Saturday, January 31, 2009

"David: The Hell With Your Star"

In South Africa, government officials openly join in on rampant anti-Semitic conspiracy-mongering. In Venezuela, the government is barely slightly less overt, but the results have been far worse.
Armed men forced their way into a Caracas synagogue, defacing its administrative offices with anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalizing an interior room where the Torah is kept, officials said.
Vandals smashed items in an interior room where the Torah is kept, officials said.

About 15 men forced their way into the Mariperez Synagogue in Venezuela's capital about 10 p.m. Friday, staying until about 3 a.m., police said. They tied up a security guard at the synagogue before vandalizing the rooms.

Graffiti left at the scene included the phrases "Damn the Jews," "Jews out of here" and "Israel assassins." The men also left behind a picture of a devil, authorities said.

The Jewish community in Venezuela has been very clear: it blames the government under socialist President Hugo Chavez for inciting this type of violence:
The president of the Jewish community in Venezuela on Monday accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of promoting anti-Semitism and giving the phenomenon legitimacy.

Speaking at the World Jewish Congress conference in Jerusalem on Monday, Abraham Levy Ben Shimol said "you probably hear of many anti-Semitic incidents, but where we live, the anti-Semitism is sanctioned; it comes from the president, through the government, and into the media. Since the government is very involved in the day-to-day lives of its constituents, its influence is much more effective."

Chavez had previously demanded with regard to Gaza that Venezuelan Jews speak "out against this barbarism. Do it. Don’t you strongly reject all acts of persecution?" Chavez has been at the forefront of the most hyperbolic and vitriolic condemnations of Israel, for example, claiming that Israel's conduct in the 2006 Lebanon war was worse than Hitler (for the record, the civilian casualty count for that conflict was roughly 1,200 Lebanese citizens killed, 4,400 injured. Israeli civilian casualties were 44 dead, 1,500 injured).

Meanwhile, pro-government forces in the South American nation have their own ideas on how to show "solidarity" with the Palestinians:
- publicly denouncing by name, the members of powerful Jewish groups in Venezuela, names of their companies and businesses in order to boycott them

- avoiding products, stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and where Kosher food is sold which either belongs or has links with 'Zionist Jews'

- questioning the existence of Jewish educational institutions

- shouting pro-Palestine and anti-Israel slogans at Jews on the street

- inviting anti-Zionist Jews living in Venezuela to publicly express their disassociation from 'Zionist war crimes' and the imposition of artificial State of Israel on Palestine

- nationalization of companies, confiscation of properties of those Jews who support the Zionist atrocities of the Nazi-State of Israel, and donate this property to the Palestinian victims of today’s Holocaust

- sending all type of aid to Palestinians including weapons

- hacking pro-Zionist websites including governments or institutions that have relations with Israel

- organizing an international conference about the creation of the theocratic - Nazi state of Israel as a genocidal European colony, and about the myths and facts of the alleged Jewish Holocaust or Holohoax (a blackmailing industry)

- support the dissolution of the artificial State of Israel

Holocaust-denial, at this stage, is simply par for the course. Joyfully arming groups like Hamas, too, seems to satisfy armchair revolutionaries who like the idea of violent conflict so long as other people are the ones shooting and receiving the bullets. The call to start screaming at Jews whenever they dare leave their homes, on the other hand, is a new one on me and represents significant escalation.

Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, but this sort of criticism is, because when anti-Israel criticism reaches the degree of fevered pitch as it has under Chavez, it ceases to represent fair-minded commentary on achieving justice for the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine and adopts a primary function of actively inciting violence and discrimination against Jews worldwide. Hiding behind the banners of "solidarity" or "resistance" or anything else is simply not a defense, nor is crying about how the neurotic Jews are "playing the anti-Semitism card" by preventing people from equating millions of Jews with the Nazis who would have seen them slaughtered.

One cannot say the things Chavez says and then be surprised or defensive when folks start physically assaulting Jews. There is an obligation on those who consider themselves allies of the Palestinians to restrain this sort of rhetoric because it indisputably leads to violence and it indisputably contributes to Jewish oppression. Moreover, the degree to which it is disassociated from any sort of reality concerning Israel/Palestine renders its claims to be "political speech" or "advocacy" virtually null. There is no chance that any informed, progressive-minded policymaker is going to make decisions based on the idea that Israel is a "Nazi state" embarking on a modern "holocaust", and the speakers have to know this. The only purpose for engaging in this sort of rhetoric is to stir up hate -- to render the opposition beyond the pale of humanity, and thus worthy of hatred, discrimination, violence, and ultimately, murder.


Richard Jeffrey Newman said...

