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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

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 Shillman Analyst for JNS.org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.


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