Daniel Gustavo Loza was at a university in Buenos Aires a few kilometers from the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association when a bomb exploded on July 18, 1994, killing 85 and injuring hundreds.
“We heard a big noise, but we didn’t know what it is,” said Loza, who was at Congregation Mikveh Israel on July 18 for a commemoration organized by the American Jewish Committee on the 20th anniversary of the attack.
“They said, ‘They’re bombing the Jewish community, they’re bombing the Jewish community.’ ”
The terrorist group Hezbollah, which has strong ties to Iran, is suspected of orchestrating the attack, in which a suicide bomber drove a van full of explosives into the AMIA building.
Two decades later, no one has been prosecuted for the crime. Accordingly, the event at Mikveh Israel served not just as a memorial, but also a call for justice.
“Talking about it, I get chicken skin. It was a very shocking moment,” said Loza, an attorney who is not Jewish and now lives in Bucks County. In Argentina, “we are very open. We don’t have religious issues or racial issues. So for us, it was an attack against Argentina. It was not an attack against only the Jewish community.”
The Argentine government agreed in 2013 to establish a joint commission with Iran to investigate the bombing, but Israeli officials and Jewish leaders have since criticized the commission as it has not led to any arrests
“We appreciate the efforts of the Argentine government to bring justice, but it’s 20 years too long,” said Yaron Sideman, Israel’s consul general to the mid-Atlantic region. He disagreed with the South American country’s decision to form the commission with Iran.
“Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and they perpetrated and masterminded these attacks. Engaging with Iran in order to investigate them is sort of like letting the cat guard the milk. We don’t think that will be the right direction to move forward on this.”
At Mikveh Israel, the more than 30 people in attendance held a moment of silence before Loza and others read the names of the attack victims.
The Jewish community in Buenos Aires rebuilt the community center after the bombing and were “committed to surviving and thriving after this horrible event,” said Fred Strober, president of AJC’s Philadelphia and South Jersey region. “We are confident that the” Argentine government “will finally bring these perpetrators to justice.”
Jose Luis Perez-Gabilondo, the Argentine consul general in New York, attended the event but did not speak and declined to answer questions from the media after the event.