Anti-Semitism in Venezuela in Wake of the Gaza Flotilla
Chavez Conspiracies: A Gateway to Anti-Semitism
Posted: June 16, 2010
Updated: July 6, 2010
In the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident on May 31, 2010, President Hugo Chavez and his government apparatus have once again resorted to anti-Zionist allegations, including false conspiracy theories about Israel.
For the Chavez regime, it wasn't enough to sever diplomatic relations with the State of Israel in 2009. This time, Chavez broadcast on national TV that the Mossad wants to kill him, ranted that the "genocidal State of Israel" finances the Venezuelan opposition, and cursed the State of Israel, saying, "I want to condemn from the bottom of my soul, from the bottom of my guts: Damn you State of Israel! Damn you Terrorist and Assassins!"
Chavez tries to inoculate himself against charges of anti-Semitism by cynically asserting he is not against Jews. "They accuse me of being an enemy of the Jews … They know they have our affection and respect ... I doubt very much that a Venezuelan Jew would support an atrocity like that one [perpetrated by Israel]." This ploy to prod Venezuelan Jews to speak out against Israel is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate, which opens the door to anti-Semitism against the local Jewish community should they fail to heed Chavez's call.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro went even further, questioning the loyalty of Venezuelan Jews by attempting to corner them into denouncing statements allegedly made by an Israeli official and making them side with the government's viewpoint. In addition, Maduro described a scenario by which any potential attack in Venezuela or to its Jewish community can be attributed to the Israeli Mossad -- a conspiracy theory similar to one typically used by anti-Semites who claim Jews and Israel were behind terrorist attacks such as the 1994 AMIA attack in Buenos Aires or even 9/11. Furthermore, the Web site of the Venezuelan Embassy in the U.S. posts Maduro's statements by calling the State of Israel a "so-called" state.
Since the flotilla affair, there have not been physical attacks against individual Jews or Jewish institutions. Nevertheless, the Jewish community in Venezuela has been dealing with an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the last decade, enabled by the hostile environment created by their government and its media outlets.
The two raids perpetrated by the government against the Jewish community complex in 2004 and 2007 have yet to be explained. The investigation of the attack on the Tiferet Israel synagogue by a violent anti-Semitic gang in 2009 has lacked conclusiveness. Anti-Jewish graffiti written on walls of Jewish institutions and Jewish-owned businesses have been ignored by the government. Anti-Semitic rhetoric in the government controlled media is unchallenged.
Prior to Chavez's rise to power in Venezuela, anti-Semitic sentiments were negligible. Current anti-Semitism in that country is, in essence, a byproduct of the outright hostility the government has toward the State of Israel.
This hostility is tied to Chavez's coziness with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose antipathy toward Israel and the Jewish people, and sponsorship of terrorist groups is well documented. In addition, the proximity of the Chavez regime with Syria, another state considered by the U.S. as a sponsor of terror, make clear the Bolivarian regime's geopolitical preferences. Chavez's support for certain radical Islamists and the effects on the local Jewish community has also been documented in previous reports by the Anti-Defamation League.
The Venezuelan government routinely uses conspiracy theories to scapegoat and blame the "other" and portray them as an enemy of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution in order to divert attention from local problems. Whether the targets are the governments of the "U.S. Empire", Israel, Colombia or all of the above; the Chavez regime concocts false allegations which plants hateful seeds in the minds of government supporters and some of them take his cues as a carte blanche to vilify these alleged enemies.
This vilification is particularly present in government-run media and the so called "alternative" media run by government sympathizers who are intricately intertwined with the government apparatus.
Most notably, the Web site Aporrea.org, whose founder and webmaster until February 2009 was Martin Sanchez, Venezuela's Consul General of San Francisco, is a troublesome forum for anti-Semitic sentiments, filled with stereotypes of Jews reminiscent of the fictional Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In addition to the media, the majority of the anti-Israel rallies that took place in Venezuela surrounding the flotilla affair have been sponsored, organized or advertized by the government. As a result, the anti-Semitic rhetoric and Nazi comparisons present at these rallies bear witness to the government's complicity.
This report sheds light on how anti-Zionist rhetoric surrounding the Gaza flotilla affair spewed by Chavez and his cohorts has enabled Venezuelan government sympathizers to bring to the forefront their anti-Semitic canards.
The Venezuelan government's extreme bias vis-à-vis the Middle East conflict has once again opened the door to the use of age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes such as Zionist control of government, media and finances, claims of Jews as "Christ killers," calls to boycott companies allegedly owned by Jews, and the use of Nazi imagery to describe the Jewish State.
Once again, an environment of anti-Zionist sentiment in government-linked airwaves is putting Venezuelan Jews in harm's way.