Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Avigdor Lieberman's epic chutzpah

Surprisingly enough, a Christopher Hitchens column about Israel that I actually agree with, on Avigdor Lieberman.

Now we have to watch the rise of a thug and a demagogue who has called with relish for the execution of elected Arab members of Israel's parliament if they meet with Hamas, who has demanded the drowning of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea, whose supporters chant "Death to the Arabs" at their rallies, and who has materialized the worst fears of those Arabs who have made the longest-lasting accommodation with the Jewish state. Avigdor Lieberman's essentially totalitarian and Inquisitionist style, though, may be even more manifest in his insistence that non-Zionist haredim, or pious Jews, also either take an oath of loyalty or forfeit their citizenship. This takes the ax to the root of the idea that Jews have a presence in Jerusalem from time immemorial and that their resulting rights are not derived from, or dependent on, any state or any ideology. Shame on Benjamin Netanyahu if he makes even a temporary alliance with Lieberman. As questionable as the "right to return" may already be, it certainly cannot confer the right to expel.

I knew about the racism, the call for the execution of Arab members of Knesset who meet with Hamas (what about Israeli officials who are actually negotiating with Hamas right now?) and the threat to Israeli Arabs' citizenship. I hadn't known that he made the same threat to the non-Zionist haredim. No wonder Rav Ovadya Yosef (the leader of Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party) warned that a vote for Lieberman was a vote for Satan: "Whoever votes for Lieberman gives strength to Satan."

I haven't written earlier about the results of the Israeli election on Feb. 10 because frankly I find them so depressing. Any election in which Bibi Netanyahu is not the worst choice elected is really a bad sign.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Waltz with Bashir does not win an Oscar

I'm disappointed to see that the Israeli film Waltz with Bashir did not win an Academy Award tonight, but rather a Japanese film called Departures. I saw the film last summer in Israel and thought it was excellent, and just participated in a panel discussion about it when it was recently shown in Ithaca.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Venezuela - database of Jewish community stolen

One of the scariest part of the attack on the Caracas synagogue is what was stolen - two computers in the synagogue that contained the database of the Jewish community of Venezuela. This information could be used, obviously, to target any member of the community as an individual - for example, for a kidnapping or extortion, a physical attack - or the community as a whole, for example by rounding them all up or expelling them from Venezuela.

Daniel writes about this:
In one of the most perturbing aspects of the Caracas Synagogue attack we learned that among the stolen items was the registry of all Jewish families associated with Tiferet Israel and the Jewish community of Venezuela, including we suppose the amount of gifts offered by each to help sustain the Temple and diverse charities....

By the way, the article listed above establishes without a doubt the "professional" nature of those who were doing the night attack. My guess is on Cuban trained Venezuelan "security" personnel. Chavez is welcome to prove us all wrong at any time by bringing forth the real guilty party. I am not holding my breath.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

More on Venezuela

The Associated Press reports that Venezuela's Jews fear more attacks.
About 15 people overpowered two security guards at the Tiferet Israel Synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting "Jews, get out" on the walls. Most worrisome, according to Elias Farache, president of the Venezuelan-Israelite Association, was their theft of a computer database containing many names and addresses of Jews in Venezuela.

Police are now posted outside the synagogue, and prosecutors said Friday that the security guards "could be involved." Venezuela's attorney general ordered them to court on Feb. 13 — two days before Venezuelans vote in a referendum that could enable Chavez to extend his rule indefinitely.

One week before the invasion, a Chavista columnist named Emilio Silva posted a call to action on Aporrea, a pro-government Web site, describing Jews as "squalid" — a term Chavez often uses to describe his opponents as weak — and exhorting Venezuelans to confront them as anti-government conspirators. "Publicly challenge every Jew that you find in the street, shopping center or park," he wrote, "shouting slogans in favor of Palestine and against that abortion: Israel." Silva called for protests at the synagogue, a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, seizures of Jewish-owned property, the closure of Jewish schools and a nationwide effort "to denounce publicly, with names and last names the members of powerful Jewish groups present in Venezuela."

