Anti-Semitism in Chávez’s Venezuela

800px-Hugo_Chavez_in_Brazil-1861Claudio Lomnitz and Rafael Sánchez in 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.’”