Sunday, August 17, 2008
How far should Jews trust Hugo Chavez?
. . . a far as a five-year-old Jewish boy can throw him
Venezuelan Pres. Chavez Reassures Jewish Leaders
by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez assured World Jewish Congress (WJC) leaders on Wednesday that he would work with the Jewish community against anti-Semitism. The meeting succeeded in allaying much of the fear among Jewish leaders about increasing anti-Semitism in the South American country.
WJC Secretary-General Michael Schneider told the Associated Press that the meeting was a positive one, and that Chavez and the Jewish community are "on the same page" regarding anti-Semitism. Chavez told the Venezuela has not had a fully accredited ambassador in Israel since 2006.delegation that he would arrange a joint statement condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination with Brazilian and Argentinian leaders, Schneider added.
The Venezuelan government maintains that there are open relations with the local Jewish community, despite disagreements over issues such as Venezuela's burgeoning alliance with Iran. In addition, Venezuela has not had a fully accredited ambassador in Israel since 2006, when Chavez recalled his nation's representative over what he termed a "genocide" and "new Holocaust" perpetrated by Israel during the Second Lebanon War. That conflict was sparked by the Iranian proxy militia in Lebanon, the Islamist Hizbullah terror organization.
The Chavez-WJC meeting came after a lengthy series of regime-backed or inspired incidents that have stirred hatred against the successful and secure Jewish community of Venezuela.
In June of this year, the Russian newspaper Moscow News quoted Venezuela's ambassador to Russia, Alexis Navarro, as saying that a 2002 coup against Chavez involved Israeli agents who were "Venezuelan citizens, but Jews."
In 2007, the Club Hebraica in Caracas was raided by two dozen security personnel under a search warrant issued to uncover weapons allegedly stashed in the Jewish community center. No weapons were found and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote to Chavez at the time,
"We join the Confederaction Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela (CAIV) in their denunciation of the raid as an unjustifiable act against the Venezuelan Jewish community. We join them in their call to investigate these acts which create unnecessary tensions between Venezuelan Jews and the Venezuelan government." The ADL further told Chavez that it is "troubling that anti-Semitism continues to be used as a political tool in your country."
In 2006, the Ministry of Information itself organized a demonstration outside the main Sephardi synagogue in Caracas. The synagogue was subsequently targeted with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel graffiti.
In 2005, during a speech on Christmas, Chavez made reference to "the descendants of those who killed Christ," who had "taken possession of all the wealth in the world." However, in a meeting with Jewish leaders shortly afterward, Chavez said that he had not been referring to the Jews.
Approximately 12,500 Jews live in Venezuela, 25 percent less than 10 years ago.
Comment on This Story