Aporrea later replaced the column with an apology that describes Silva's posting as anti-Semitic and exhorts Chavistas to show more discipline by criticizing the Israeli government rather than its people or Jews in general.

Silva, a 35-year-old mathematics professor at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, got the message. He told The Associated Press Friday that he couldn't comment on the "controversial subject," and that his "position is to condemn any act that goes against the integrity of any faith or conviction."

But other anti-Semitic writings by Silva remained on the site Friday, including one posted on Jan. 19, a week before the synagogue attack. That posting also crudely criticized a Venezuelan archbishop for failing to condemn Israel's Gaza offensive; offices of the Vatican have been tear gassed twice since then....

Hate crimes have escalated despite Chavez's declaration that his government "rejects any type of aggression against any temple, be it Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or any other." And the attorney general's statement Friday gave no details about any progress investigating a list of more than a dozen threats against Jews that the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations gave her office a week before the synagogue attack.

The group said one threat involved a rabbi who was leaving a Jewish school in Caracas when two men, one wielding a broken bottle, shouted: "Jew, we are coming for you!" A nearby taxi driver offered refuge and sped him away.

Other Jews have stopped wearing yarmulkes while walking to temple on Friday evenings. Simon Galante said he and his brother now fear for their safety after being accosted by men on motorcycles yelling "Murderers!"

"Thank God, nothing more occurred ... we continued walking and ignored the comments, but it's very sad," said Galante, who joined a demonstration against the attacks this week.



Feb. 5: Heidy Gordon, 85, left, and her husband Andres Gordon, 88, survivors of Auschwitz concentration camp, attend a protest against anti-Semitism.

Some more information from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

After five days, with eyewitnesses and video evidence, there is increasing criticism of the government for not identifying the perpetrators of the attack. "A source close to the investigation in the government security services confirmed to the Latin American Herald Tribune that a group of Palestinian and Arab supporters in Venezuela were responsible." Chavez is blaming the opposition for the attack - despite the fact that the opposition would have no reason to attack a synagogue.

Supporters of Chavez have continued this theme and have even blamed the Mossad: "Susana Kalil, a member of the Organization for the Relief of the Palestinian People, pointed the finger at Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. She claimed that Mossad had done it in order to damage the image of Chavez' revolutionary process. She went on to claim that the attack on the Jewish house of worship is typical of Mossad and the Zionist movement worldwide, 'putting bombs in their own synagogues and then accusing the rest of anti-Semitism.'"

Since 2005, Chavez has started a campaign against Jews in Venezuela by saying, "The world is for all of us, then, but it so happens that a minority, the descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ, the descendants of the same ones that kicked Bolivar out of here and also crucified him in their own way over there in Santa Marta, in Colombia. A minority has taken possession all of the wealth of the world, a minority has taken ownership of all of the gold of the planet, of the silver, of the minerals, the waters, the good lands, oil, of the wealth then and have concentrated the wealth in a few hands." This statement of course includes classic anti-semitic tropes - Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus and are trying to take over the world.

The article goes on to say: "Since then he has twice raided Jewish schools and community centers - always close to or on the eve of a visit by the Iranian President - in a continuing campaign that analysts trace back to one of his mentors, the un-repentant anti-semite and Holocaust-denier Norberto Ceresole."

On Ceresole, from the ADL:
Norberto Rafael Ceresole, who died in 2003, was an Argentine sociologist and political scientist, who identified with Peronism and left-wing militias. He was labeled throughout his life as neo-fascist and anti-Semitic because of his Holocaust denial and hatred of Zionism and Israel.

Cresole was one of Chaez's mentors. He came to Venezuela in 1994 at the same time Chavez was being pardoned by President Caldera for his 1992 coup attempt. Cresole was exiled from Venezuela in 1995 by Caldera for his alleged ties with Islamic terrorists, but he returned in 1998 after Chavez's victory and wrote a book entitled, "Caudillo, Ejercito, Pueblo" (Leader, Army, People) about the Chavez revolution. The introductory chapter is titled, "The Jewish question and the State of Israel" and it blames Israel and the world Jewish community for his exile.

