Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez weighs in on the accusations that he made anti-Semitic comments in a Christmas Eve speech. OK, maybe the accusations are part of an “imperialist campaign.” But why is anti-Semitism the only form of ethnic hatred which it is acceptable in supposedly progressive discourse to simply dismiss accusations of as an “imperialist campaign”? Why is there no acknowledgement here of even the possibility that his comments were honestly interpreted as anti-Semitic? We do wish this Jan. 15 report from Israel’s YNet gave more information. Did Chavez have anything else to say about the accusations?
Venezuela’s Chavez says not anti-Semitic
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez denies allegations he is anti-Semitic, claims charges part of ‘imperialist campaign’
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on Friday rejected as propaganda charges by the Simon Wiesenthal Center that he made anti-Semitic remarks during a nationally broadcast Christmas speech last month.
Earlier this month the Wiesenthal Center accused Chavez of anti-Semitism demanded an apology because it said Chavez had related the Jewish people to the killing of Jesus Christ and associated them with wealth, both traditional anti-Semitic claims.
Chavez, a socialist ally of Cuba and fierce critic of what he brands Washington’s imperialist policies, did not mention the Jewish people in his December speech and had also referred to the betrayal of Venezuelan liberation hero Simon Bolivar.
“Anti-liberal I am, anti-imperialist even more so, but anti-Semitic, never, that’s a lie,” Chavez said addressing the parliament. “It’s part of a imperialist campaign, I am sure.”
Since he survived a 2002 coup, Chavez has often accused the U.S. government of trying to overthrow him. Washington counters that he has become a negative influence in South America.
In a televised Christmas Eve speech, Chavez, a former soldier, referred broadly to “minorities, descendants of those who crucified Christ” and those who had “grabbed all the wealth.”
The influential Simon Wiesenthal Center promotes tolerance and confronts issues like racism and anti-Semitism and also deals with the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, neo-Nazism, and hate on the Internet.
Speaking to the National Assembly on Friday, Chavez also sent his regards to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Rabbi Hier of the Weisenthal Center rejects Chavez’ denial as “preposterous.” (AP, Jan. 13) He also said the center stood by its statement about Chavez’s December remarks.
“Anyone seeing those words and knowing the history of anti-Semitism would immediately say that the president of Venezuela is talking about Jews,” Hier told Reuters by telephone. “Are those words anti-Semitic? Yes they are.” (Reuters, Jan. 15)
See our last post on Venezuela.