Sunday, February 01, 2009

Caracas Synagogue Trashed; Chavez Blames Opposition

Ha'Aretz reports that some 15 armed men broke into a Caracas synagogue late Friday night, overpowering two security guards, destroying religious objects and spraying anti-Jewish graffiti slogans such as "We don't want murderers," and "Jews get out." The attackers ransacked the synagogue sanctuary and offices, doing so much damage that it was impossible to hold Sabbath morning services there on Saturday morning.

The attack came amid rising tension between the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez and Israel. The Venezuelan strong man last month expelled Israel's ambassador and cut diplomatic ties with the Jewish State as a protest against Israel's military action in Gaza.

Chavez condemned the defiling of the synagogue, blaming it on his political opponents. "It must be asked ... who benefits from these violent incidents. It is not the government, nor the people, nor the revolution." He he suggested opposition leaders plotted the attack to reduce his chances in a February 15 referendum on a constitutional amendment that would let him stay in office after his term ends in 2013.

Others were skeptical of Chavez's charges. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) referred to the attack on the synagogue as a "modern day Kristallnacht," referring to the Nazi Germany pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, a single night of anti-Jewish attacks in which Gestapo-led mobs murdered 91 Jews, destroyed some 200 synagogues, and ransacked thousands of Jewish businesses. The Nazi regime arrested 25,000-30,000 Jews and sent them to concentration camps. The name "Kristallnacht," literally "chrystal night," referred to the enormous number of windows shattered in Jewish-owned shops and businesses.

Even someone such as myself, who holds Chavez in low regard, would have to conclude that the ADL's description suffers from unfortunate hyperbole, typical of that organization. However, it shows that the ADL views the Chavez condemnation of the attack and his attribution of blame to his political opposition as a probable part of a propaganda exercise that included the attack itself.

A more apt comparision with this synagogue desecration would have been to the pogroms organized by the Czarist government of Russia in the early 1900's--low-level violence designed to terrorize and repress the Jewish population without doing a great deal of violence. In this regard, the ADL correctly stated that the attack was "directly related to the atmosphere of anti-Jewish intimidation promoted by President Chavez and his government apparatus."

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