Down in Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez has agreed to meet with delegates of the country’s Jewish community for a discussion about antisemitism in the state-run media.
Last June, Mr. Chavez made a public declaration that he believed the Mossad was scheming to assassinate him and that the Israeli government was bankrolling his Venezuelan opposition.
Vice president of the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela (CAIV), David Bittan Obadia, made the following statement according to the Jewish Chronicle Online in anticipation of the meeting set for September:
“We do not deem [anti-Semitism] a state policy, but the government has the tools to stop it…We will be very straightforward in expressing our concerns. We can see that the government is willing to cooperate…” Stoically he then declared, “This anti-Semitism is troubling us all and it needs to cease immediately.”
Anti-Jewish sentiment has been a problem throughout the presidency of Hugo Chavez. In his 12 years in power, the populist leftist leader has made speeches accusing “Semitic banks” of sabotaging the economy and lent his support to an indigenous Islamic group known as “Hizbollah Venezuela.”
In just one isolated instance of antisemitism in the Bolivarian Republic, only days after a public rant in opposition of Israel’s actions in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, in January of 2009, vandals broke into Sephardic synagogue, Tiferet Israel, only a mile from Chávez’s presidential palace in Caracas. Torah scrolls were trashed and spray paint informed the walls of death threats for Jews and the Jewish country.
A member of the Carcas Jewish community predicted that:
“Chavez and his supporters will not give up power, irrespective of the election result, and many members of our community are concerned that if there are disturbances, we will be targeted. When there is anarchy, there are always people who use it to attack Jews.”
She also observed that:
When the mood intensifies, like during the current election campaign, there are politicians who immediately bring out the incitement against the Jews. Is this by order of the president? I don’t know, but the president sees and hears everything in the government-controlled area. Many Jewish families in my area have left or are leaving.
Also, earlier this summer, Chavez met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and called on Latin America and the Arab world to fight together what he deemed “America’s imperialist and capitalist interests abroad.”
Meanwhile, amid delays to negotiate with Syria, due to rumored Israeli reticence, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of General Staff Lieutenant, General Gabi Ashkenazi, OC Military Intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin and OC Planning Branch Major General Amir Eshel are all giving a stalwart push for peace meetings with the Syrian government – while an effort is being made to stall the sale of weapons to that country from Russian suppliers.