Protesters fear Venezuelan anti-Semitism

Dozens of demonstrators gather in front of UN offices to condemn last week's Caracas synagogue attack.

caracas  jews anti-semitism 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
caracas jews anti-semitism 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Dozens of demonstrators waving banners reading "Hate Only Sows Hate" and "Coexist" gathered Tuesday in front of the United Nations' local offices to protest an attack on a Jewish synagogue and to warn against what some fear is a growing tide of anti-Semitism. Roughly 100 protesters condemned the Jan. 30 attack on a Caracas synagogue that has raised concerns of religious intolerance. "We're in shock because nothing like this occurred in Venezuela before," said Mercedes Benmoha, 28, a teacher who helped organize the protest. "We all have the right to practice our religion in peace and tranquility." An armed group vandalized the capital city's oldest synagogue last week, shattering religious objects, throwing Torah scrolls on the floor and spray-painting walls with anti-Semitic messages amid Venezuela's diplomatic spat with Israel over its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Venezuelan authorities are investigating the incident, but no suspects have been arrested. Leaders of Venezuela's estimated 15,000-member Jewish community have complained that vocal denunciations of Israel by President Hugo Chavez and Venezuela's state and pro-government news media may have encouraged the attack. Chavez has condemned the attack, and suggested that government adversaries eager to portray his socialist administration as anti-Semitic could have been behind it. Venezuela's Jews also are concerned about Chavez's increasingly close relationship with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."