Monday, January 16, 2006

Chavez an anti-semite? Probably not...

Powerline is breathlessly trying to throw Venezuela into the recent brouhaha over nuclear Iran...(see here and here).

Now the military thing is understandable, but of course unfortunate; it's the "the enemy of my enemy" thing. The US has already tried to overthrow Chavez once.

But the anti-semitism thing?

From the Wall Street Journal article quoted on the first link:

With Iranian nuclear aspirations gaining notice, it's worth directing attention to the growing relationship between Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez. The Reagan administration repulsed Soviet efforts to set up camp in Central America. Iranian designs on Venezuela perhaps deserve similar U.S. attention.

The warmth and moral support between Ahmadinejad and Chávez is very public. The two tyrants are a lot more than just pen pals. Venezuela has made it clear that it backs Iran's nuclear ambitions and embraces the mullahs' hateful anti-Semitism. What remains more speculative is just how far along Iran is in putting down roots in Venezuela.

In September, when the International Atomic Energy Agency offered a resolution condemning Iran for its "many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with its treaty commitments, Venezuela was the only country that voted "no." Ahmadinejad congratulated the Venezuelan government, calling the vote "brave and judicious."

Three months later, in a Christmas Eve TV broadcast, Chávez declared that "minorities, the descendants of those who crucified Christ, have taken over the riches of the world." That ugly anti-Semitic swipe was of a piece with an insidious assault over the past several years on the country's Jewish community. In 2004, heavily armed Chávez commandos raided a Caracas Jewish school, terrifying children and parents. The government's claim that it had reason to believe that the school was storing arms was never supported. A more reasonable explanation is that the raid was part of the Chávez political strategy of fomenting class hatred--an agenda that finds a vulnerable target in the country's Jewish minority--and as a way to show Tehran that Venezuela is on board. Ahmadinejad rivals Hitler in his hatred for the Jewish people.

Well, wait a minute...

The Venezuelan Jewish community leadership and several major American Jewish groups are accusing the Simon Wiesenthal Center of rushing to judgment by charging Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, with making antisemitic remarks.

Officials of the leading organization of Venezuelan Jewry were preparing a letter this week to the center, complaining that it had misinterpreted Chavez's words and had failed to consult with them before attacking the Venezuelan president.

"You have interfered in the political status, in the security, and in the well-being of our community. You have acted on your own, without consulting us, on issues that you don't know or understand," states a draft of the letter obtained by the Forward. Copies of the letter are also to be sent to the heads of the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, among other Jewish groups.

"We believe the president was not talking about Jews and that the Jewish world must learn to work together," said Fred Pressner, president of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela. The confederation is known by its Spanish acronym, CAIV. He added that this was the third time in recent years that the Wiesenthal center had publicly criticized Chavez without first consulting the local community.

Last week the Wiesenthal Center wrote to Chavez, demanding that he apologize for what the center said was a negative reference to Jews during a Christmas Eve speech. The center also asked the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to "freeze the process" of incorporating Venezuela into Mercosur, a regional trade bloc, unless the Venezuelan president publicly apologizes.

In his speech, Chavez lamented that while the world had enough resources for all, "some minorities, the descendants of the same ones who crucified Christ, the descendants of the same ones who threw out [South American liberator Simon] Bolivar from here and also crucified him in a way in Santa Marta, over there in Colombia — a minority took possession of all the planet's gold, of the silver, the minerals, the waters, the good land, the oil, the riches, and they have concentrated the riches in a few hands. Less than 10% of the world's population possesses over half of the world's riches, and more than half of the planet's population is poor, and every day there are more poor in the world."

Both the AJCommittee and the American Jewish Congress seconded the Venezuelan community's view that Chavez's comments were not aimed at Jews. All three groups said he was aiming his barbs at the white oligarchy that has dominated the region since the colonial era, pointing to his reference to Bolivar as the clearest evidence of his intent.

One official noted that Latin America's so-called Liberation Theology has long depicted Jesus as a socialist and consequently speaks of gentile business elites as "Christ-killers."

And there you have it: it just isn't a "swipe at the Jews," but a critique of those who basically want to steal oil from Venezuelans.

More info about Venezuela here.

And, if you read through the Journal propaganda piece, you wouldn't know that Venezuelans feel like they're living in a free country.

And here's a pretty balanced news site on Venezuela in English.

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