It is really, really a drag to have to do this, but we really have no choice. Whatever legitimate reasons there are to oppose Henrique Capriles Radonski, it doesn’t let the Hugo Chávez political machine off the hook for the most vulgar Jew-baiting. Once again, the chavistas serve up propaganda ammo on the proverbial silver platter for the corporate media to shoot right back at them. Fools. From Reuters, Feb. 17:
Two prominent U.S.-based Jewish organizations condemned on Friday as anti-Semitism a wave of verbal and written attacks by President Hugo Chavez’s supporters against Venezuela’s opposition leader.
Henrique Capriles, the grandson of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust, has faced a barrage of insults since winning the Democratic Unity coalition’s presidential candidacy on Sunday. One that caused particular outrage was a profile by a state radio commentator entitled “The Enemy is Zionism.”
The full gamut of attacks, though, has ranged from Chavez calling him a “pig” to a prominent TV commentator accusing him of being caught in a car having sex with another man.
Ah yes, let’s throw in some gratuitous homophobia to boot.
With official after official lining up to condemn Capriles as a flag bearer of the “bourgeoisie” and “Yankee imperialism,” some Chavez supporters have even been circulating a cartoon of him in pink underwear with a Nazi Swastika on his arm.
Capriles, who is a Catholic, has kept quiet about the vitriol against him, saying he only wants to fight the problems that really bother Venezuelans such as crime and unemployment.
He is seeking to unseat Chavez in an October 7 election that is shaping into the biggest challenge to the socialist leader’s 13-year rule of the South American OPEC member…
Capriles isn’t even Jewish, but, as we have noted, that never seems to stop anti-Semites. Any trace of the Jewish contagion is enough:
Capriles often speaks movingly about his grandmother’s time in hiding and escape from the Warsaw ghetto. His maternal grandparents, called the Radonskis, moved to Venezuela after World War Two and began a cinema business that is now a thriving enterprise. Some relatives died in Nazi extermination camps.
“They have even called me a Nazi—how ignorant is that?” Capriles said on the campaign trail before his landslide win at a weekend primary vote.
The 39-year-old governor of Miranda state wears a wooden rosary round his neck and headed to a Catholic shrine on Margarita island to give thanks straight after his primary win.
The two Jewish organizations that have brought this to Reuters’ attention (and are quoted by the agency) are the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Now, spare us the predictable response of pointing out the problems with these two organizations. We are well aware of them, and have blogged about them again and again and again and again. If the accusations check out, pointing to the problematic politics of the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center is just shooting the messenger. And the accusations do check out.
Reuters, in typical maddening style, saves the money quote for the end:
Commentator Adal Hernandez’s article on Venezuela’s National Radio website—bearing the logo of the Information Ministry—opens by describing Capriles’ grandparents’ Jewish lineage.
After accusing him of “fascist” and CIA links, the journalist concludes: “In October, there are two clear proposals for Venezuela: the Bolivarian Revolution defending the unity of Latin American and interests of the people, or international Zionism, threatening the destruction of our planet.”
The translation from the Spanish is accurate. The Simon Wiesenthal page on the affair links to the Radio Nacional de Venezuela page in question, “El Enemigo es el Sionismo.” It is quite a piece of work. In the very first sentence, Capriles is named as “a descendent of a family of Sephardic Jews from Curaçao, and Mónica Cristina Radonski Bochenek, a Russo-Polish Jew…” Like most such propaganda, it mixes up potentially legitimate claims with wacky Jew-baiting, confusing the gullible. We are told that Capriles belongs to a “paramilitary and fascist sect called Tradition, Family and Property,” and that his party, COPEI, is linked to Opus Dei (certainly something of an irony, as Opus Dei is a reactionary Catholic organization, with its own anti-Semitic streak!). Well, we’d certainly like to hear more about Capriles’ paramilitary ties. But Hernández closes as he opened, returning to the Jewish bugaboo with his “International Zionism threatens the destruction the planet” line.
That’s something else we have called out again and again—the conflation of Zionism and capitalism. There are many good reasons to oppose both Zionism and capitalism, but they are not the same thing, and conflating them grossly overestimates the role of Zionism in the global power structure. It is capitalism, not Zionism, that is threatening the planet with destruction. The only way this could be applied to Zionism is if Hernández was referring to the risk of a conflict over Palestine sparking nuclear war. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what he meant. Zionism is oppressing the Palestinians. The day-to-day work of destroying the planet through systemic ecocide is the bailiwick of capitalism. You’d think the advocates of “21st century socialism” would grasp this.
The next response that we anticipate is even more tiresome. 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. And when the charge of “Zionism” is brought up only apropos of someone’s ethnicity, and the word is used as an all-purpose insult in the same way that the right in the US uses “liberal” or “socialist”—then it is pretty damn clear that real anti-Semitism is at work. Use of the “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism” mantra to excuse this ugliness is no better than the Zionists’ bogus use of the charge of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel. In fact, it is exactly the same propaganda device.
As we’ve always said, Zionists and anti-Semites are birds of a feather, if only they could see it…