At the turn of the 19th century, Venezuela and Colombia were fighting against their Spanish colonizers in wars of independence. Simon Bolivar, considered Venezuela’s liberator, found refuge and material support for his army in the homes of Jews from Curaçao. Jews such as Mordejai Ricardo and brothers Ricardo and Abraham Meza offered hospitality to Bolivar as he fought against the Spanish, thus establishing brotherly relations between Jews and the newly independent Venezuelan republic.
Several Jews even fought in the ranks of Bolivar’s army during the war. The ties between Jews in the Dutch island colonies and Venezuela increased more dramatically between 1819-1821 after its new constitution called for religious freedom. The history of Venezuela’s Jews is uneven…some places they were tolerate, others they were attacked. There has Never been, however, state sponsored Jew-hatred in the country until Hugo Chávez’s rise. The more that Chávez consolidates his stranglehold on Venezuela the greater his oppression of the country’s Jewish Population.
Back in May, Congressman Connie Mack introduced a resolution condemning Hugo Chavez for the state sponsored anti-Semitism (see below). The resolution was sent to the House Foreign relations committee where it still sits. Apparently House Democrats are not ready to bash Chavez. The must feel that since the President is willing to wrongly bash our Honduras ally to make Chavez happy…what’s a few dead Venezuelan Jews.
House Democrats should support Republican resolution condemning Hugo Chavez for anti-semitism.
By Adam Hasner
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s anti-Semitism and his verbal attacks on Israel should be of concern to America’s Jewish community. During his recent travels to Iran and Syria, Chavez took repeated shots at Israel and the Jewish people including comments that “Israelis are openly assassinating Palestinians,” and that the latest incursion into Gaza was “genocide.”
Chavez’s budding friendship with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must also not be ignored. Venezuela and Iran already have finance and oil agreements and recently signed an enhanced military cooperation pact meaning that if Israel were to defend itself against the credible threats of attack from Iran, Venezuela would come to Iran’s defense.
But the Chavez-Ahmadinejad partnership has created a broader crisis. Combining Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitism of denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel’s destruction with Chavez’s views has increased the hostility and threats faced by Venezuela’s Jewish community.
Recently, a Caracas synagogue was vandalized and a computer with names and addresses of local Jews was stolen. Eight of the eleven men charged in this crime were police officers. In another attack, explosives were thrown at a Jewish community center and a pro-Chavez group vandalized the residence of a government official, whose grandparents were Jewish, with swastikas.
Chavez has severed relations with Israel, kicked Israel’s Ambassador out, stated that the Israeli government is the assassin arm of the United States, while allowing the Palestinian Authority to open diplomatic offices in Venezuela. More frightening are the reports from New York’s District Attorney Robert Morganthau that Iranian camps are now operating inside of Venezuela.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted that Chavez is cooperating with “radical branches” of Islam and warned against Chavez’s “xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Israelism.”
Lieberman is not alone in his calls for the world to take notice. Rabbis across the US and Venezuela have called on leaders in Washington to speak out against on what is occurring.
Florida Congressman Connie Mack, the top Republican on the Committee on the Western Hemisphere, has been the leading voice against Chavez and anti-Semitism in Venezuela. Mack has introduced a resolution (H. Con. Res. 124) condemning the growing anti-Semitism in Venezuela and expressing support for their Jewish community.
Unfortunately, our local congressman, Ron Klein, has not yet joined Mack in taking an official stand against this rising threat. Klein and others suggest that now is not the right time for the resolution and that by remaining quiet Chavez and his government will eventually address the problem.
Respectfully, I disagree.
While I understand that President Obama would like to improve relations with Chavez, politics should not prevent congressional Democrats from joining 28 of their Republican colleagues in speaking out and confronting anti-Semitism in Venezuela in no uncertain terms. Leaders should never be afraid to speak out against that which is wrong. As history has demonstrated, silence in the face of rising anti-Semitism will not make the problem go away.
Klein should support Mack’s resolution and demonstrate that we all stand together against anti-Semitism no matter where it occurs or when it happens. As Edmond Burke said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The resolution introduced by Congressman Mack is below
H. CON. RES. 124
Expressing the support of Congress for the Jewish community in Venezuela.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 12, 2009
Mr. MACK (for himself, Mr. BILIRAKIS, Mrs. BONO MACK, Mr. BISHOP of Utah, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. CAMPBELL, Mr. CANTOR, Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida, Mr. MARIO DIAZ-BALART of Florida, Mr. KIRK, Mr. LAMBORN, Mr. MCCAUL, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. ROONEY, Mr. SHIMKUS, Mr. SHUSTER, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. ROYCE, Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. SCHOCK, Mr. MANZULLO, Mr. BROUN of Georgia, Mr. POE of Texas, Mr. PENCE, and Mr. WOLF) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Expressing the support of Congress for the Jewish community in Venezuela.
