I’m often attacked and accused of being anti-Semitic, usually by one person, because I write about Palestine and draw connections among various occupied territories including Puerto Rico. Even when I wrote about the attack on a synagogue in Venezuela early this year, I was accused of not covering the story, or at least not in a way that some agreed with. Turns out that there was more to the story than met the eye. From NACLA:
In the early morning hours of January 31, vandals broke into Tiferet Israel, a Sephardic synagogue in Caracas. They strewed sacred scrolls on the floor and scribbled “Death to the Jews” and other anti-Semitic epithets on the walls, before making off with computer equipment and historical artifacts. Understandably, the incident frightened and upset many in the Venezuelan Jewish community. Right away, U.S. news outlets, including The New York Times and The Miami Herald, linked the incident to Venezuela’s increasingly strained relations with Israel, after the two countries suspended diplomatic relations two weeks earlier over Israel’s bombing of Gaza, then still under way.
A Herald editorial went so far as to describe an “official policy of anti-Semitism” in Venezuela and implied that Chávez’s foreign policy had unleashed a wave of anti-Semitic violence in the country, culminating in the assault on the synagogue.1 Some international NGOs were no more nuanced. Just hours after the break-in, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was already implicitly comparing the Chávez government to the Nazis, calling the synagogue attack “a modern-day Kristallnacht.”2
But the Caracas police investigation bore out a different story. Authorities quickly realized that the synagogue’s security fence had been cut from the inside, prompting detectives to investigate the break-in as an inside job. Within the week it became clear that the attack had in fact been a robbery disguised as anti-Semitic vandalism, carried out by the synagogue’s privately contracted security team. Eleven men were arrested for their role in the plot, and their statements to the police indicated that the graffiti and desecration were intended to throw off investigators.3
The article also points to a wider historic pattern of organizations and political powers outside of Latin America using the anti-Semitic card against governments left of center, often without actually consulting the Jewish communities inside those countries.
…some U.S. NGOs, media, and politicians have continued to neglect Venezuelan Jewish organizations while persisting in their attempts to demonize the Chávez government. In May, Representative Connie Mack (R-Fla.) introduced a House resolution condemning the Venezuelan government as anti-Semitic in response to the synagogue break-in.11 Once again, Venezuelan Jewish organizations were forced to mobilize. As CAIV [The Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela] explained to the Pittsburgh-based Jewish Chronicle, the resolution may have derailed an ongoing dialogue that had been initiated between the Venezuelan government and the Jewish community in the months since the break-in. Fred Pressner, former president of CAIV, pointed out that Venezuela’s government had reacted well to the earlier attacks, noting that “all of our institutions are protected by the police—we cannot complain about that.”12
The article goes on to give examples of how criticisms of Isreali policies that supported repression and outright murder in Central American countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala were turned from criticisms of government policy into accusations of anti-Semitism.
Israel’s complicity in Latin American human rights abuses was most glaring in Guatemala, where more than 200,000 people, mostly Mayans, were killed over the course of the country’s 36-year civil war.25 At the height of the Guatemalan military’s atrocities in the early 1980s, the country’s military government was largely isolated internationally, relying exclusively on Israel for military training and assistance.26 In February 1983, CBS anchorman Dan Rather pointedly observed that “Israel has helped [Guatemala] wage a war with no questions asked.”27
I don’t expect this post to make me popular or win me any more fans pero that’s never been my mission anyway, rather, my purpose is to raise questions and hopefully force people to formulate their own answers.