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Sowing Hatred in Venezuela

A prominent challenger to President Hugo Chávez isn’t Jewish, but his roots are. That’s enough for the regime.

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Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles delivers a speech in Caracas on June 10, 2012. (Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images)
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Both Duquenal and Sammy Eppel point to the enduring influence over Chávez of Norberto Ceresole, the late Argentinian fascist intellectual with whom he struck up a friendship. “Ceresole was like the parrot on Chávez’s shoulder,” Eppel says. “He wanted bring the far left and the far right together, and he persuaded Chávez that he was the man to do that.” Once Chávez, following Ceresole, aligned the dregs of fascism with those of communism, anti-Semitism became the ideological glue binding the Chavismo model of government, in which the relationship between the leader and his people is central, unencumbered by pesky interferences like an independent judiciary. It is no accident, Eppel believes, that the first chapter of a book by Ceresole extolling this model was titled “The Jewish Problem.”

Occasionally, the vulgar rhetoric of Venezuelan anti-Semitism has strayed into physical attacks. In January 2009, an armed gang stormed the Tiferet Israel synagogue in Caracas, spraying choice slogans like “Damned Israel, Death!” on its walls. This particular theme echoed a speech that Chávez delivered in China in 2006, in which he claimed that Israel had “done something similar to what Hitler did, possibly worse, against half the world.”

In a monograph published in April, “Chávez, The Left and The Jews,” the academics Claudio Lomnitz and Rafael Sanchez contend that in Chávez’s Venezuela, “politics and political life represent a kind of hand-to-hand combat between the ‘people,’ united by ‘love,’ and its enemies, united by hatred—the ‘ire’ that Ceresole imputes to the Jews.” Such cloyingly emotional, anti-rational politics are the perfect breeding ground for the fantasies about Jewish power that Chávez has actively promoted and that will doubtless be wheeled out against Capriles as the election approaches.

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For Venezuela’s remaining Jews, these anti-Semitic fantasies underline their own harsh reality. Diego Arria describes the community as having been “decimated”; under Chávez, its numbers have declined from a height of 30,000 to just 9,000. Moreover, the Chavista bureaucracy seemingly delights in placing obstacles in the community’s way. Just before Passover this year, the interior ministry announced that extra sanitary permits would be needed if the importation of matzo, the unleavened bread consumed during the festival, was to be approved. And when the Jewish community needs to make official representations, its leaders are directed to the Foreign Ministry—proof, Sammy Eppel asserts, that the regime fundamentally regards Jews as aliens, not Venezuelan citizens.

All the indicators are that Venezuelan Jews will continue to leave the country, heading for more benign destinations like Colombia, Mexico, and Miami. “They are an integrated Latin community, so they go where there is a Latin culture,” says Eppel. “This isn’t a Polish shtetl.” It is possible that a Capriles victory will stem the tide of emigration, but even then, the years of destruction wrought by Chávez will remain a powerful push factor for Jews and non-Jews alike.

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paul delano says:

It’s enough satisfaction to know that the ugly SOB Chavez is being slowly eaten alive by cancer. May he suffer to the full extent of his disease.

@paul – karma is coming your way.

South America, where everyone wears soccer jerseys ALL THE TIME.

paul delano says:

 No Jay, Karma is coming Chavez’ way.

The CIA and ATT did for harmless Allende in 1973.  Why is this bulvon Chavez still in power? 

Brunilde Sanso says:

 I am a Venezuelan living now in North America. When I lived in Caracas, many of my friends were jewish and I never knew what anti-semitism was until I came to North America. In Caracas being jewish was a non-issue at the time, just a matter of religion choice.

What Chávez has been doing is inculcating anti-semitism in a totally artificial manner. Venezuelan are the most open people in the world in matter of race or religion freedom. Once you are a Venezuelan, they would not look into your ancestor to unclassify you as a Venezuelan or treat you differently.

Joseph Kelsall says:

Capriles is not Jewish in the same way that Disraeli was not Jewish. The ‘Crypto’ Factor!

Jacob Arnon says:

The article was excellent though he didn’t deal with the possible implications for Jews in other Latin countries of Chavez’ antisemitic campaign. 