You know, David, there ought to be, somewhere, an archive of links on items like this, something like the "sharing stories" thread I started on Alas, somewhere where the sheer number of them, the listing of them one after the other, will make the point. And I am thinking of something other than the ADL's stuff, something that contains bloggers' commentaries (yours, mine, whoever's) because I think that has more of an impact than the more generally straightforward (that may not be the right word) reporting in the ADL reports--if only because readers see the effects on an actual, if virtual, human being. Anyway, just an idea.

This is very scary and very important to spread the word about and I'm glad you have this post up.

PG said...

I wonder how many nations would be acknowledged, by those who consider "structural" anti-Semitism to exist only where national officials are voicing it, to be structurally anti-Semitic. South Africa, as you've mentioned before, and now Venezuela; Paraguay.

There's occasional anti-Semitism in India even among Hindus (whom one might otherwise expect to take an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend view of Jews). Gandhi's grandson has declared that India's government and media also are influenced by the Zionist lobby. On the other hand, India might be an interesting study of how a government can be extremely hostile to Israel without a history of persecuting Jews within one's own country.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't mind Chavez's statement to the venezulan Jewish community,but the other acts are quite appalling.

David Schraub said...

Oh I do. Aside from the fact that what Chavez thinks constitutes appropriate "speaking out" is comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, no vulnerable group should be forced to negotiate its physical security on it taking a particular political position. Never.

The Venezuelan Jewish community has the same obligation with respect to the Gaza conflict as anyone else: to take a position (if they take a position) based on their best good-faith judgment of what is fair, just, and humane for all persons involved in the proceedings. Demanding anything more out of them -- particularly specifically putting them on the spot -- is just wrong.

Richard Jeffrey Newman said...

David, I think you don't state it strongly enough: what Chavez did was blackmail, plain and simple, and morally abhorrent on those grounds.

Anonymous said...

Jenny, how would you have felt if after 9/11, Bush told the Muslim community in the U.S. to speak out, "do it. Don't you strongly reject all acts of terrorism?"

Individuals may choose to speak out against something they feel is being done in their name. I've certainly done so as an American abroad plenty of times in the last eight years.

But for a head of state to demand that all people who happen to share a label with some other group of people take a public position - the one acceptable to him - and unless and until they do so, they'll be considered suspect, is, as Richard said, blackmail.

(And if you're going to argue that American Muslims have been placed in that position, though just not in such a bald-faced way, I might agree, but it's a development that horrifies me and that I fight within the limited means available to me.)

David Schraub said...

Well you know me, Richard: I'm very circumspect about these things ;-).

PG said...


Actually, the rhetoric from many conservatives about how American Muslims are obligated to speak up publicly about their opposition to Islamic terrorism (though not from Bush, to his credit, although Krauthammer annoyed the hell out me by speaking as though there was NONE of this -- including by Krauthammer himself -- or as though Bush had made any effort to call it out when it came from his side), did make me want to leave comments on a bunch of Islamophobic sites (Malkin etc.) asking what they thought of Chavez's demanding that Jews condemn the civilian deaths and destruction in Gaza.

Anonymous said...

PG, this is a fight I have my father-in-law on a regular basis. Well, not a fight, because I really try not to fight with him, but, well, you know what I mean.

Once, when he was going on about how if Islam is as peaceful as the Muslims claim, why don't they condemn terrorism (which, of course, many have and do), I asked him why he didn't condemn Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for saying 9/11 was God's punishment for liberalism, gays, feminism, etc.

He immediately got very flustered and said that of course he didn't agree with that. "Well, you never told me that," I said. "How am I supposed to know you don't agree with them? If that's not what your religion stands for, you should speak out and condemn it."

I feel pain in my heart for every Muslim store clerk, financial adviser, parking lot attendant, fellow airline passenger, doctor ... the list goes on ... who has to interact with my father-in-law, but at least he's not the president. He's just some guy who will ruin their day, not the man with the power to order a rendition.

As far as being on the receiving end of it, I really do relate to it most as an American abroad. In Peace Corps, I lived in a community where people literally lived and died by the price of cotton, and I have a lot of strong opinions on agricultural subsidies, trade policy, etc., nearly all of them strongly against the American government position. But if the guys from the National Peasants Federation showed up at my door demanding I denounce U.S. imperialism in Latin America, I would have been scared out my mind, in addition to resenting the hell out of it.

It's just not the right or ethical way to deal with individuals, no matter how strongly you feel about a political issue.

stopbeingstupid said...

Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, but this sort of criticism is, because when anti-Israel criticism reaches the degree of fevered pitch as it has under Chavez, it ceases to represent fair-minded commentary on achieving justice for the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine and adopts a primary function of actively inciting violence and discrimination against Jews worldwide.

It is horrible that that needs to be said. It should be obvious.

Anonymous said...

All right, I understand the context of the statement now.