NEW YORK, USA -- The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has urged Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his government to end immediately their incendiary statements against Israel, which have led to attacks on the Jewish community.
The climate of fear experienced by Venezuela’s Jewish community over the past decade has been heightened still further since the Hamas-triggered war with Israel erupted a month ago.
“President Maduro is playing with fire and, if left unchecked, his incitement of state-sanctioned hatred against Jewish citizens could easily ignite with profoundly tragic consequences,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Ensuring the safety and security of Venezuela’s Jewish citizens should be a government priority, but President Maduro seems intent on outdoing the hostility towards Israel of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, and that’s saying a lot.”
AJC has expressed concerns in the past about the government’s nurturing of a climate of hatred. Over the past few weeks alone, the Jewish community has been subjected to attacks and intimidation from government officials and the media.
Maduro has publicly accused Israel of pursuing “a war of extermination against the Palestinian people,” and has compared Gaza to Auschwitz.
“In Israel, there’s a smell of sulphur, the devil is there,” added Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly.
Social media is full of vitriol against Jews, notably this chilling Twitter message: “A deputy of the government’s party PSUV is organizing armed militias to attack THE Jewish community that lives in OUR Venezuela. They will attack synagogues and Jewish businesses.”
In the Caracas subway, this threat was scrawled: “Protect the Homeland… kill a Jew.”
And the website of the Jewish newspaper, Mundo Israelita, was hacked on Shabbat, July 26, by vandals who left a hateful anti-Israel message.
“We call on those throughout Latin America who value democratic values, human rights and a culture of inclusiveness to denounce the dangerous manipulation of the Gaza crisis for political gains,” said Harris. “This is not a time for silence.”
In 2004 and again in 2007, Venezuelan police raided the Hebraica, the Caracas complex housing the Jewish community center and school. In 2009, a Caracas synagogue was seriously damaged in a brazen attack.
“Ultimately, the Venezuela government will be held responsible for fostering this climate of hatred and its consequences,” said Harris, who, together with AJC lay and staff colleagues, has visited Caracas several times to show solidarity with the Jewish community.