web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Chavez and the Jews: a Sorry Tale

Before Chavez came to power there were 30,000 Jews in Venezuela. The community has now dwindled to fewer than 9,000.

Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

Like one of those telenovelas that are so popular on Latin American television stations, the slow yet inexorable deterioration of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, was soaked in drama and cloying sentimentality.

Chavez died March 5 following a two-year fight with cancer. For most of that time, he claimed – falsely – to have been cured. But less than two months after winning a fourth term in last October’s election, Chavez was spirited back to Cuba, where Fidel Castro’s doctors treated him.

Now, Chavez’s death affords the opportunity for a critical reassessment of his tenure. In his fourteen years in power, Chavez turned Venezuela into the Latin American hub of a global network of anti-American, authoritarian rogue states. There is scarcely a fellow dictator he didn’t befriend. Some, like the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, are no longer with us. Others – among them Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe – remain alive and in power.

The closest relationship of all was the one forged with the Castro brothers in Cuba, Fidel and Raul, whose ailing economy is kept afloat by heavily subsidized oil from Venezuela, Latin America’s biggest producer.

With allies like these, it should come as no surprise that Chavez became an arch-foe of Israel. In one of the last foreign policy statements he made before returning to the hospital in Cuba in December, Chavez denounced what he called the “savage” Israeli attack on Gaza. In 2009, on the previous occasion Israel responded militarily to Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza, Chavez told the French newspaper Le Figaro that Israel had launched a “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Such incendiary statements won Chavez the admiration of the Arab street. In 2006, during the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Arab satellite network Al Jazeera praised Chavez for beating Arab leaders to the punch when he became the first head of state to condemn Israel’s actions. Similar words of admiration greeted his decision to expel the Israeli ambassador to Caracas in 2009.

In attacking Israel, though, Chavez inadvertently undermined the arguments of those who say anti-Zionism is one thing, anti-Semitism something else entirely. In many ways, Chavez’s attitude to Israel mirrored that of the Soviet Union. Just as the USSR marked its own Jews out as a fifth column during its decades-long propaganda campaign against Zionism, so did Chavez.

Before Chavez came to power there were 30,000 Jews in Venezuela. The community has now dwindled to fewer than 9,000. The Chavez years ushered in a set of new and frightening experiences for Venezuela’s Jews, from cartoons in the press that could have been lifted from the notorious Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer to the vandalism of the main synagogue in Caracas in 2009.

As a depressing summary by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism noted last September, “Recent years have witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic manifestations, including vandalism, media attacks, caricatures, and physical attacks on Venezuelan Jewish institutions.”

Members of the Venezuelan opposition I’ve spoken with over the past year have all remarked on the virulence of Chavez’s anti-Semitism. In 2012, Israel was temporarily displaced by the emergence of a domestic Jewish target in the form of the rival presidential candidate to Chavez – the youthful and energetic Henrique Capriles. While Capriles is a practicing Catholic, his mother’s family, the Radonskis, arrived in Venezuela after surviving the Holocaust in Poland. Other members of the family perished in the Nazi concentration camps.

In their attacks on Capriles, Chavez and his press lackeys referred to him with an array of derogatory terms – “gringo,” “bourgeois,” “imperialist,” and, above all, “Zionist.” There was no doubt that by “Zionist” the regime meant “Jew.”

Why did anti-Semitism become such a potent force in a country that eschewed it for so long? Some analysts regard it as the inevitable outcome of Chavez’s alliance with Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah.

Yet there is another factor. The main ideological influence on Chavez was a relatively obscure Argentinian sociologist, Norberto Ceresole. A Holocaust denier and all-round conspiracy theorist, Ceresole’s theories became the basis for what Venezuelans know as chavismo, the matrix of social institutions and values created by the Chavez regime. The first chapter of a book in which Ceresole extolled the virtues of such a system, under which the relationship between the “leader” and the “people” is privileged, was titled “The Jewish Problem.”

There are few reasons to believe antagonism toward Jews will disappear in post-Chavez Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro is an orthodox Chavista who, as foreign minister, has enthusiastically pushed for even closer relations with Israel’s enemies. Maduro’s main rival, the National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, is viewed as less ideologically motivated, yet he too is unlikely to mend fences with Israel and the U.S.

Moreover, Chavez’s figure will loom large in the political life of Venezuela. Should Henrique Capriles follow through on his stated intention to challenge Chavez’s successor, it is probable, according to Sammy Eppel, director of the Human Rights Commission of B’nai B’rith Venezuela, that the anti-Semitic caricatures used against him last year will emerge again.

As for Chavez himself, Eppel does not hold back: “Chavez will probably be remembered as the one who made Venezuelan Jews feel that for the first time they were not welcome…a chilling reminder of past tragedies.”

For the Venezuelan people, who face economic chaos and political meltdown, the tragedy continues.

About the Author: Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book “Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014), is available through Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Chavez and the Jews: a Sorry Tale”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Future guard? Arab child with Hamas headband aims toy rifle on the Temple Mount after prayers in the Al Aqsa mosque.
Shin Bet Foils Nascent Hamas Coup in Palestinian Authority Territories
Latest Indepth Stories
Bibi Scores points on Soccer Field NOT Temple Mount

Rather than asserting Jewish rights on Temple Mount or protecting Jewish lives Israel chooses soccer

Mahmoud Abbas trying to see if he has supporters on the UN Security Council.

Nothing in the NEW Paris Proposal differs much from what was offered by Olmert and rejected by Abbas

Matan Katzman. regional executive at the StandWithUs

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

Flag of Sweden

Increasingly, Sweden is becoming a country where anti-Semitism & supporting terrorism is acceptable.

Rabbi Pfeffer points out that at his site, there are no one-line answers. “We want to show the people we’re interested in their questions,” he says.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

Think political Islam’s a problem now just wait until an Islamist nuclear umbrella covers the region

Fiorina’s wrong about Islam which embraces our death&destruction confusing pc theories for hard fact

Bangladesh PM Hasina is fighting terror not only for her nation but for the entire civilized world.

No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families

PM Netanyahu has pledged the nation won’t rest until the hero Eli Cohen is returned home to Israel

“Palestinian armed groups” & “local authorities” are named in the report; Hamas’ absence stands out

Dating apps have really changed the way many young Jews approach dating.

The families of those slain even publicly forgave the murderer. Charleston was serene and at peace.

More Articles from Ben Cohen
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reviewing one of Iran's nuclear plants.

The Middle East has rapidly changed for the worse the past five years. The worst may be yet come.

Cohen-020615

UN Amb Prosor: Anti-Semitism “can even be found in the halls of UN disguised as umanitarian concern”

The Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland informed the host he could not say “Israel or Jewish state”

The coalition the US has assembled to fight ISIS is based on an immediate coincidence of interest.

A growing chorus of influential voices is arguing that Israel needs to finish the job in Gaza.

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

As of this moment, the Kurds have little reason to hold back from declaring independence.

While Jews are just one percent of the French population, 40 percent of French racist assaults target Jews.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/chavez-and-the-jews-a-sorry-tale-2/2013/03/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: