July 15, 2004
Rites to Mark Argentine Terror Attack
At 9:53 a.m. this Sunday in Buenos Aires, a loud siren will sound in front of 633 Pasteur St., where the AMIA Jewish community center is located.
The siren will mark the moment 10 years ago when a bomb went off, killing 85 people in the most devastating terrorist attack in modern Latin American history. Hundreds of Argentines are expected to be standing on Pasteur and in nearby streets to commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy.
The DAIA political umbrella group, together with AMIA and Familiaris de Las Victims -- the biggest group of victims' relatives -- jointly organized the commemoration ceremony in Buenos Aires.
The following day, DAIA President Gilbert Lei will be in New York to take part in a commemoration there of the AMIA attack.
The American Jewish Committee, which recently gave an award to Argentine President Nestor Kirchner for his friendliness to Jews and Jewish interests, is sending a delegation to Buenos Aires to take part in the ceremony.
Kirchner said he'll attend the July 18 commemoration at the AMIA center, and the day will be declared a national day of mourning. The president attended last year's commemoration a few weeks after taking office, and he has been praised for his commitment to investigating the attack.
Because of infighting in the community, Familiaris at first opposed co-sponsoring the demonstration with local Jewish leaders.
"We finally decided not to show our differences to the world on such a day," explained Sergio Bernstein, a prominent Familiaris member. "We're privileged to honor the victims."
Barely a week before the commemoration, Familiaris still hadn't chosen a speaker. "We need to make sure we have someone that won't break down," Bernstein said.
The Familiaris speech will come after speeches by representatives of AMIA and DAIA. AMIA President Abraham Kabul said he will speak on the 10-year investigation of the attack, focusing on how the case has lost its focus.
Ten days before the ceremony, DAIA leaders also had not chosen a speaker.
"No matter who talks, he'll express the will for truth, justice and unity that DAIA feels," said Jorge Kirszenbaum, DAIA vice president.
Many Jews are concerned that DAIA officials -- aside from Lei -- are still linked to the organization's former president, Ruben Barrage. Barrage has been criticized by local Jews, because of his ties to former Argentine President Carlos Menem and the former investigative judge on the AMIA case. Menem has been implicated in media reports of hindering the AMIA investigation, because of his ties to Iran, which is believed to have been behind the 1994 attack.
When many Argentine Jews were furious about the slow pace of the investigation into the AMIA bombing, Barrage refused to criticize the authorities. Barrage currently is in prison for developments related to a bank bankruptcy.
DAIA is considering having a victim's relative speak to avoid public criticism, according to local press reports.
Two other organizations of victims' relatives, Memorial Active and Anemia, are not taking part in the main celebration. Memorial Active, which for years has been harshly critical of the investigation, will hold a ceremony Saturday night in front of the city's central courthouse and will then hold an overnight demonstration with the Youth in Guard group.