Anti-Semitism blocked bombing probes, report states

BUENOS AIRES — The American Jewish Committee here alleges that Argentina's government, through incompetence and anti-Semitism, has mishandled the investigation into the deadly 1994 bombing of the Jewish community's headquarters.

An AJCommittee report on the bombing cited incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among security and government officials as causes for the inability to solve the July 18, 1994 attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, also known as AMIA, that left 86 dead and more than 300 wounded.

Despite a much-publicized series of raids and arrests, Argentina has failed to find those responsible for carrying out the AMIA bombing.

The government has likewise failed to find those responsible for the March 17, 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which left 29 dead and some 100 wounded.

Those failures, and the feeling that justice for the AMIA bombing victims may never be achieved, pervaded last week's commemorations of the bombing by thousands of Argentineans.

Amid still-fresh grief and sharp calls for justice, Argentina's 250,000 Jews — the world's seventh-largest diaspora community and the largest in South America — voiced fears that they could again become the target of terrorists.

Some 2,500 people gathered last week at the site of the bombing on Pasteur Street by 9:53 a.m., the exact time of the explosion.

A shofar was sounded; emotions reached a peak when Rabbi Alexander Schindler, the recently retired leader of the American Reform movement, read Kaddish for the victims.

Oscar Hansman, the new president of AMIA, said that "almost all voices claiming for justice in Argentina are Jewish, and that worries and scares me."

Diana Malamud, who lost her husband in the bombing, spoke on behalf of the relatives of the victims.

"State-sponsored violence was reinforced by impunity and by the indifference of this government," Malamud said.

In its report, "Waiting for Justice, Two Years After the AMIA Bombing," the AJCommittee cited high levels of corruption and incompetence among Argentina's law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Evidence has surfaced that police may have been involved in selling the van used in the AMIA car bombing, the report said, adding that some suspects have evaded arrest because they were tipped off by police officers.

The report said that "the military, the police and the intelligence services have shown high levels of bigotry, anti-Semitism and rejection of democratic values."