I used to know a couple of Venezolanos here many years ago. One was an ideological antisemite while the other had married a Jewish woman in the US. 

There probably was antisemitism in Venezuela before Chavez but the dictator has made it government policy.

This is always the danger. If it works expect some other Latin countries to follow suit. 

chee1rs says:

rescind Executive Order 11905 . . . the world was a lot safer before Ford signed this

melanie77 says:

maybe jews acting as a collective to further jewish interests at the expense of their host country’s has venezuelens fearful of allowing jews into government, I MEAN REALLY, WOULD ANY AMERICAN SAY AIPAC IS A “GOOD”THING ? would we have invaded iraq or been attacked on 9-11 for supporting israel id aipac didn’t coordinate the 5 million jewish campaign donations,channeling funds to candidates that swear to bow to their wishes on behalf of israel? 

Jacob Arnon says:

melanie must not be an American. PACS of all kinds are legal expressions of free speech.  If you don’t like free speech move to Venezuela.

Yes, AIPAC is a good thing, so is are all the other PACS.

Melanie is also ignorant. antisemites usually are:

“would we have invaded iraq or been attacked on 9-11 for supporting israel”

  Both assumptions are wrong and bigoted. 

melanie77 says:

I am venezuelan and I can tell you we don’t hate jews, we think they smell bad and have no integrity but we don’t hate them, we just don’t allow them to get in any position that requires integrity

JacobArnon says:

Disraeli never denied his Jewishness. He was not a crypto Jew, he was a Jew who converted to Christianity openly.

Crypto means covert and he was not a covert Jew.

Joseph Kelsall says:

He was ‘sort of’ jew-ish’. Like many at that time being a jew could be disadvantageous. For example ; Arthur Balfour ( of the declaration) was an anti semite. In 1905 he introduced ‘The Alien Act’ to keep jews out of the UK.
My own great, great grandmother was a jew ( Ann Goldsmith) who married a christian for safety, I suppose.

Jacob Arnon says:

Have you read any books by or about Disraeli?

He was proud of his Jewish heritage. He believed Jews were a superior race;  superior to the Anglo Saxons and he said so in one of his novels and in Parliament. 

Jacob Arnon says:

Melanie, I shows. 

That’s why Venezuela is in the mess it’s in. 

look, if they gonna argue, then Jesus Effing Christ was Jewish, too. and you don’t see any Vatican directives saying down with all Jesus worshippers do you? Tell you something: i been living in asia now for 20 years and there is no antisemitism here. Political opponents in Japan or taiwan or Thialand or Vietnam are
never tarred with the label that their great grandparents were Jews! Antisemitism is the disease of Christianity, the current New Testament has over 100 antisemitic references right now as we chat and will be read aloud tomorrow at churches around the world. in Venueszeula too, but in asia, in 20 years, i have never once heard an antisemitic comment or seen an antisemetici act. Period. conclusion, The West is a sick sick place. For one main reason. Christiasnity is a sick sick faux religion based on fomenting antisemtiism. And funny, and wrong, because Jesus himself, er, Joshua Ben Miriam , her real name not Waspy MARY, was somewhat, er, Jewy, no?

melanie77 is not Veneuzelan, folks. I have seen her comments all over. she is a self hating self loathing Jewish woman. a bit paranoid too. i wish her well.

Joseph Kelsall says:

Then, let’s get rid of the holy men and their books of myths.

ricksonelliot says:

I read two Irishmen urinated on him as he read the Talmud, his first wife went on to have affairs with both of them

ricksonelliot says:

Americans agree. Don’t make the naive mistake we did by letting 5 million immigrate in the 1930′s, now our culture is being destroyed by Jewish immorality,and Jewish neocons force our leaders to invade israels Muslim neigbors.now I know what Germans went through

Umish Katani says:

another bigot rears their head… smell bad, integrity…. I guess Chavas is a saint in your book Melanie, did you graduate 4th grade yet

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Sowing Hatred in Venezuela

A prominent challenger to President Hugo Chávez isn’t Jewish, but his roots are. That’s enough for the regime.

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