Chavez Told To Protect Venezuelan Jews

Members of the US Congress have called on Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, to protect the country’s Jews following an attack on a Caracas synagogue.

Sixteen Republicans and Democrats wrote a letter demanding an “end to the intimidation and harassment of the Jewish community” in South America’s Opec state, which has fraught relations with Israel. The move came after a group of armed men broke into Caracas’s oldest synagogue last week, overpowered two guards, destroyed religious objects and sprayed antisemitic slogans.

Chávez condemned the attack and the authorities launched an investigation.

“We condemn the actions on the synagogue of Caracas,” he said in a televised speech. He hinted that “oligarchs” opposed to his self-styled socialist revolution were to blame. “It must be asked … who benefits from these violent incidents. It is not the government, nor the people, nor the revolution.”

Jewish groups in Venezuela, however, have accused the government of creating a climate of intolerance through its outspoken denunciations of Israel. Last month Chávez expelled the Israeli ambassador over the invasion of Gaza, which he likened to genocide. Graffiti and posters praising Hamas and Palestinian resistance have sprouted across Caracas, especially in slums such as 23 de Enero, which are bastions of support for the president. They are often accompanied by slogans such as “Jews out”.

The synagogue attackers numbered around 15 and appeared well-organised. They disabled security cameras and reportedly spent five hours breaking into safety boxes, desecrating the Torah and vandalising property. A week earlier the building was sprayed with graffiti linking the swastika to the star of David.

“This is an attack of antisemitic nature,” said Elias Farache of the Venezuelan Israelite Association. “The climate is very tense. We feel threatened, intimidated, attacked.”

The government said those responsible would be brought to justice and called on all Venezuelans to reject the attack. Jews had no reason to feel insecure, it said. A pro-government website that ran an article urging a boycott of Venezuelan Jewish businesses and verbal confrontations with Jewish people was removed yesterday after protests. Chávez has been feted in the Arab world for cutting ties with Israel, and he has forged an alliance with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped out.

The Venezuelan leader said there was no trace of antisemitism in a foreign policy that condemned those responsible for inflicting bloodshed and suffering in Gaza.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: