AP Article Says More Than It Intends

From Salon:

Jan 31st, 2009 | CARACAS, Venezuela — An armed group vandalized Caracas’ oldest synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting walls in what Jewish leaders called the worst attack ever on their community in Venezuela.

Two security guards were overpowered by about 15 people who ransacked the synagogue’s sanctuary and offices late Friday, leaving graffiti such as: “We don’t want murderers,” and “Jews, get out.”

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro condemned the attack and promised it would be investigated, while reiterating his government’s opposition to what he called Israel’s “criminal” government.

“We respect the Jewish people, but we ask respect for the people of Palestine and their right to life,” Maduro said in a ceremony called to welcome home two Venezuelan diplomats expelled from Israel this week.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry ordered the envoys to leave after Venezuela expelled all Israeli diplomats on Jan. 6, to protest Israel’s offensive in the Gaza strip. President Hugo Chavez labeled Israeli leaders as “genocidal.”

Nearly 1,300 Palestinians died in the three weeks of fighting.

Leaders of Venezuela’s estimated 15,000-member Jewish community warned that vocal denunciations of Israel by Chavez and the country’s government-funded news media may have encouraged Friday’s attack.

“These declarations permeate society,” said Abraham Levy, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations.

The incident forced the synagogue to cancel Saturday’s worship service.

I do think that the violence speaks for itself, and that Jews in parts of the world being punished for what the nation of Israel does is nothing new, I just wanted to highlight something I found curious about the whole thing: the Venezuelan government’s response.

1.) Why was the Venezuelan Foreign Minister promising an investigation into this incident? If a minority group in the United States experiences violence, would the Secretary of State promise to investigate?

2.) The Foreign Minister then went on to mention Palestine when referring to an attack on Jews in their own country.

Here’s what I saw: the Venezuelan government, while not outright condoning this violence, nevertheless makes it clear that they see Jews in their own country as not really Venezuelan citizens, but simply Israeli foreign nationals and saw it as, essentially, something akin to looking into some unfortunate attacks on some tourists and not domestic crime. Just another example of where Jews are not seen as citizens of whichever country they’re living in, and their first loyalty is to Israel.

If the Venezuelan government, or at least their Foreign Minister, did not see them in this way, was the phrase “We respect the Jewish people, but we ask respect for the people of Palestine and their right to life” necessary? What do the Venezuelan Jews have to do with Israel beyond these assumptions?

Good to see the Venezuelan government is continuing a pattern of behavior in Latin America previously established by the Argentinian government’s “investigation” into synagogue bombings


5 Responses

  1. I see your point. And I reacted similarly. But the problem is that the Jewish community insists on identification with Israel. On a writers’ list-serve that I’m on, for example, one Jewish member (talking about Gaza) made the statement that all Jews identify with Israel and therefore another ‘s comment about Israel was a comment about him personally. In Alas a blog, Richard Newman wrote about being accused of self-hatred by Jews who conflate zionism with Jewish identity. If we want “Jewish” and “Israeli” disentangled, then I think we have to also start with our own communities in our own countries and demand the freedom to be Jewish without it being tied to a particular position about Israel or a particular relationship to it.

    • Well, I’m not always sure that’s a systematic problem, though it could be due to the circles I run in – I’m generally part of a rather liberal community out here in Western Canada. I can’t speak to attitudes among the Orthodox, or even differences there might be between the Orthodox here and the Orthodox in the US, for example.

      All that being said: I agree that any conflation of Judaism with a certain attitude towards Israel, from within our own communities should not be allowed or accepted. We do ourselves a major disservice when we allow those attitudes to persist.

      The only problem here that I have is that since Jews have been transnational since time immemorial from the Western perspective, if not the nation of Israel as a convenient shape for the “Jews put tribal loyalties above national ones” trope, something else would pop up. So ultimately I’m not entirely sure we can blame this on something “the Jewish community” does, unless we know for certain the Venezuelan Jewish community does that, you know what I mean?

  2. Excellent analysis, Brown Shoes.

  3. Also considering how much attention their Israeli ambassador being pulled brought(which I’m not supporting FYI), I think they were still reacting to many people conflating this policy with a blatantly anti-semitic one. Actually Canadian politicians have already gone so far as to blame Chavez for the vandalism(as if such things never happen here). So I guess that can partially explain both 1 and 2.

  4. […] also Brown Shoes’s post on the […]

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