Buenos Aires — Ten years after a terrorist bomb destroyed the Israeli Embassy here and shook the confidence of Argentine Jewry, the Jewish community commemorated the tragedy that took 22 lives. And Jewish leaders, both local and from the United States, despite a declaration by Argentina’s president of his interest in the perpetrators’ capture and conviction, criticized the government for a decade of inaction in the case.
Some 3,000 Argentine Jews gathered on Sunday at the site of the former embassy — now known as Embassy of Israel Square — to hear speeches by leaders of the Jewish community and to boo the remarks of Justice Minister Jorge Vanossi.
The next day President Eduardo Duhalde, in a meeting with a delegation from the North American Boards of Rabbis, linked his country’s search for the persons behind the embassy bombing and the fatal 1995 attack on the AMIA Jewish community building with the American campaign against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
“I have no doubt they are the same people,” Duhalde said, offering no facts to support his contention.
And the president said he has authorized members of the intelligence service to offer testimony in investigations of the two bombings. The previous inaccessability of the intelligence forces was considered one among many impediments to the often-stalled probes.
Though the authorization regrading the intelligence personnel is a good sign, Rabbi March Schneier, president of NABOR, said “I’m disappointed. He seemed to pass the buck.”
Duhalde, calling Argentina “one of the first victims” of international terrorism, said “We don’t have the possibility to prosecute the terrorists.”
“I was looking for a more aggressive declaration on his part,” said Rabbi Schneier, who urged the president to tell President Bush and the Argentine public about his concern over the bombings. “If he doesn’t, then it was just lip service going on.”
The Argentine Jewish community has “a lot of bitterness” over the government’s conduct of the investigations of the embassy bombing, which has brought no arrests, and of the AMIA bombing, for which 20 Buenos Aires police officers accused as accessories in the crime, have been on trial since September, says Alfredo Neuburger, director of communications of DAIA, the political arm of the Jewish community. “The community is more critical of the embassy case, but it is not happy with either.” Eighty-five were killed in the AMIA attack.
Argentine Jews want “a clear indication of responsibility, both international and local,” Neuburger says. Iran and Iranian-backed Hezbollah members are suspected to be responsible for both attacks, he says — “but it’s not enough to know this.”