Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Tried and True

Julie points to a Washington Post editorial indicating that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is trying out a time-tested way to buff up his popular support: rustling up hatred against the Jews.
Then there is the assault on Venezuela's Jewish community -- which seems to have replaced George W. Bush as Mr. Chávez's favorite foil. After Israel's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last month, the caudillo expelled Israel's ambassador and described Israel's actions in Gaza as "genocide." Then Mr. Chávez turned on Venezuela's Jews. "Let's hope that the Venezuelan Jewish community will declare itself against this barbarity," Mr. Chávez bellowed on a government-controlled television channel. "Don't Jews repudiate the Holocaust? And this is precisely what we're witnessing."

Government media quickly took up the chorus. One television host close to Mr. Chávez blamed opposition demonstrations on two students he said had Jewish last names. On a pro-government Web site, another commentator demanded that citizens "publicly challenge every Jew that you find in the street, shopping center or park" and called for a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, seizures of Jewish-owned property and a demonstration at Caracas's largest synagogue. On Jan. 30 the synagogue was duly attacked by a group of thugs, who spray-painted "Jews get out" on the walls and confiscated a registry of members. Mr. Chávez denied responsibility; days later, the attorney general's office said that 11 people detained in connection with the attack included five police officers and a police intelligence operative.

See also my post on the attack on a Venezuelan synagogue. Chavez eventually condemned the attacks, while cryptically blaming the opposition and asking "who benefits from these violent incidents. It is not the government, nor the people, nor the revolution." Well, I'll grant the people, and perhaps the revolution, but the government seems to be making out like a bandit.

What makes this all the more terrifying is that Venezuela, historically, has not had a significant problem with anti-Semitism. It's gone from 0 - 60 in the space of just a few years, and now up to a fifth of the state's Jewish population has fled the country. Venezuela is yet another example of how, even where it has been historically dormant, with the right leadership anti-Semitism can turn on like a switch. And the modern "hook" it uses as its justificatory schema is opposition to Israel.

No comments: