Remembering the Buenos Aires embassy blast

BUENOS AIRES, March 19 (JTA) — Eight years after a terrorist bomb destroyed the Israeli Embassy here, Argentine officials are again vowing to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

“This is an open wound for all Argentines,” Argentine President Fernando de la Rua said at a ceremony last Friday that marked the anniversary and inaugurated a public square where the embassy once stood.

With hundreds of people witnessing the inauguration, de la Rua and his entire Cabinet were present along with a host of other government officials to show their solidarity with the victims.

While this represented somewhat of a change from the days of former President Carlos Menem, who never attended such ceremonies, members of the local Jewish community were harshly critical of Argentine officials for stalling the investigation.

Among the harshest critics was outgoing Israeli Ambassador Itzhak Aviran, who has repeatedly lashed out at Argentina’s failure to find those responsible for either the 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing or the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center — attacks that killed more than 100 people and left hundreds of others wounded.

“There has been a lack of commitment and interest in the investigation” of the embassy attack, Aviran said during his speech at the ceremony.

“So much evidence disappeared. There were so many attempts to close the case. I wonder if all of our efforts have been in vain.”

Aviran, who has charged that Hezbollah operatives were behind both the embassy and AMIA bombings, said last Friday that the courts should investigate local people who could have participated in the embassy attack, which he attributed to anti-Semitism prevalent in Argentine society.

After years of delay, Argentina recently announced plans to try 20 people for the AMIA bombing.

But eight years after the Israeli Embassy was reduced to rubble, there are no suspects and there are no clues.

Even the death toll has been disputed.

According to Argentine officials, 22 people were killed in the blast. The memorial square dedicated last Friday has a plaque remembering 22 people, and there are 22 trees planted nearby.

But media reports generally state that 29 people were killed, and some sources say the number could be as high as 40.

Among the hundreds who gathered for the commemoration, frustration and despair were the prevailing emotions.

Survivors of the blast embraced each other. Victims’ relatives shed tears.

“This happened because of the hatred of Israel and of Jews,” said Aliza Margulis, a resident of Westfield, N.J., who was visiting relatives in Buenos Aires. “This could happen anywhere in the world. It is terrible that eight years have gone by and nothing has happened.”

A group of high school students interrupted some of the speeches with chants.

“We are tired of speeches. We want justice,” said one of the students, who asked to remain anonymous.

Carlos Susevich, whose daughter died in the embassy bombing, recited Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, at the ceremony.

“While the Kaddish is usually read to honor our elders, this time it is for our children, who are gone forever,” Susevich said.

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