The Chavez government uses anti-Semitism to tamp down on political opposition, Claudio Lomnitz and Rafael Sánchez write for the Boston Review. “Over the past four years,” Lomnitz and Sánchez report, ” Venezuela has witnessed alarming signs of state-directed anti-Semitism.” That may be the reason why some 20 percent of the Jews in Venezuela have left the country in recent years.
In January 2009, masked gunmen raided and vandalized the Teferet Israel synagogue in Caracas. In late 2004, Venezuelan police stormed a Jewish community center allegedly in search of weapons that were never found. In 2005, Chavez himself said publicly, “The world has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, and of those that expelled Bolívar from here and in their own way crucified him. . . . have taken control of the riches of the world.”
Jews may be the victim of the anti-Semitism, but the real targets are political dissidents, according to Lomnitz and Sánchez. Chavez seeks to paint all political opposition as anti-national, and blaming Jews as infiltrators into society, a traditional anti-Semitic trope, serves that purpose. In that sense, Lomnitz and Sánchez write that “Chavista anti-Semitism is a symptom of the weakness of the regime itself” and its struggles to control opposition.
Chavista political philosophy argeting Jews as scapegoats is “another element of classical fascism that Hugo Chavez has not hesitated to exploit.”