-VENEZEULAN JEWS: Disturbing stories continue


The following article, relating to Venezeulan’s Jewish community, recently appeared in a number of U.S. newspapers including the Miami Herald and the Anchorage Daily News: 


JANUARY 16, 2008 –  For years, as a steady stream of Venezuelan Jews moved to South Florida, the disturbing stories quietly rumbled throughout the greater community. The first came in 2004 with the start of anti-Semitic attacks in the government media. Within months, a raid on the Jewish community school in Caracas intensified the alarm.

Over time, especially as the government has strengthened ties with Iran and other anti-Israel countries, a pattern has developed. The government deploys anti-Semitic attacks as a tool for political gain.

Sammy Eppel, a prominent Venezuelan journalist, raised evidence of that pattern in a talk to the Aventura Chabad on Tuesday. Brought here by the Anti-Defamation League, Eppel noted two raids by government intelligence agents on the Hebraica complex, the country’s most important Jewish center.

The first was the 2004 armed raid on the school, just as mothers were arriving with children; it occurred in the run-up to the vote that failed to recall President Hugo Chavez from power. The second raid came just before last month’s constitutional referendum to greatly expand Chavez’s power, which also failed. In neither case were weapons or other incriminating materials found. Nor has the government explained or apologized for the incidents.

Anti-Semitism in the official media is equally troubling. Eppel singled out a culture ministry publication that runs articles on “the Jewish Question.” Examples in government-friendly newspapers question whether to “expel the Jews from the country” and raise conspiracy theories by accusing Jews of involvement in the murder of a prosecutor.

Chavez’s chummy relationship with Iranian President and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also is worrisome. The concern, of course, is that anti-Semitic attacks could escalate. So far, the Chavez government has been fairly diverse in distributing abuses. It has taken after the Catholic Church, trade unions, business groups, student activists, democracy advocates and the media – basically any critical group or individual.

Any human-rights abuse is contemptible – whether against Jews or others. Yet when Jews are targeted, history suggests that more widespread suffering often follows. To their credit, the Venezuelan Jewish community and its supporters, here and elsewhere, have been working behind the scenes trying to stem the anti-Semitic tide. Some Venezuelans fear that public exposure will only make matters worse.

Nonetheless, the Venezuelan government should hear a clear message: The international community will not tolerate anti-Semitism in Venezuela or elsewhere in the region.

This article can be read at: http://www.adn.com/24hour/opinions/story/261754.html


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