WikiLeaks sheds light on plight of Venezuela's Jews

Jewish community raises concerns with US diplomats in Caracas regarding the hostile environment created by the Chavez government.

December 2, 2010 21:21
4 minute read.
Chavez arrives in Belarus in October

Chavez getting out of car. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


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Venezuelan Jews raised concerns with US diplomats regarding the increasingly hostile environment created for them by the government of President Hugo Chavez, saying they see a “dark horizon” for their community, according to a document released by WikiLeaks on Thursday morning.

The document, dating from November 2009 and labeled confidential, the third highest level of classification, was the first of its kind that focused on Jewish communities in the Diaspora since WikiLeaks unleashed an avalanche of US diplomatic documents to the Web earlier this week.

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In the dispatch, a US diplomat described a gloomy meeting with members of the Confederacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Venezolanas, a local Jewish organization, who feared the leftist government’s growing ties with Iran, and the language chosen by Chavez to protest against Israeli policies.

“While Chavez’s rhetoric once clearly differentiated criticism of Israel from that of the Venezuelan Jewish community, since 2004 they believe he has merged his anti-Zionist views with anti-Semitic ones,” US Political Counselor Robin D. Meyer quoted the leaders as saying.

Members of the Jewish community complained about having to meet with the foreign minister rather than the interior minister to raise their concerns, giving the impression that they were perceived by Caracas as foreigners. Jewish leaders suggested strengthening ties with the US Embassy in case of an outburst of violence against the community.

“Given the ongoing sense of threat, CAIV members agreed on the need for close relations with the US and other embassies as a form of diplomatic protection for the Jewish community,” Meyer wrote.


Over the past decade there have been several violent attacks against Venezuelan Jews and Jewish property, making it one of the most embattled Jewish community in the world. Since Chavez became president the community has halved in size from 18,000 in 2000 to around 9,000 today.

Jewish Venezuelans said they were worried they would be turned into second-class citizens.

“[Jewish leaders were worried Chavez] wants to use the treatment of the Jewish community in Iran as a model” for Venezuela, and there was widespread agreement among CAIV leaders that President Chavez’s close alliance with Iranian President Ahmadinejad did not bode well for the Venezuelan Jewish community,” the document stated.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks released another document on Thursday relating to Russian Jewry.

In a confidential document from September 2008, US Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle recounted his meetings with senior Russian rabbis Adolf Shayevich and Pinchas Goldschmidt touching on several issues, including anti-Semitism, the community’s ties with the Kremlin and Russian Jews’ relatively new affluence.

While nothing in the document was particularly new or controversial, it offered a glimpse into how the Jewish community interacts with the Kremlin and the US. In one segment of the document, the Jewish leaders offered their opinion on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s motivation for his policy toward the local community.

“Xxxx attributed Putin’s relatively pro-Jewish stance to his need to not appear anti-Semitic during his campaign against the oligarchs,” Beryl quoted an interviewee.

Throughout the document the sources’ identities are not revealed, although the document title states the conversations were conducted with Shayevich and Goldschmidt.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the latest Wikileaks

It continues: “Regarding the Jewish community, xxxxx praised the positive effects of Russia’s explosion of wealth, while xxxxx linked economic expansion to a negative shift in the occupational and educational interests of the Russian Jewry. Both xxxxx added that immigration from Israel to Russia vastly exceeded Russian emigration to Israel, but xxxxx noted the reduced Israeli financial support because of the falling dollar.”

During the meeting, Shayevich and Goldschmidt expressed concern over Iran and probed for possible sanctions against Russian businessmen invested in the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Both said anti- Semitism in Russia was less of a problem than it had been in the past, although it still had the potential to flare up again.

The dispatch also gave an account, apparently by Shayevich, of the competition within the community for political prominence.

“Xxxxx admitted that he did not have the same level of contact with the Kremlin as xxxxx. Calling himself an old man, he claimed to have little interest in attending official functions, and he appreciated the fact that he was no longer ‘bothered’ by the ruling elite. He [xxxxx] singled out the Kremlin’s disapproval of Russian oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky... as the chief reason for his past and current political ‘suffering.’”

Since WikiLeaks began releasing US diplomatic cables last week, the two documents emanating from Moscow and Caracas were the first communique focusing on the Diaspora. Still, WikiLeaks says it has thousands of documents in the pipeline, the contents of which no one outside the State Department knows for sure.

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