Chavez meets with Venezuelan Jewish leaders
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Freddy Pressner, president of the Venezuela Confederation of Israelite Associations (CAIV) meet over the recent flap over allegations of anti-Semitic remarks by Chavez:
Venezuela's Chavez, Jews reconcile
President of Jewish community satisfied, says president not anti-Semitic
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday met with local Jewish leaders after a top Jewish rights group accused him of making anti-Semitic remarks during a televised Christmas Eve speech.
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center slammed Chavez for referring broadly to "minorities, descendants of those who crucified Christ" and those who had "grabbed all the wealth."
Venezuela's Jewish community later said it believed the left-wing leader's remarks were not anti-Semitic.
"I think both sides were satisfied because we spoke with honesty," Freddy Pressner, president of the Venezuela Confederation of Israelite Associations, said after the meeting.
Chavez was clear in his condemnation of anti-Semitism in a recent speech to the National Assembly, Pressner said.
Deicide, Jewish money
After the Venezuelan leader made the remarks last month, the Wiesenthal Center sent him a letter stating that "in your words we find two central arguments of anti-Semitism: the canard of the deicide and the association of Jews with wealth."
The government later released a complete transcript of the statement, in which Chavez made similar remarks about those who betrayed 19th century Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolivar.
Chavez and his supporters insisted he had not referred to Jews but instead to the world's rich elites.
Pressner said his organization asked Chavez to closely monitor the transmission of anti-Semitic remarks on state broadcast media.
"We manifested our concern about the wave of anti-Semitic commentary generated by various official media and certain government-affiliated organizations," he said.
In a speech on Tuesday night, Chavez described the accusations of anti-Semitism as "part of the international aggression against Venezuela."
"We are opposed to any ideology that attacks anyone," he said.
The self-styled socialist revolutionary has promised sweeping reforms in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter. He often makes blistering attacks on the U.S. government and blames Venezuela's chronic poverty on years of neglect by the country's ruling elites.
A dissident from CAIV, Paulina Gamus, did not sign the recent letter criticizing the Wiesenthal Center. According to the Devil's Excrement blog, Gamus wrote a Jan. 14 letter in which she claimed that "as a member and third vice-president of the CAIV that in two successive meetings the majority of the members of the Board of CAIV voted against sending a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center as was done by its President." Gamus is also a member of the Venezuelan parliament in the opposition Democratic Action Party.
Gamus also wrote the following critique:
Chavez, La Hojilla and the Jews, by Paulina Gamus
The most frequent question that Venezuelan Jews and those from other countries ask me is: You were a politician and you were never attacked for being Jewish? I recall my memory and remember three cases since I was born in the San Jose Parish of Caracas, many years ago. The first one was a playmate of kids' games-when I was seven or eight years old-who accused me of having killed Christ.
Since I did not remember having killed anyone, I asked my mother who told me that because of that lie the Nazis were killing Jews in Europe: the Second World War was not over yet. The next day the girl wanted to come and play to my house, I kicked her out, I never talked to her again and I learned to defend my condition as a Jew with dignity.
The second offense came from a high leader of my party, Acción Democrática, who opposed me entering its executive committee; he gathered the electing delegates and told them that I was a "Zionist". This caused me hilarity more than rage, when some of them, most of them from the provinces, told me that my adversaries were accusing me of something strange that sounded like communism. I won that election and became part of the executive committee.
The third one took place during a parliamentary debate about the anti-tobacco bill: from the speakers position I commented that the project had some fascistoid aspects and one of the promoters of the bill said from his seat; "What does that Jew know about fascism?". When I finished my speech I went up close to him and told him that it was precisely the Jews who best knew fascism and not ignorant anti-Semites like him.
I never greeted him again. Surely there were hundreds or thousands with similar expressions to discharge their disagreement with my political positions, but at least I never found out about them.
And what is the relevance of this introduction? I will begin by recognizing that in the seven years of his profuse and aggressive verbosity, president Chávez has never refered to the Jews or the state of Israel neither in favor nor against. Could it be that the President-in contrast with those that suffered anti-Semitic prejudices-knows truly what and how the Jews are? For the majority, even for those that are barely ignorant, the Jews are a sort of secret society or brotherhood that responds to the same physical, cultural, ethical, economical and political patterns. The Jews have a curved nose, are rich, stingy, can not be trusted, do not feel citizens of any country and thus are not loyal. They constitute an international mafia and are the owners of the press, movie industry, media in general, of banks and of everything that signifies power. It is difficult to make them believe that the Jews can be white or black, decent or indecent, honest or corrupt, poor or rich, dignified or execrable, dumb or intelligent, ugly or pretty, much like all other human beings. And above all, that each person is responsible for his or her own acts and these can not be charged to the community to which that individual belongs. Of course we do help ourselves and a spirit of solidarity joins us, it could not be any other way, after what has happened through the millennia.
It could be a mystery what president Chávez thinks of Jews if it were not for what the communicators of the regime express, in a regime in which nobody dares to emit a sound, if it does not have the consent of the great chief.