Ceresole claimed that Jews use the "myth" of the Holocaust to control the world, although he contended he wasn't an anti-Semite. He repeatedly stated that he has nothing against Jews, but that rather he was against the State of Israel for using the Holocaust for political gain.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Anti-semitism in Venezuela

When I was growing up I believed that anti-semitism was an affliction of the past - it was not something that was going to affect me. It was something that happened before I was born - the Holocaust was over and Jew-hatred in the United States had come to an end after the horrific revelations of the Jewish deaths at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. I did not even know any survivors when I was growing up - the one time I saw someone at a family bar mitzvah with a number on his arm I was frozen with shock, and never talked about it with my parents. I hardly experienced any anti-semitism on a personal basis.

As I grew older, I began to read articles about attacks on Jews outside of Israel - for example, the attack on the synagogue on the Rue Copernica in Paris in 1980, which killed 4 people outside while 600 were at Shabbat services inside. Or an attack on August 9, 1982, the Goldenberg restaurant on the Rue de Rosiers in the Marais (Pletzl) in Paris was attacked by Abu Nidal - six people were killed and 22 were wounded. But it was clear that these were acts of terrorists, not of the government of France. I could still think - well, there may be occasional anti-semitic terrorist attacks on Jews outside of Israel by people who are twisted enough to think that all Jews should be blamed for whatever Israel does. I believed that outside of the Arab and Muslim world, governments will protect Jews, they will not conspire against them - and there are now hardly any Jews left in the Arab-Muslim world, so we are still relatively safe in the world.

The news coming out of Venezuela has shattered this illusion that I had still nurtured from my childhood. The Venezuelan government is consciously fomenting Jew hatred and the fruits of this teaching have issued forth in the form of direct attacks against Jews, Jewish schools, and synagogues. This is the first time I can remember in my lifetime that there has been a deliberate governmental anti-semitic campaign in a non-Arab or Muslim country.

Daniel Duqenal, of Venezuela News and Views, translates part of an anti-semitic article published in Aporrea, which is supported by the Venezuelan government: Teaching antisemitism in Venezuela. The anti-semitic article gives instructions to Venezuelans on how to conduct an anti-semitic campaign: boycott Jewish-owned shops or restaurants, or any shops where kosher food is sold; scream at Jews in the street about the Palestinians, denounce any Jew living in Venezuela, especially if owns a business, and questions whether a Jewish school named Hebraica should exist.

The synagogue in Maripérez was attacked a couple of days ago - it was desecrated by thugs.

As Daniel writes:
I did not think that yesterday's post would be validated that fast: the synagogue of Caracas was attacked last night by a group of pro Chavez thugs. They knew perfectly well what they were doing, they knew how to find the Torah and left taking with them the surveillance videos. The antisemitism of Chavez is now having serious consequences....

The government was prompt in taking its distances from the Synagogue attack. Unfortunately for the government even if it can prove that there is no direct links between its Red Shirted storm troopers and the attack, Chavez and his acolytes have been saying too many things against Israel (when not the Jews themselves) not to take blame from this attack. It also does not help the credibility of the government that the "condemnation" was emitted during a political act where the Venezuelan diplomatic expelled from Israel was received as heroes. As if they ever held a stone in some Intifada....

At least elsewhere the condemnation was certainly less ambiguous, showing clearly that any antisemitism in Venezuela is to be found almost exclusively in the chavista ranks. The Catholic Church, the dissident Student movement, the political opposition did not waste time. For many the finger is pointed to the hate speech coming from the government itself, something that this blogger has been writing for years now, and which is today quite open from scholars to some of the best legal minds of the opposition.
Hugo Chavez did "condemn the actions on the synagogue of Caracas" on Sunday, while hinting that opposition leaders actually plotted to attack the synagogue.

The ADL said the incident was not random, rather it was "directly related to the atmosphere of anti-Jewish intimidation promoted by President Chavez and his government apparatus." The ADL called for Chavez to "abandon the official government rhetoric of demonization of Israel and the Jews and to publicly denounce this wanton act of anti-Semitic violence."

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro condemned the attack and promised it would be investigated, while reiterating his government's opposition to what he called Israel's criminal government. "We respect the Jewish people, but we ask respect for the people of Palestine and their right to life," Maduro said in a ceremony called to welcome home two Venezuelan diplomats expelled from Israel this week. [RL: what does Palestine have to do with an attack in Venezuela?!]

The Israeli Foreign Ministry ordered the envoys to leave after Venezuela expelled all Israeli diplomats on January 6th, to protest Israel's offensive in the Gaza strip. Chavez labeled Israeli leaders as genocidal, as nearly 1,300 Palestinians are said to have died in the 22-day offensive in Gaza. [RL: And if Israel had actually wanted to commit genocide, many thousands more of Palestinians in Gaza would be dead now]

Leaders of Venezuela's estimated 15,000-member Jewish community warned that vocal denunciations of Israel by Chavez and the country's government-funded news media may have encouraged Friday's attack. "These declarations permeate society," said Abraham Levy, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations. "We feel uncomfortable, threatened and intimidated," said Elias Farache, of the association.

The Argentine office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, condemned the attack and warned of an anti-Semitic campaign in Venezuela.

Chavez in 2005 sparked outrage in the Jewish community by stating that those who killed Jesus Christ had become the owners of the world's riches. A Venezuelan Jewish organization later came to Chavez's defense, denying the statement was anti-Semitic.
And to think that good leftists in the United States and other western countries consider Hugo Chavez a wonderful revolutionary leader whose Bolivarian Revolution we should all emulate. He is nothing more than a fascist wrapped in the flag of socialism and revolution.

See also Adam Holland on the anti-semitic campaign of the Venezuelan government. And a report on Z-Word about the attack on the Caracas synagogue from Eamonn McDonagh, who usefully provides English translations from Venezuelan newspapers for the Spanish-impaired.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Updated Post on the Israeli election campaign

The Israeli election campaign is in full swing, and election propaganda is a crucial part of it - advertisements from the various parties broadcast after the evening news on television. Jeffrey Goldberg brought my attention to an incredible advertisement for the Israeli Green Leaf party. The party platform aims at legalizing marijuana. They have now decided to take up the cause of Holocaust survivors in Israel. Their election ad combines these two causes:



Update: From the JTA: "Perhaps the most unusual alliance in this year's election is between the Green Leaf Party, which has no seats in the Knesset, and the Pensioners' Party, which has six. Renamed the Holocaust Survivors' and Grown-Up Green Leaf Party, the party's prime issues are legalizing marijuana and pensioners' rights, especially those of Holocaust survivors. One of the party's TV ads shows party head Gil Kopatch smoking a joint at the grave of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion."

Lisa Goldman has also just posted on this bizarre match-up. (She also reports on the much more terrifying prospect that Bibi Netanyahu may be Israel's next prime minister - and as she said, he was the worst Israeli prime minister ever. I was living in Israel for part of that time, and he demonstrated the most amazing incompetence I have seen until the Bush II years in the U.S.)

From the "Holocaust Survivors and Grown-Up Green Leaf Party" website: "The Holocaust Survivors & Grown-Up Green Leaf party is a green, human rights, liberal movement founded in 2008 as a unity of activists from the Green-Leaf party and the Holocaust Survivors movement. Today we running for Knesset for the first time. The ideology we are interested in forwarding is personal freedom, quality of life and decriminalization and legalization of all applications of the cannabis plant. We are a movement of activists that are connected by a common love of Basic Human Freedom. We have no stable source of financial backing and only you can help us realize our vision by giving your personal generous support." Their blog is also entertaining to read and gives the names and biographies of the candidates on the list.

Lisa has also posted the election advertisement for the Hadash Party. Their slogan is "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies." On the evidence of the ad, if I were an Israeli citizen, I would be very inclined to vote for Hadash.