On January 30th, the main Jewish Synagogue in Caracas was vandalized. Several sacred Jewish objects were desecrated, the guards were tied up, and anti-Semitic slogans written on the wall. Predictably, the Venezuelan opposition and its U.S. patrons have been blaming the Chávez Government- ahead of a referendum on removing term limits next month, which Chávez is expected to narrowly win- of being behind the desecration.
Now, obviously, the desecration of the synagogue was a terrible thing, and I don't blame Jewish people in Venezuela or the United States for being upset. But there is no evidence- I repeat, none- that the Chávez regime is behind this. Any more than there is reason to believe that Chávez was behind the attacks on the residence of the papal nuncio. These attacks were the work of independent rogue elements (I'll get to who they might have been in a minute). If you think that the government was behind the anti-Semitic attacks, then please think about this: what did they possibly have to gain? There are only 12,000 Jews in Venezuela, they are a tiny minority that don't possibly pose any threat to Chavez. In fact, the leaders of the Jewish community in Venezuela have generally had cordial relations with Chávez in the past.
Those people who accuse Chávez of being anti-Semitic because of his speech two years ago about 'those who killed Christ', frankly, don't know what they are talking about. In context, the speech condemned '10% of the world's population', 'those who control the natural resources of the world', 'those who killed Christ, and who also killed Bolivar'. The Jews are not 10% of the world's population, they didn't kill Bolivar, and Israel has few if any natural resources. Ergo, Chavez wasn't talking about the Jews: he was talking about the rich and powerful, about those who live comfortable existences and profit from the labor of others, and was identifying them with the religious and secular authorities of the first century (Roman, Greek and Jewish) who killed Christ. As a Christian, Chavez was borrowing a common theme of liberation theology- you may disagree or agree with liberation theology, but it certainly isn't anti-Semitic. Chavez has, of course, been strongly critical of Israel during the recent Gaza War, but he has every right to be (whether he's right or wrong): Israel has done some pretty terrible things, the ultimate justice of their cause aside. Chavez, moreover, is hardly alone in saying that.
The Jewish community of Venezuela has suffered some sporadic verbal abuse and vandalism in the past, but none of this, NONE, was ordered from on high. The Socialist Party blog recently purged itself of some scurrilously anti-Semitic statements made by some random commenter; Chavez and a number of his ministers have made strong statements condemning the violence and calling for tolerance, and the Foreign Minister Maduro has launched an effort to find the culprits and punish them to the extent of the law. Chavez has made clear efforts to address the attacks and declare that all desecration of religious sanctuaries in Venezuela is absolutely beyond the pale.
Before we launch accusations of anti-Semitism, we need to have solid evidence that
the government is responsible. There is no such evidence, because they aren't. Most likely, these deplorable actions were carried out by spies of the opposition pretending to be extreme-left radicals. Agents provocateurs, in other words. They are trying to split the revolutionary forces by acting more Chavista than the Chavistas: but if you look beyond rhetoric to actions, they are simply serving the interests of the enemies of Chavez, and thus betraying their real masters. Of course, we don't know if these attacks were actually carried out by opposition agents: they could very well have been carried out by sincere ultra-left Chavista splinter groups. Be that as it may, all such splinter groups must be eradicated and suppressed, using all tools that the legal system and the army have at their disposal. The first thing a revolution has to be able to do is to police itself, and to purge itself of those who would join the revolution for less than noble ends.
These renegade "Chavistas", whether they be ultra-leftists or (as I suspect) spies and agents of the conservative opposition, must be found, imprisoned and their organization eliminated.
These attacks should tell us that there are threats to the Bolivarian Revolution from within as well as without. It's time for the Chavez Government to turn its awesome power and force on those pseudo-leftists who are really just anti-Semitic gangsters, and possibly even spies serving the interests of the oligarchs, and make it clear that this revolution's enemies are not the Jews, or any other religious group, but rather the oligarchy.