Argentina is observing the grim 25th anniversary of a horrific car bombing at a Jewish community center. Its government has never arrested the culprits.
(The New York Times) Twenty-five years after Argentina’s largest Jewish community center was bombed, murdering 85 people and wounding another 300, the cries of the dead call out to me as I walk this city’s streets, having traveled to be with Argentina’s Jewish community this week to share its grief on this terrible anniversary and to meet government officials to demand that justice finally be done.
Two years after an attack on the Israeli Embassy here in March 1992 that took 29 lives, the suicide car bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association on July 18, 1994, became the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in the Diaspora since the Holocaust. Yet we still have no incontrovertible official explanation of who was behind it, nor arrests of any culprits.
In the quarter-century since the attack, Argentine leader after leader has tried to cover up the truth of who exactly was responsible for this act of terrorism and who in the government abetted it.
This is not my first trip to Argentina. I came here immediately after the bombing, to be with the bereaved. A few days later, Carlos Menem, who was then the country’s president, granted me a one-on-one meeting at his residence in which he tried to convince me that there would be no cover-up, that Argentina would find the truth.
One year later, when I returned to Buenos Aires to again seek the truth and console my fellow Jews in their undying grief, I got a personal look at the cover-up. Mr. Menem’s minions tried to shut me up. And the person appointed to be a special prosecutor for the bombing, Juan José Galeano, subpoenaed me to his office, bullied me and tried to intimidate me with thinly veiled threats if I didn’t stop looking into the matter on my own.
Nor did it end there. In 2013, another Argentine president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, tried to bury history by signing a memorandum of agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing.
Iran should investigate the bombing? The very idea was as absurd as asking Al Qaeda to investigate the men who flew into the World Trade Center.
Today, it is almost certain that Iran had a role in the bombing and that its proxy, Hezbollah, almost surely carried it out. Those charges had been made formally in 2006 by an honest and brave special prosecutor, Alberto Nisman. But in 2015 he was assassinated on the day before he was going to charge Ms. Kirchner and other government officials with conducting a cover-up, and to reveal information about the murderous actions of both Iran and Hezbollah.
Mr. Menem and Ms. Kirchner are now senators in the Argentine government, a position that gives them immunity from prosecution. But who have they been protecting? Was Mr. Menem trying to cover up the role of neo-fascist and ultra-right-wing thugs he had placed in important intelligence and security positions? Among the most well known of these notorious figures was Col. Pascual Oscar Guerrieri, who was appointed by Mr. Menem as an adviser to the State Intelligence Agency.
Did Ms. Kirchner sign the memorandum of understanding with the Iranians in exchange for oil and trade? Is that why Argentina—to this day—shamefully maintains diplomatic relations with Iran?
We won’t know the answers to these and many other questions until the mountain of deceit that has been shoveled atop the dead is cleared away. Only at that point will Argentina be able to do justice to their memory. It will be only at that point that their cries will be stilled in my mind.
The dead can’t be brought back to life, of course. But a moral reckoning, and a historical cleansing, can be achieved with further investigation—this time in the open air. And the dead will have a measure of peace, as will their still-grieving survivors.
By Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss, a longtime activist for Jewish causes and human rights, is the founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and the founder of the rabbinical schools Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat.