On the eve of the international London Conference on Anti-Semitism, Venezuelan Jewish community leader Sammy Eppel, director of the human rights commission of B’nai B’rith and columnist for the Caracas daily El Universal, accused President Hugo Chávez of leading a state-sanctioned campaign against the country’s Jews. Eppel said the campaign of anti-Semitism that hit world headlines with this January’s Venezuelan synagogue attack actually began with a raid on a Jewish school in Caracas in 2004. The police were looking for weapons and explosives, but he pointed out that the raid coincided with a high-profile visit to Iran by Chávez. “It was, if you like, a gift for Ahmadinejad, to say that ‘this is how I treat my Jews,'” Eppel said.
Eppel also noted that this Jan. 20—days before the synagogue attack—the pro-government news portal, Aporrea, published a “Plan of Action‚” which called for “confiscation of properties of those Jews who support the Zionist atrocities of the Nazi-State of Israel and [the] donation [of] this property to the Palestinian victims of today’s Holocaust.” It also called for members of “powerful Jewish groups” in Venezuela to publicly denounce by name, as well as the names of their companies and businesses in order to boycott them. Eppel said the plan “was a call to action, people were urged to confront Jews in the streets, they were talking about closing Jewish schools, confiscating Jewish property. It’s being done in government and the media and this should be troubling not just us but [the] whole world.”
He accused the government of making Venezuela a sort of laboratory of anti-Semitism. “It is like an evil experiment to try and convince the population, that has never been anti-Semitic, and try to introduce anti-Semitism into society,” he said. “This is the time to stop because it’s spreading hate, discrimination and is a flagrant violation of human rights and it could spread and be very dangerous.”
“[E]verything I present comes from open sources,” Eppel insisted. “I don’t speculate, it’s all documented and in the public domain. I’m not taking anything out of context nor inventing anything or presenting a theory.” After the synagogue attack, Eppel said that the pro-government media blamed the Mossad and the CIA. The Jewish community was also implicated, but Eppel said he has no doubt who was behind it. “When they give you a standard response like that, it puts a warning light and you immediately think it’s the government because why are they looking for excuses if no one has accused them?” (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 15)
Eppel’s own newspaper El Universal meanwhile reported police statements that the Jan. 30 attack on the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue was motivated not by anti-Semitism but rather was a robbery. The paper said authorities believe a police homicide detective headed the gang that attacked the synagogue. The paper also quoted police sources that one of the robbers, also a police officer, who had served as the synagogue rabbi’s bodyguard, had thought up the robbery out of anger over the rabbi’s refusal to lend him money. The anti-Semitic slogans, the reports said, were painted to confuse police. (Haaretz, Feb. 16)
We submit that the robbery thesis makes no sense. Nobody desecrates a synagogue merely as a “diversion.” Profit was an ancillary motive at best. And the fact that El Universal is associated with the opposition does not loan the assertion credibility—it is merely reporting the police statements, not endorsing them. Finally, even if the synagogue attack really is a random anomaly, enough ugly Jew-baiting statements (such as those cited above and in our previous posts) have now appeared in Venezuela’s pro-government media to indicate that something is not quite kosher in the Bolivarian Republic…
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