Chavez's Venezuela: The Jewish Community Under Threat
The Flashpoint: Chavez Reacts
Posted: February 2, 2009
A series of statements and actions by President Hugo Chavez in response to Israel's operation in Gaza triggered a wave of anti-Semitism across the country:
On January 6, 2009, President Hugo Chavez expelled Israel's ambassador to Venezuela along with six other Israeli diplomats.
After the expulsion of Israeli diplomats, President Chavez made very provocative statements calling on the Venezuelan Jewish community to speak out against the actions of Israel. His statements fostered an atmosphere of intimidation and fear for the Jewish community, as Chavez held the community accountable for events completely outside of their control.
On January 14, 2009, Venezuela officially severed relations with the State of Israel ending 60 years of diplomatic ties and deepening the vulnerability of Venezuelan Jews.
In televised statements, President Chavez claimed that the Israeli Mossad and the CIA were responsible for poisoning former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.
Anti-Israel rallies were organized by social and political organizations with ties to President Chavez, religious Muslim leaders and Venezuelan-Arab leaders. The rallies and marches in Caracas were given prominence on the airwaves of the official government media. One protest in Caracas was co-sponsored by the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela PSUV, the political party of Chavez.
At the anti-Israel protests, government officials including the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Foreign Affairs made comparisons between the situation in Gaza and the Holocaust. The President of the National Assembly falsely claimed that Israel was using chemical weapons against Palestinian civilians. A congresswoman from Chavez's political party claiming Israel is a manufactured state.
By trivializing the horrors of the Holocaust and equating the Nazi efforts to exterminate Jews with the current military actions of Israel against the Hamas terrorist threat, President Chavez violated the "Declaration Against Racism" signed by Presidents Chavez along with the presidents of Brazil and Argentina three weeks prior to the outbreak of violence in Gaza. The declaration condemned anti-Semitism and other types of ethnic discrimination.
The principles of that Declaration were violated by Chavez the moment he put the weight of Israel's right of self defense on the shoulders of Venezuelan Jews. Instead of promoting tolerance and understanding, President Chavez chose to encourage biased actions toward a minority group of citizens. Ironically, the use of Holocaust references singled out the minority that sought refuge in the hospitable land of Venezuela during the Nazi regime.