About 50 people demonstrated outside the largest synagogue in Venezuela’s capital city Caracas, where they hurled fireworks inside the synagogue and shouted anti-Semitic slogans. Jews were accused of being responsible for the violence in the Middle East and one woman reportedly shouted that Israel is a “terrorist state.” This disrupted the activities of the synagogue and caused panic among the Jews praying inside the synagogue. This event occurred despite the declaration of a cease-fire between Gazan terrorist organizations and Israel.
The Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations had previously called upon the Venezuelan government to offer better protection to Venezuelan synagogues. In 2009, a group of intruders broke into the same synagogue on Shabbat, shattering religious objects, spray-painting anti-Semitic slogans and stealing a computer database with names and addresses of Jews. While Venezuelan President Chavez did condemn that incident and proceeded to arrest 11 people, anti-semitism remains a serious problem in Venezuela. That same year, a home-made bomb was also thrown at another Venezuelan synagogue.
It is important to note that none of this happened in a vacuum. President Chavez has a long history of making anti-Semitic statements. In 2004, he stated to his political opposition that they should not let themselves “be poisoned by those wandering Jews.” In 2005, Chavez stated, “It so happens that a minority, the descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ. […] A minority has taken possession all of the wealth of the world!” He has also trivialized the Holocaust, compared Israel’s military actions against Hamas to Nazism, and advocated a conspiracy theory claiming that the Mossad and CIA are responsible for poisoning Yasser Arafat.
The World Conference against Anti-Semitism asserted that the Chavez-controlled media published an average of over 5 anti-semitic articles per day during Operation Cast Lead. The Anti-Defamation League further asserted that during the first Gaza War, the Venezuelan media routinely “echoed anti-Semitic canards and promoted conspiracy theories and myths of Jewish financial influence, Jewish control of U.S. foreign policy, Jewish “responsibility” for the death of Jesus, and claimed Jews are “double agents” of Israel. Some openly called for the boycott of Jewish-owned businesses in Venezuela as well as multinational companies believed to be owned by Jews.” Venezuela cut off diplomatic relations with Israel around this time as well.
Evidently, the situation regarding the Venezuelan press has not improved since then. The Anti-Defamation League published a study documenting anti-semitism employed during the 2012 Venezuelan elections. Then, the Venezuelan press evidently asserted that opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski represented a Zionist front conspiracy to take over Venezuela, was an illegitimate Catholic and a Christ killer like his ancestors, used oppressive tactics similar to what the Israelis did against the Palestinians, belonged to a group of exploiters responsible for the misery of others, etc. The Chavez controlled press said all of these things only because Capriles had Jewish ancestry.
Indeed, many practicing Jews no longer feel secure in Venezuela. In 2006, the Boston Globe reported that a Jewish filmmaker was forced to flee Venezuela because he feared for his safety after the host on a government-sponsored television channel accused him of being part of a “Zionist conspiracy against Chavez.” In 2004, a Jewish school was raided, which was followed by the Venezuelan government raiding a Jewish cultural association in 2007. By 2010, over half of the Venezuelan Jewish community left the country, while those who remain behind complain of officially sanctioned anti-semitism.
Reported by Rachel Avraham for United With Israel
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