Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Chavez Movement and the Jews

This article by Wake Forest Political Science Professor Luis Roniger, "Venezuelan Jews in the Context of the Multiplicty of Latin American Jewish Experiences" (via Bob), is good. It's very good in fact. It is a careful exploration of how the Chavez revolution has impacted the life prospects of the local Jewish community. It explores issues of anti-Semitism without either knee-jerks or fawning, apologetic credulity. It locates the issues Jews are facing both in the ideology of the revolution (which both has explicitly anti-Semitic sources, such as Norberto Ceresole, as well as more "incidental" ones, such as a general intolerance for independent civil society associations which automatically makes distinctive minorities like Jews suspect), as well as part of more structural policies and interests of the state (e.g., its growing ties to Iran and its efforts to develop a global counterweight to the United States).

What I like about it is that it is, again, careful. It doesn't go for too much, but it doesn't falsely limit the field of inquiry either (e.g., by ignoring "private" anti-Semitic incitements by actors clearly operating within Chavez's ideology, or by blithely asserting that anti-Zionist agitation is definitionally not anti-Semitism). It doesn't engage in hyperbolic rhetoric. It even puts the infamous "crucified Christ" remarks in their proper context. It doesn't indicate that Venezuelan Jews are facing a new Holocaust, but nor does it paint an overly rosy picture of their situation. It is, in other words, the furthest thing from the fawning whitewash by Chavez apologizers that I was recently pointed to.

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