Speaking Truth

August 9, 2006

In News

Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Wednesday morning that his country stands to sever diplomatic relations with Israel in protest of the Israel Defense Forces’ military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Before the announcement, the Venezuelan leader revealed Tuesday that he would return Caracas’ charge d’affaires to Israel. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reciprocated by dispatching Jerusalem’s ambassador to Venezuela, Shlomo Cohen, who was called back to Israel for consultations.

The Foreign Ministry said Cohen was summoned to Jerusalem “as an act of protest against the one-sided policy of the president of Venezuela [and] in the wake of his wild slanders towards the state of Israel.”

Venezuelan Jews slam ‘anti-Semitic’ gov’t

Venezuela’s principal Jewish organization complained last week of anti-Semitism by the government of President Hugo Chavez a day after Venezuela announced it was withdrawing its ambassador to Israel.

Chavez has criticized Israel’s attacks in Gaza and Lebanon, and compared Beirut bombings to Hitler’s actions in World War II during an interview with Al Jazeera television last week.

The Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela, or CAIV in Spanish, denounced “anti-Semitic statements” in government-backed media and the “arbitrary bias of representatives of the government … toward one of the sides of the conflict.”

The statement also criticized efforts to “banalize the Holocaust” by comparing it to the current military campaign.

In an interview last week with Qatar-based Al Jazeera, Chavez said the Israeli military actions were an “unjustified aggression that is being carried out in the style of (Adolf) Hitler, in a fascist fashion.”

The nation’s state-run media, openly supportive of Chavez, has provided extensive airtime to activists critical of Israel throughout the recent Middle East flare-up.

Venezuela’s Communications Ministry said it was preparing a response to the CAIV’s criticism.

On Thursday, Chavez announced he had withdrawn Venezuela’s ambassador to Israel out of “indignation at seeing how the state of Israel continues … bombarding, killing, quartering.”

CAIV defended Chavez in January after the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center accused Chavez of anti-Semitism when he broadly referred to “minorities, descendants of those who crucified Christ” and those who had “grabbed all the wealth.”

CAIV, along with the Venezuelan government, had said he was making a general reference to the world’s elite.

Chavez, known for long-winded speeches, maintains an open confrontation with the United States government and has portrayed Israel as a pawn of U.S. foreign policy.

He has also developed a close alliance with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel.