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.

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