogue here this week in the Argentine capital to hear an all-too-familiar message: The government has not done enough to solve two anti-Semitic bombings that occurred earlier this decade. Also familiar were some of the rituals that traditionally mark the commemorations of such events – in particular, the recitation of Kaddish. The people who appeared on the podium Monday night were also quite known to the audience. They included Israel’s ambassador to Argentina, Yitzhak Aviran, an outspoken critic of the Argentine government’s failure to find those responsible for both the 1992 car bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center – attacks that killed 115 people and left hundreds of others wounded. Another speaker, Rogelio Cichowolsky, president of DAIA, an umbrella group of Jewish associations that organized the event, accused anti-Semitic elements within the government, the security forces and the justice system for the lack of progress in prosecuting those responsible for the repeated attacks on the community, including the 1992 and 1994 bombings. “One of the biggest threats against peace is the perverse connivance between criminals dressed up in police uniforms, judges who conceal the truth and politicians who look the other way,” Cichowolsky said. His comments – and the event itself – came one week after vandals desecrated 63 tombs at the La Tablada Jewish cemetery near Buenos Aires. The cemetery has been the target of similar attacks in the past, most recently in December 1997. Cichowolsky and other community leaders denounced the fact that such racist acts go unpunished. Aviran, for his part, said it is “impossible to understand why there’s been no one held responsible for these anti-Semitic acts of vandalism.” The attack on the cemetery has not been labeled a racist act, because no bigoted writings were found at the site. As a result, the case is being handled not by federal authorities, but by the Buenos Aires provincial police force. This, however, provides little comfort to the local Jewish community, which has charged that members of the force have been linked to past anti-Semitic attacks. With presidential elections less than four weeks away, the activities of the provincial police have been a recurrent campaign issue. The force is under the control of governor Eduardo Duhalde, the presidential candidate of the ruling party, Partido Justicialista. The police force, once touted by Duhalde as the “best in the world,” has been linked in past years with the AMIA bombing, other cemetery desecrations, the murder of a photojournalist and organized crime. Organizers of Monday night’s event did not want the anti-Semitic attacks to become a campaign issue. But they did urge all political parties to work together, regardless of which one is in power and which is in the opposition. “We want to stop attacks on the Jewish community, and that requires the political resolve of the authorities,” said AMIA President Hugo Ostrower.

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