The official media, be it the press or the digital one and others like Radio Nacional, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) and more recently Telesur, broadcast regularly anti-Jewish programs, even if some pretend to cover it up with the veil of them being pro-Palestinian. The crowning glory of this (for now) has been the TV program la Hojilla, transmitted on January 5th. in the official TV channel VTV and conducted by Mario Silva and Lina Ron. The broadcast was destined in its totality to question Jonathan Jacubowics, the young Venezuelan director of the movie Secuestro Express. Did I say Venezuelan? Crass error; for Silva and Ron, Jonathan is a Jew that dared offend the armed institutions of the country, his movie was promoted by Miramax in the US because Jews help each other and Miramax is owned by the Weinstein's, a Jewish family.
Lina Ron charges again when she claims to be amazed because the CAIV (the international representation of the Jewish people) allows people like Jacubowicz to throw mud on our country and that the weekly New Israeli World 'disrespects the country saying that Caracas is a city of contrasts a sub world of differences...' Silva adds that even if it is true that six million Jews died in the Holocaust, nobody talks about the 50 million Russians that died in world war II, because the idea is to only speak of the Holocaust, the rest is 'jungle and snakes' [irrelevant in Venezuelan slang]. The anti-Semitic hate charge of those that made phone calls to the program, had a much more elevated tone.
On the last December 24th. at a refuge called Manantial de los Sueños, Chávez said that the wealth of the world is concentrated in the descendents of those that assassinated Christ; in another context, he confessed that his daily routine is to watch la Hojilla and since he did not always have the time, he would watch at least part of it. It is thus reasonable to assume that the President approves of the program.
The questions then have to be then addressed to President Chavez directly and not to second rate people: you who have gone around the World complaining about the racism of the Venezuelan opposition, do you know that anti Jewish hate is one of the most abominable forms of racism? In the Bolivarian revolution Venezuelan Jews are equal to the rest of Venezuelans or are we second class citizens? Does XXIst. Century socialism allow that Venezuelan Jews may think, dissent, write, give their opinion, be movie makers and even participate in politics? The Jews that were born, grew up and work in Venezuela, that have grandchildren like me, born in this country and who have buried their dead in this landcan we continue to live here without staying silent and kneeling ourselves? And last, this directed to the two from la Hojilla; if instead of being Jewish Jonathan Jacubowicz had been black, what would be the arguments to attack him?
In Dec. 2004, a local judge ordered a raid on the Hebraica School in Caracas after a program aired on state-run television accusing the Israeli Mossad of having been involved in the assassination of Venezuelan prosecutor Danilo Anderson, who was investigating the plotters of the failed coup against Chavez. The paleo-conservative National Review wrote at the time:
The assassins are unknown, but the Chavez, his allies, and the state-controlled media have blamed the Venezuelan opposition, Venezuelan expatriates in Miami, and various foreign forces including the Mossad. This putative Mossad connection was the excuse for the raid on the Colegio Hebraica.
Weekly News Update on the Americas cites an October 2004 broadcast on a Miami TV station, before Anderson was shot:
Venezuelan actor and anti-Chavez activist Orlando Urdaneta, interviewed in October on a Miami television station, urged that efficient commandos be hired to assassinate Chavez and his associates in Venezuela. The interviewer, Maria Elvira Salazar, suggested to Urdaneta that the commandos would ideally be Israeli; Urdaneta agreed. On Nov. 25, the Israeli embassy denied any connection with sectors trying to destabilize the Venezuelan government, and denied that any Israelis were involved with the Anderson assassination. (EFE, Nov. 29, Newsday, Nov. 20)
"Chavez has a lot of rage," noted Michael Shifter, an influential and oft-quoted Andean specialist and vice-president of the Inter-American Dialogue, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the Venezuelan leadership, "but it hasn't been driven toward Jews in particular."
The Hebraica raid was ordered by a local judge acting on his own initiative without the approval or direction of the central government, according to Shifter.
The following is from VHeadline, which says it is "100% independent of all political factions in Venezuela":
VHeadline.com News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue writes: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias has met with members of the Jewish Community in Venezuela, clarifying alleged anti-Semitic remarks made by the former last Christmas.
Confederation of Israeli Associations president, Fred Pressner says President Chavez Frias has been asked to extend his rejection of anti-Jewish remarks to other instances of government.
Pressner says the community is deeply concerned about racial remarks made in Venezuelan media.
The President is said to have been "receptive" to a petition to penalize discrimination in any of its forms, among which is anti-Semitism
According to Jewish community representatives, there have no differences with the Venezuelan government.
"President Chavez Frias was clear in attacking anti-Semitism during his national rendering of accounts at the National Assembly but we want this to filter down into all government instances."
The President has gone a step further requesting the Jewish community to collaborate or develop projects of social interest.
Speaking on Sunday, Chavez Frias criticized the opposition press for blowing the incident out of all proportions and insisting on supporting a policy of promoting co-existence between Israel and Palestine.
See our last post on Venezuela.