Whereas it is the policy of the United States to protect religious freedom and to oppose hatred based on religion, nationality, race, or ethnicity, including countering anti-Semitism, at home and abroad;
Whereas the Jewish community in Venezuela has been a thriving one and the Jewish population included families that have lived in the country for over two centuries and many survivors of World War II;
Whereas according to the Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism Report released by the Department of State’s Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, ‘in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has publicly demonized Israel and utilized stereotypes about Jewish financial influence and control, while Venezuela’s government-sponsored mass media have become vehicles for anti-Semitic discourse’;
Whereas according to the 2008 State Department’s Human Rights Report on Venezuela, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic vandalism, caricatures, intimidations, and physical attacks on Jewish institutions from March 2008 onward;
Whereas the 2008 International Religious Freedom Report released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, ‘[g]overnment-sponsored media outlets [in Venezuela] utilized anti-Jewish caricatures and political cartoons on several occasions’;
Whereas the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed Venezuela on its Watch List of religious freedom violators, finding that official state rhetoric against the Venezuelan Jewish community created an environment where Jewish religious leaders and institutions are at risk of attack;
Whereas in December 2007, Jewish leaders in Venezuela and across the world condemned an armed police raid, in search of weapons, on a Jewish center in Caracas where no weapons were found;
Whereas, on January of 2009, a Caracas synagogue was ransacked and vandalized and the assailants shattered religious objects, spray-painting ‘Jews, get out’ on the temple’s walls and stole a computer database containing names and addresses of Jews living in Venezuela;
Whereas the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement condemning the January 2009 attack on the synagogue stating that ‘it is directly related to the atmosphere of anti-Jewish intimidation promoted by President Chavez and his government apparatus’;
Whereas in February 2009, assailants threw an explosive at a Jewish community center, spreading widespread fear in the Jewish community in Venezuela;
Whereas President Chavez stated that ‘Israel continues to behave like the assassin arm of the government of the United States . . . [and that] the government of Israel is a government of assassins, government engaged in genocide’;
Whereas, on January 6, 2009, President Hugo Chavez expelled Israel’s ambassador to Venezuela along with six other Israeli diplomats;
Whereas, on January 14, 2009, Venezuela officially severed relations with the State of Israel ending 60 years of diplomatic ties and deepening the vulnerability of Venezuelan Jews;
Whereas Navy Admiral James Stavridis, head of U.S. Southern Command, testified before the Armed Services Committee on March 18, 2009, and indicated that ‘[t]errorist networks are active throughout our hemisphere [and are] involved in . . . logistical support for parent organizations based in the Middle East, such as Hizballah and Hamas.’ Admiral Stavridis further indicated that ‘our intelligence has demonstrated that pre-operational and operational activities have indeed occurred [in the region]’;
Whereas according to the 2007 Country Report on Terrorism, released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, ‘two self-proclaimed Islamic extremists were arrested in October 2006 for placing a pair of pipe bombs outside the American Embassy in Caracas.’;
Whereas, on June 18, 2008, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was freezing the United States assets of two Venezuelans, Ghazi Nasr al Din (a Venezuelan diplomat serving in Lebanon) and Fawzi Kan’an, for providing financial and other support to Hezbollah;
Whereas the Department of State’s 2009 International Travel information on Venezuela specifies that since 2006, ‘statistics have shown an alarming 78 percent increase in the number of reported kidnappings in Venezuela’ and that kidnappers deal ‘with victim’s families directly or [sell] the victim to terrorist groups’;
Whereas the 2008 Country Report on Terrorism states that ‘Iran and Venezuela continued weekly flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas. Passengers on these flights were reportedly subject to only cursory immigration and customs controls at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas.’;
Whereas the 2008 Country Report continues that ‘Venezuelan citizenship, identity, and travel documents remained easy to obtain, making Venezuela a potentially attractive way station for terrorists. International authorities remained suspicious of the integrity of Venezuelan documents and their issuance process.’;
Whereas a pattern for terrorism against Jewish communities in Latin America already exists, exemplified by the fact that on July 18, 1994, 85 innocent people were killed and 300 were wounded when the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) was bombed in Buenos Aires, Argentina;
Whereas it was reported that contact was made by the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires to a mosque in Canuelas, Argentina, in the days before the AMIA bombing;
Whereas President Ahmadinejad and President Chavez have forged a close relationship;
Whereas according to the Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence, released on February 5, 2008, Venezuela has greatly increased its cooperation with Iran; and
Whereas according to United States intelligence officials, Iran possesses the potential to use its close relationship with Venezuela to facilitate the smuggling of people, drugs, and weapons into the Western Hemisphere through terrorist proxy groups: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress–
(1) condemns the anti-Semitic acts in Venezuela;
(2) expresses its support for all Venezuelan citizens targeted by the Chavez government, including those in the Jewish community, in their daily struggle for freedom, civil liberties, and the protection of the rule of law;
(3) express its grave concern regarding the increased collaboration between the Iranian regime, its proxy militia Hezbollah, and the Venezuela Government, and the ramifications such collaboration will have on the Jewish community in Venezuela;
(4) calls on the Government of Venezuela to abide by its international obligations and to protect the rights of the Jewish Venezuelan community, irrespective of their political views;
(5) urges that the Government of Venezuela takes verifiable steps to ensure the safety of the Jewish community in the country; and
(6) encourages the President and the Secretary of State to reach out to democracy and human rights activists in Venezuela, and to assist them in their efforts in combating anti-Semitism in Venezuela.