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Wednesday, January 09, 2008


"Anti-semitism" - the last refuge of scoundrels

Such an easy charge to hurl, and so useful as a tool against your enemies. This from today's Miami Herald:
Venezuelan Jews, long uneasy with the Chavez government's alliances with Iran and other Middle Eastern countries that espouse anti-Israel views, are concerned that the government is sponsoring anti-Semitism in this hemisphere, a prominent journalist said Tuesday.
Note the quick seque from "anti-Israel views," which is reasonably accurate (although "pro-Palestinian" would be more accurate) to "anti-Semitism." And the evidence? For one, the country's allegedly "fast-dwindling Jewish population." No statistics to back up that claim, however, nor any recognition that a lot of rich people have left Venezuela thanks to their (hopefully correct) perceptions of the future directions of the country, and that if the Jewish population of Venezuela is really "fast-dwindling," it likely has nothing whatsoever to do with "anti-Semitism." Nor, for that matter, any recognition that there is a large, stable, and un-persecuted Jewish population in Iran which speaks to the question of whether there is a correlation between "anti-Israel" view and "anti-Semitic" views.

Oh, but there's more. There's an article from 2006 from an allegedly "government-linked" newspaper (I assume that means it supports the government, since it's not actually owned or run by the government) in which an article "debates whether it will be necessary to 'expel [the Jews] from the country.'" Clearly not exactly an ongoing debate or a more recent reference would be available, even if this is true and not completely taken out of context. Oh, and an article (date unspecified) that "accuses Jews of being involved in the murder of a government prosecutor." Not "the Jews," mind you, just "Jews." Which, out of context, tells us nothing. Were these just random individuals being accused of murder, who are in passing noted as Jews? Did they organize their plot (if they did) out of the Jewish Community Center? Who knows.

Last but not least, this:

Venezuelan government intelligence services twice have raided the country's most important Jewish center in a vague, ultimately unsuccessful search for weapons. Publications of the government's cultural ministry run articles entitled 'the Jewish Question,' along with a Jewish star superimposed over a swastika.
Talk about "vague." What was the context of the search for weapons in the Jewish center? Was it in conjunction with the murder of the prosecutor, perhaps? And what does "the Jewish Question" discuss? For all we know, it's a pamphlet explaining to Venezuelans that opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine has nothing whatsoever to do with, and is in no way a justification for, anti-Semitism.

In the end, I think we can judge the character of these charges from this:

Eppel drew connections between the anti-Semitism and Chavez's alliance with the Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also stridently critical of the United States. 'Chavez actually believes he is going to defeat capitalism and the U.S.,' Eppel said.
As I said at the beginning, this is really all about political opposition to Chavez, and using the epithet of "anti-Semite" to attempt to tar him and by extension his program, and quite probably nothing whatsoever to do with any real anti-Semitism in Venezuela. No doubt there are anti-Semites in Venezuela, as there are in Miami and everywhere else, but I seriously doubt there is any evidence that Hugo Chavez or anyone is his government is supportive of such attitudes.

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