Commentary Magazine


Chavez Playing the Anti-Semitism Card

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is pulling out all the stops in his bid to crush opposition to his authoritarian rule in the election scheduled for October 7. Chavez is seeking to discredit challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski by pointing out his Jewish roots. Chavez has sought to intimidate Venezuelan Jews in the past as a result of the close ties he has fostered with Iran and Hezbollah and his virulent hostility to Israel. But his attacks on the leader of the opposition have escalated the latent Jew-hatred of his regime.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, a study conducted by Tel Aviv University shows that the Caracas government has produced a steady stream of vilification of Capriles that centers on his Jewish roots. Capriles is a Catholic but he is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and many of his mother’s family perished at the hands of the Nazis.

“This is done in a variety of methods, such as defamation, intimidation and conspiracy theories, many of which portray Capriles as a Zionist agent, and by mixing classic and neo-anti-Semitism,” said the report, authored by Lidia Lerner, an expert on Latin America. “A Capriles victory, it is claimed, will inevitably lead to Zionist infiltration.” …

Op-Eds warning of a “Zionist takeover” if Capriles wins repeatedly have appeared in government-controlled media since Radonski’s candidacy was announced in February, the report said. He also has been the subject of anti-Semitic cartoons.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League have expressed concern about the government’s attempt to whip up Jew hatred. The Huffington Post reported in May that Chavez’s allies have compounded the vilification by trying to float the rumor that Capriles is gay as well as Jewish.

President Obama was quoted over the summer as downplaying any concerns about Chavez by saying he was not a threat to the United States even though the Venezuelan has supported terrorism in neighboring Colombia and has allowed his country to serve as a beachhead in the Western hemisphere for Iran and Hezbollah. But his re-election campaign has illustrated that he shares the ayatollahs’ anti-Semitism as well as their hatred for the United States.

Given Chavez’s control of the media as well as his armies of street thugs, it’s not clear whether Capriles has a real chance to save democracy in Venezuela. But the blatant anti-Semitism of Chavez’s campaign ought to be raising alarms in Washington and the rest of the civilized world about his continued hold on power.