Playing the 'Anti-Semitism' Card Against Venezuela

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Eric Wingerter and Justin Delacour
 
In the early morning hours of January 31, vandals broke into Tiferet Israel, a Sephardic synagogue in Caracas. They strewed sacred scrolls on the floor and scribbled "Death to the Jews" and other anti-Semitic epithets on the walls, before making off with computer equipment and historical artifacts. Understandably, the incident frightened and upset many in the Venezuelan Jewish community. Right away, U.S. news outlets, including The New York Times and The Miami Herald, linked the incident to Venezuela's increasingly strained relations with Israel, after the two countries suspended diplomatic relations two weeks earlier over Israel's bombing of Gaza, then still under way. 
 
Herald editorial went so far as to describe an "official policy of anti-Semitism" in Venezuela and implied that Chávez's foreign policy had unleashed a wave of anti-Semitic violence in the country, culminating in the assault on the synagogue.1 Some international NGOs were no more nuanced. Just hours after the break-in, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was already implicitly comparing the Chávez government to the Nazis, calling the synagogue attack "a modern-day Kristallnacht."2
But the Caracas police investigation bore out a different story. Authorities quickly realized that the synagogue's security fence had been cut from the inside, prompting detectives to investigate the break-in as an inside job. Within the week it became clear that the attack had in fact been a robbery disguised as anti-Semitic vandalism, carried out by the synagogue's privately contracted security team. Eleven men were arrested for their role in the plot, and their statements to the police indicated that the graffiti and desecration were intended to throw off investigators.3 
 
Although the arrests helped ease the anxieties of Venezuela's Jewish community, the international media pressed on with the storyline of a politically motivated attack. The very week that the Venezuelan Israelite Association issued a statement praising the swift and successful investigation, The Washington Post ran an editorial titled "Mr. Chavez vs. the Jews," which again blamed the robbery on the government, or, more specifically, on an ugly comment left on a "pro-government Web site," demanding "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."4 The editorial concluded that the synagogue was then "duly attacked."5 The idea that the sacking of the Caracas synagogue was based purely on anti-Semitism has persisted, even showing up in a recent piece authored by two academics in the high-brow Boston Review. The authors claim the attack is a sign of "state-directed anti-Semitism."6
 
Full story at: https://nacla.org/node/6106

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This page contains a single entry by writch published on September 4, 2009 5:36 AM.

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