Venezuelan government accused of doing little to curb anti-Semitism

Government either looks the other way or does little to curb anti-Semitic acts, B’nai B’rith International representative says.

A Venezuelan student walks over a cloth with red paint and the Star of David during an anti-Israel demonstration in Caracas. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Venezuelan student walks over a cloth with red paint and the Star of David during an anti-Israel demonstration in Caracas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Venezuelan government does little to combat anti-Semitism and may actually encourage it, a senior B’nai B’rith International member alleged in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Last Tuesday a swastika and the number 6,000,000 with a question mark next to it were found scrawled on a wall across from Caracas’s AIV del Este Sephardic synagogue, eliciting strong condemnations.
“The government has shown no willingness [and] no commitment to really addressing this kind of problem,” said B’nai B’rith International executive vice president Daniel Mariaschin.
Venezuelan authorities have declined to apply existing anti-discrimination legislation to anti-Semitic incidents he asserted, stating that the west should point a finger at the Latin American country.
Both the government of the late Hugo Chavez, who ruled the country from 1998 until his death in 2013, and that of his successor Nicolas Maduro have either looked the other way or have allowed “anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic acts to occur and not to be addressed properly,” Mariaschin said.
Following Chavez’s death last March, Jewish leaders around the world announced they would monitor the country’s political transition and expressed concern for Jewish community.
At the time Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman told the Post that the Venezuelan Jewish community had been a target of anti-Semitism that was “permitted and even encouraged by the regime and its supporters.”
“Intimidation of the Jewish community was commonplace and Jewish religious and communal institutions were desecrated, vandalized and even investigated by the police without justification. Chavez would use the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to accuse the Venezuelan Jewish community of disloyalty to Venezuela if they did not denounce Israel.”
Lidia Lerner of Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Kantor Database on Anti-Semitism and Racism, said that unfortunately, anti-Semitism in Venezuela in the post- Chavez era still “comes from the top, from government circles.”
“Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro and their government, while espousing [sometimes virulent] anti-Zionist rhetoric, denied charges of anti-Semitism, and attempted to separate between their policy towards Israel and the Middle East and their attitude toward Venezuelan Jews,” she said.
“However, recent years have seen a rise in anti-Semitic manifestations, including vandalism, media attacks, caricatures, and physical attacks on Jewish institutions.”
The Confederacion de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela (CAIV), which represents the country’s 16,000 Jews, recorded a total of 4,033 anti-Semitic incidents in 2013.
“If the authorities would truly become aware of the damage caused to a country’s reputation by maintaining a passive and accommodating attitude [without taking into account the promotion and sponsoring] of these aspects, I am convinced that the situation would be different here,” the report stated.