Seen In Traffic

June 30, 2009

Dangerous Words

June 30, 2009


June 30, 2009

What Goes Around…

June 30, 2009

Second Language

June 30, 2009


June 30, 2009

Boston Review:

On January 30, 2009 fifteen heavily armed men stormed the Tiferet Israel synagogue in the Mariperez neighborhood of Caracas. They held down two guards, robbed the premises, and desecrated the temple, throwing the Torah and other religious paraphernalia to the floor and painting graffiti on the walls: “Out, Death to All”; “Damned Israel, Death”; “666” with a drawing of the devil; “Out Jews”; “We don’t want you, assassins”; a star of David, an equal sign, and a swastika.

The event, though shocking, was neither isolated nor unprecedented. Over the past four years, Venezuela has witnessed alarming signs of state-directed anti-Semitism, including a 2005 Christmas declaration by President Hugo Chávez himself: “The World has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, and of those that expelled Bolívar from here and in their own way crucified him. . . . have taken control of the riches of the world.”

In late 2004 the police stormed Hebraica, a Jewish social, educational, and sports center, ostensibly to search for guns and explosives. No weapons were found. But finding them may never have been the purpose of the raid: it coincided with the beginning of Hugo Chávez’s official visit to Tehran. Thus, Sammy Eppel, director of the Human Rights Commission of the Venezuelan B’nai B’rith, poignantly interpreted the event: “Chávez was showing Iran: ‘This is how I deal with my Jews.”

According to the World Conference against Anti-Semitism that took place in London in February 2009, the Chavista media became noticeably more aggressive between October and December of last year. Aporrea, the principal Chavista online journal, published 136 anti-Jewish texts; and since the start of the year, the Conference counted an average of 45 pieces per month. In the 30 days between December 28, 2008 and January 27, 2009, coinciding with the Israeli invasion of Gaza, the number of pieces increased to an average of more than five per day.

This kind of tally may blur the distinction between criticisms of Israeli policies and sheer anti-Semitism, but the prominence of classically anti-Semitic themes, tones, and sentiments is nonetheless staggering and undeniable. Indeed, since the 2006 war in Lebanon, anti-Semitic comments have become commonplace not only in Aporrea, but also in other media outlets either controlled by or ideologically close to the government—such as Vea and Cadena Venezolana de Televisión, especially its program La Hojilla—and publicly and community-owned radio stations. Mario Silva, the anchor of La Hojilla—the main television outlet of Chávez’s ideology, known as Chavismo—declared on November 28, 2007, at a time when a student movement against Chávez was consolidating, that the Cohen family, owners of the Sambil chain of malls

are financing all that is happening. I have said for a long time that those Jewish businessmen who are not in the conspiracy should publicly come forth. . . . And many of those in the student movement that is currently activated have a lot to do with that group.Another egregious and symptomatic example is a January 20, 2009 article by Emilio Silva in Aporrea, titled “How to Support Palestine against the Artificial State of Israel,” in which Silva calls for measures to isolate the Jewish population inside Venezuela as well as its supposed allies, ultimately the Venezuelan opposition tout court. It also calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, and associates Judaism with “Euro-Gringo” imperial interests in such disparate places as Afghanistan, Congo, and Colombia.

Beyond the specifics of Emilio Silva’s political program, the idiom of the critique is baldly that of modern anti-Semitism. Thus, Silva characterizes the enemy as “those Zionist Hebrews [who] care more for their pocket-books than for anything else, including Jehova” and calls on his readers to “publicly demand that any Jew in any street, mall, square, etc., take a position [with respect to Israel] by yelling slogans in favor of Palestine and against the miscarried and disfigured state (estado-aborto) of Israel.”

Chávez himself has been at the forefront of an effort to equate Israel with Hitler, and then to retroject Jewish conspiracy onto the Venezuelan opposition. On August 25, 2006, while on a state visit to China, Chávez declared: “Israel criticizes Hitler a lot. So do we. But they have done something similar to what Hitler did, possibly worse, against half the world.” As recently as January 10 of this year, in the days leading up to the plebiscite to validate Chávez’s permanent reelection, the Venezuelan leader conflated the Jews, the empire (by which he mostly means the United States), and his internal opposition: “The owners of Israel, in other words, the Empire, are the owners of the opposition.”

The rhetoric crystallizes under the figure of the Jew, the internal and external enemy of Chavismo. Chávez may dislike Venezuela’s 12,000 or so Jews, but what is really at stake in his mobilization of anti-Semitic rhetoric is the characterization of his entire opposition as anti-national…

Read it all.

Live Green Or Die

June 30, 2009


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