Vandalised synagogue (photo: CNN)
News that a synagogue in Caracas was vandalized a few days ago sent shock waves around Jewish communities worldwide, fearing for the future of their co-religionists in Venezuela. Tension there has, of course, been building for some time, since the demagogue Hugo Chavez became President.
The building was invaded by armed men, Torah scrolls were thrown to the floor, and slogans painted on walls. This followed the beating of a community rabbi a week earlier. President Chavez denounced the synagogue attack - laying the blame on his political opponents! - but his vocal support for Hamas and Iran, angry attacks on Israel and Jews, and expulsion of Israeli diplomats, have created a charged atmosphere.
Most frightening of all, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was the revelation of a 'plan of action' published in a pro-government digital newspaper, Aporrea.org, giving direction against Venezuela's Jewish community which included:
- publicly denouncing by name, the members of powerful Jewish groups in Venezuela, names of their companies and businesses in order to boycott them
-avoiding products, stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and where Kosher food is sold which either belongs or has links with 'Zionist Jews' - questioning the existence of Jewish educational institutions
- shouting pro-Palestine and anti-Israel slogans at Jews on the street
- inviting anti-Zionist Jews living in Venezuela to publicly express their disassociation from 'Zionist war crimes' and the imposition of 'artificial State of Israel' on Palestine
- nationalization of companies, confiscation of properties of those Jews who support the Zionist atrocities of the Nazi-State of Israel, and donate this property to the Palestinian victims of today’s 'Holocaust'
These measures are eerily reminiscent of measures imposed on Jews in Arab countries.
Since Hugo Chavez embarked on his anti-Jewish campaign a fifth of the Jewish community has left. Now many more are contemplating packing their bags.
For many Jews of Moroccan origin, it will be the second uprooting in one or two generations.
The biggest waves of immigration in Venezuela occurred after World War II and the 1967 Six-Day War, when a large influx of Sephardi Jews from Morocco arrived and settled mostly in the capital of Caracas. The Jewish population in Venezuela peaked at 45,000, largely centered in Caracas, but with smaller concentrations in Maracaibo.
Ironically enough, the Venezuelan government has managed to upset both Israel and Morocco lately. Both countries have broken off diplomatic relations. Venezuela accused Morocco of supporting Israel's Gaza campaign.