ADL Florida Regional Director
This article originally appeared in The Miami Herald on July 5, 2010
Imagine surfing the web and stumbling across an article on a Venezuelan website asserting that today's Zionists are "Christ killers." Another posting states that Zionists control the planet, government, media, banks and weapons.
On official TV or radio in Caracas, the anchor rants about boycotting companies allegedly owned by Zionists, such as Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson. On another program a pundit raves that the Mossad may be planning an attack on Jewish institutions or even to kill El Presidente.
Who are these people and what are their motivations? They are either Venezuelan government employees or sympathizers of President Hugo Chávez. Their motivation is to promote unapologetic hatred towards Jews consistent with Chávez's antipathy toward the state of Israel.
Outside of the Arab/Islamic world, Chávez is by far the most extreme critic of Israel. His strategy is clearly political and his impetus to poke at the eye of Israel's greatest ally -- the United States -- helps him gain friendships with other like-minded heads of state and leaders of known terrorist organizations such as Hamas or Hezbollah.
During Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's recent visit to Caracas, Chávez declared that Syria and Venezuela have as "common enemies the Yankee Empire and the genocidal state of Israel... Israel has become the assassin arm of the U.S. It is a threat to all of us." This shared interest in demonizing Israel is yet another political tactic to fire up their anti-Zionist supporters.
It would certainly be highly troubling were Chávez and his cohorts resorting only to extreme anti-Zionist rhetoric by bashing Israel. But Chávez chooses to implicate the local Jewish community in his political game by asserting that he "doubts very much that any Venezuelan Jew would support an atrocity like the one'' perpetrated by Israel against the Gaza flotilla.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro went even further by asking Venezuelan Jews to denounce statements allegedly made by an Israeli official against Venezuela, attempting to corner them to side with the government's viewpoint. A potential attack on Venezuelan soil, or against its Jewish community, he asserted, could only be perpetrated by the Mossad.
These tactics of the Chávez regime are likely borrowed from its close ally the Ahmadinejad regime. By taking pages from the Iranian president's playbook, Chávez seeks to manipulate public opinion into thinking that "his" local Jews should be anti-Zionists and as such should oppose the policies and raison d'tre of the State of Israel. He does this while cynically declaring alleged respect for the Jewish people and their religious freedoms.
This strategy is dangerous in a multipronged way.
This state-enabled anti-Semitism is evidenced in the articles published in Aporrea.org, an "alternative" media source co-founded by Martín Sánchez, the Venezuelan Consul General in San Francisco and by Gonzalo Gómez an active member of the governing party, PSUV. The unapologetic hatred targeting Jews can be found in Venezolana de Television and Radio Nacional de Venezuela, both owned and operated by the government.
Fortunately, anti-Semitism is not in the DNA of Venezuelans. Nevertheless, as freedom of the press continues to face its challenges in the country, and independent reporting continues to be threatened by the government, the stakes are higher for all Venezuelans to receive unbiased, nonpolitically provoked, nonpropaganda-motivated facts that do not demonize any ethnicity, in particular Jews.