Hugo Chavez. I have a theory about him. I think he has a wheel of fortune type wheel with pictures of oppressive dictators from the world's past, and every now and then, when things get boring, he gives it a spin.
It seems as though he has recently landed on Adolf Hitler. The Jewish population in Venezuela is rapidly decreasing as more and more Jews leave the country out of fear of what may lie ahead under the anti-Jewish and iron fisted rule of Hugo Chavez.
In recent years he has referred to Venezuelan Jews as "descendants of the same ones who crucified Christ" and "a minority [that] has taken ownership of all the gold of the planet." According to Shmuel Herzfeld, a Washington, D.C., rabbi who visited Venezuela in March: "Chavez is isolating the Jews and turning Venezuelans against the Jewish community. . . . The government is transforming a society that has been welcoming and accepting of Jews" in the past. Rabbi Bremer, who has lived in Venezuela for more than 40 years, says that he had never personally encountered anti-Semitism or heard of anti-Semitic incidents until recently.
There has also been an increase in verbal and physical attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions.
In January, the largest Sephardic synagogue in Caracas was vandalized and desecrated. Among the slogans painted on the wall was "damned Jews, death to you." A list of members of the congregation was stolen. In February, another synagogue was attacked with a grenade.
Chavez is cloaking his anti-Jewish fervor in pro-Palestinian rhetoric. He is obviously trying to make it appears as though he is only opposed to Israel as a nation-state and Jews that support Israel. However, his statements belie this assertion, and if anyone remembers history at all, we saw how Hitler used one or two small grievances to build up resentment, discrimination, and hatred against the Jewish community.
The Israeli ambassador has been kicked out of Venezuela and Chavez is demanding that all Jewish citizens renounce Israel. Add to this a paper published by a university professor complete with calls to boycott Jewish businesses and other frighteningly familiar acts.
In January, a professor published an article online calling on citizens to boycott Jewish-owned businesses and confiscate the property of Jews who support Israel. He urged Venezuelans to "summon publicly every Jew found in the streets, squares, shopping malls, etc. and force them to take positions, screaming at them slogans in favor of Palestine and against the abortion-state of Israel."
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has put Venezuela on a watch-list as a country that threatens religious freedom. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been asked to hold a hearing on anti-Semitism in Venezuela, and their decision is due out this month.
Catholics are also under attack by Chavez, but not to the extent that the Jewish community has seen - yet.
One Rabbi is quoted as saying, "I think we're in the early stages of something catastrophic."
President Obama, do you still insist on siding with the Venzuelan devil?