International

Chavez and antisemitism

On Christmas eve 2005, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez delivered a rambling speech in which, among other things, he declared:

The world has enough for all. But it turned out that some minorities, descendants of those who crucified Christ, descendants of those who threw Bolivar out of here and also crucified him in their own way in Santa Marta, there in Colombia, a minority took the world’s riches for themselves.

Unlike the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others, I was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Chavez was referring to Jews. And I did not join them in accusing him of antisemitism for making those remarks.

Far more disturbing to me was the account by the Jewish Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz of reaction to his popular movie “Secuestro Express”:

Jakubowicz was… denounced on the Chavista TV show, The Blade, presented by Mario Silva and Lina Ron, where the film was accused of being part of a Hollywood-Zionist conspiracy. “Ron said she wasn’t anti-semitic,” explains Jakubowicz, “but asked how could a Jew know what was going on in the ranchos. It was the responsibility of the Jewish community to control someone like me if they wanted respect in this nation. The day after, Chavez said he thought the show was too soft on me.”

Now Sammy Eppel, a Caracas-based columnist, has posted excerpts of a slide show he presented at a recent conference, in Budapest, of the Tel Aviv University-based Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. (Click the images to advance.)

The slide show consists largely of quotes from the Venezuela’s pro-Chavez and government-affiliated press. Not every item is conclusively antisemitic, but enough of them are to cause uneasiness (I hope) even among Chavez’s most devoted leftwing enthusiasts.

This, for example, is from the monthly newsletter of Docencia Participativa, the government-affiliated educational institute:

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The walls of the Tiferet Israel synagogue in Caracas are the frequent target of antisemitic graffiti, especially after pro-Chavez demonstrations:

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Despite (or perhaps because of) this, the government considered the synagogue an appropriate venue for an anti-Israel “vigil” during last summer’s war against Hezbollah:

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Now perhaps Chavez would be shocked, shocked, to discover these actions by his fervent supporters, although I’m reminded of Fidelistas who– when confronted by some of the abuses of the Cuban government– respond by saying, “If only Castro knew…”

But there’s a reason why Jew-haters like Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah consider Chavez a “brother.” And it appears Chavez himself recognizes he has a PR problem. He recently tried to arrange a visit to a Chabad synagogue in Caracas– which, I suppose, he believed would grant him immunity from charges of antisemitism. Fortunately the synagogue’s rabbi saw it for the stunt it was and rejected the proposed visit.

It seems Chavez wants to have it both ways– to inflame the antisemitic prejudices of some supporters when it suits his political purposes, while piously disclaiming personal animus against Jews.

What else is new?

(Hat tip: Engage.)

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