Anti-Semitic attacks in Bolivia: usual confusion

It has received shamefully little international coverage—or even internal coverage within Bolivia—but has of course been jumped on by the right-wing Jewish press, e.g. Arutz Sheva, Algemeiner‎, Times of Israel. And what little coverage it has received is pretty garbled—both factually and politically. On Sept. 13, a dynamite attack damaged the main Jewish cemetery in La Paz, according to the aforementioned sources—although the Agencia Judía de Noticias places the attack in Cochabamba, probably erroneously. It does appear that Cochabamba's synagogue was attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails in April and July. The American Jewish Committee weighed in on the attacks in the usual problematic terms, emphasizing President Evo Morales' protests of the Gaza bombardment—and compouding this condescension with the insult of getting his name wrong! Wrote Dina Siegel Vann, AJC's director of Latin American affairs: "President Eva [sic!] Morales' hostility towards Israel has encouraged regular attacks against the country's Jewish population in the media and violent attacks on Jewish institutions. This is a very dangerous trend that only the government can and should vigorously turn back and end."

Horacio Peiser, former Bolivian consul in Israel, had an open letter in Cochabamba's daily Los Tiempos that opens "I am a Bolivian Jew," and goes on to defend Israel's bombardment in the predictable terms: "I ask you, distinguished Señor President: What would Bolivia have done if Paraguay or Peru had bombed Bolivia with more than 3,000 missiles in a month?" The Israeli missiles falling on Gaza seem to be invisible to Peiser, as well as the glaring fact that Bolivia is not beseiging the borders of Paraguay or Peru!

It is all typically maddening. The attacks on the cemetery and synagogue should indeed be forthrightly opposed (has Morales spoken out on them?), and without any semi-excuses that reference the Gaza bombardment. (Note that the first Cochabamba attack was back in April, well before the bombardment started.) As we've stated repeatedly: Ritual squawking that "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" is just that—an empty ritual bereft of meaning—if we don't call out real anti-Semitism. We must once again call out the twin errors that are nearly ubiquitous in commentary on such incidents. One is to deny the context of the Gaza bombardment and portray such outbursts as mere arbitrary anti-Semitism. The other is to deny the anti-Semitic element, as if fire-bombing a synagogue were a legitimate way to protest Israeli atrocities. But to actually demand that protests of Israeli aggression be silenced is to do a particular disservice to the struggle against anti-Semitism: it makes it basically impossible, at least for anyone with a sense of moral consistency.

Ricardo Udler, president of the Círculo Israelita de Bolivia—accurately translated as Jewish (not Israeli) Community of Bolivia—issued a statement of his own, calling on the government to act: "If these attacks continue to increase we are going to have problems to regret. Now is the time to open the doors to ensure that this does not get out of hand and leave us lamenting the consequences." He seems to be about the only Jewish leader to justly protest the attacks without using the occassion to bash Morales' own just protests of the Gaza bombardment.

And to complicate it yet further, while Morales has been a stand-up guy when it comes to Israeli aggression, he is a spineless apologist for Bashar Assad's even greater state terrorism against the people of Syria. We hate to say it, but there's no way around it.