ADL: Venezuelan Government Contributing to Climate of Rising Anti-Semitism

New York, NY, August 5, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today criticized Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other government officials for their recent public statements about Israel which are contributing to a climate of rising anti-Semitic expressions in Venezuela, and for using extreme criticism of Israel as a political tool that adds to a sense of insecurity for the Jewish community.

ADL said recent statements from President Maduro and others in the government are reminiscent of statements by Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s late former president who regularly used such tactics to single out the Venezuelan Jewish community.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

Extreme criticism and the delegitimization of Israel continue to be used by the government of Venezuela as a political tool. The atmosphere of virulently anti-Israel criticism and an unwarranted focus on the Venezuelan Jewish community’s attitude toward Israel enable an environment in which anti-Semitism can grow and flourish. While so far there have been no reported attacks against individual Jews or Jewish institutions, we cannot forget that under Chavez, synagogues and other Jewish communal institutions in Venezuela were subjected to violent anti-Semitic incidents.

The Venezuelan government is entitled to its views on Israeli policy, and its approach to the conflict; however, calling on the Jews of Venezuela to denounce Israel and publicly agree with those government policies, singles out the Jewish community.  If they do not comply with President Maduro’s demand, it sends a message to the people of Venezuela that its Jews are not in synch with their own government.  This tactic unfairly and inappropriately can lead to questioning the loyalty of Venezuelan Jews to their country.  Impugning the loyalty of Jews is an age-old anti-Semitic ploy which has been used to deny basic rights to Jews, expel them and even to justify violence.

President Maduro and his government are responsible for the safety and well-being of Venezuela’s Jewish community.  Instead, their harsh statements about Israel and the inclusion of Venezuela’s Jews, and Jews in general, in their criticism of Israel, fans the flames of anti-Semitism across the country leading to a sense of exclusion and insecurity.

The League has documented public statements and comments on social media by Venezuelan government officials, including President Maduro who called on the Venezuelan Jewish community to express support for the Palestinians and speak out against Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Statements by leading officials, followed by others in the media and in rallies, have compared Israel to the Nazis, and graffiti was spray painted on a Caracas subway station read “Do good to the country, kill a Jew.” Swastikas have also appeared in different parts of the city.

A recent ADL poll in 100 countries found that 30 percent of those surveyed in Venezuela harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

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