28 marzo 2008

Hugo Chávez's antisemitism and anti-israelism

Por Carlos Alberto Montaner

The Influence of Iran in Latin America: The Venezuelan and Cuban Connection. A seminar organized by The Anti-Defamation League. University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, Center for Hemispheric Policy, Miami, March 17, 2008.

Since his rise to power, Hugo Chávez has increasingly shown his most blatant anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli face.

ITEM: He has made theological accusations about the alleged responsibility of the Jews in the death of Jesus.

ITEM: Twice he has ordered the political police to raid a Jewish school in Caracas .

ITEM: Whenever he considers it opportune, he refers to Israel as a genocidal state.

ITEM: His diplomats have instructions to permanently support the most radical Islamic positions in the United Nations or any other forum where the Palestinian issue is debated.

ITEM: He has frequently visited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose plans to turn Iran into a nuclear power he has endorsed on several occasions. Not only that. He also has forged an alliance with Ahmadinejad and has opened for him a political-support circuit that includes presidents Rafael Correa of Ecuador , Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua .

Presumably, Hugo Chávez's anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism do not have a theoretical base like the Nazis', but they serve as a cause to recruit allies for his political ends: the creation of an anti-West ideological axis that will replace the vision of the cosmos -- a vision now vanished -- held by the Soviet Union.

Crazy as it may seem, Cuba and Venezuela have declared their decision to become the heart and the brains of their struggle against the heartless international imperialism-capitalism.

That objective was revealed in December 2005 in a speech delivered in Caracas by Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque. The speech -- which clearly reflected the input of long and delirious conversations between Fidel Castro and Chávez -- explained that the disappearance of the USSR and Europe 's betrayal of the communist ideas had left the poor people of the world without a political entity that could defend the cause of the oppressed. Caracas and Havana were going to fill that deficiency.

Why does a ruler who is historically and geographically distant from the dangerous Arab-Israeli conflict make such an effort to walk onto such an explosive stage? Simple. Anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are the shortest way to recruit certain allies for the purpose of building a great international movement.

Iran, Libya , Syria , and the most radical Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank , especially the terrorist groups, are the natural collaborators for this new (and ancient) political project.

Chávez is trying to recreate the picture that existed during the Cold War, and those countries were some of Moscow 's allies at that time. If Caracas is the 21st-Century Moscow , Chávez will try to do what the USSR did in the 20th Century.

The other component is anti-Americanism. Chávez often attacks President Bush with vehemence and vulgarity, and almost every time he refers to the United States he calls it “the Empire,” convinced that anti-Americanism -- along with anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, in the absence of a coherent ideology -- are the three signs of identity most relevant to what he pompously calls “21st-Century socialism.”

Once we're aware of this background, we can better understand what is happening in the Andean region, something that I have called the Palestinization of the Andes .

Hugo Chávez's first reaction after the attack on the camp of narcoterrorist Raúl Reyes was to accuse Colombia of behaving like Israel . “We're not going to allow an Israel in the region,” he said.

Actually, the parallel is not far off. Like Colombia , Israel is a state that wishes to live in peace with its neighbors, but they insist on destroying it. Israel 's fondest wish would be for the Palestinians to be capable of building a peaceful and prosperous nation with which Israel could establish normal relations.

Israel's burden is the fact that, on the Gaza Strip, Lebanon , Syria or faraway Iran, with the approval, complicity and funding of the authorities, terrorist gangs have established headquarters from which they attack Israel or plan various types of atrocities. Every day, missiles launched by the terrorists fall on civilian settlements, killing innocent people.

Naturally, Israel responds militarily. What else can it do? You can't ask a responsible society to fold its arms while some ruffians try to annihilate it.

That was Colombia 's dilemma. One of the bitterest enemies of Colombians' freedom, narcoterrorist Raúl Reyes, a man charged with 127 counts of murder, kidnapping, extortion, rape, and practically every other crime in the penal code, stepped within range of Bogotá's planes, flying on the northern side of the Ecuadorean border, so President Uribe gave the green light to the operation without consulting with Mr. Correa.

Uribe thought, probably with reason, that it was preferable to ask for forgiveness than for permission. As the documents found in the bombed camp later revealed, relations between the Correa government and the Colombian narcoterrorists were intense and warm.

Unfortunately, Correa's political ally was not Uribe's democratic government but the FARC. If Uribe had asked Correa for Reyes' arrest and extradition, the murderer and his gang would have “miraculously escaped.”

True, Uribe violated the international rules that enshrine the inviolability of national borders. Had he not done so, he would have broken the most solemn vow he made upon becoming president: to defend the integrity, liberty and lives of Colombians. Sometimes, governing is choosing between conflicting obligations and duties.

This episode demonstrates the grave shift in the Colombian conflict caused by Hugo Chávez's appearance in the Latin American landscape. The Venezuelan colonel intends to Palestinize the entire Andean region. And the word goes far beyond literary license: we are witnessing the replication of a terrible politico-military situation.

Inside Raúl Reyes' computer was evidence of Libya 's hands, of Lebanese gun merchants, of the appalling acquisition of 50 kilos of uranium that could only be intended for use as a “dirty bomb” whose radioactivity could kill thousands of people in the targeted city (Bogotá? Medellín? New York ? Washington ?)

The computer clearly showed the links between the FARC narcoterrorists and Iran , a theocratic state that not only has sworn to pulverize Israel but also has publicly assumed the leadership of the Islamic jihad against the West. Those are the allies of Chávez, the FARC, Correa, the Nicaraguan Ortega and the Bolivian Morales.

Those are the four elements with which Chávez builds his dangerous axis of power, in the opinion of the FARC's commanders. They are called “the fatherland-or-death” people, after the Cuban slogan that implies blind loyalty to the leader and the political project.

Of course, this affair turns the conflict on its head. What's happening goes far beyond a clash in the jungle. Washington can no longer view Mr. Chávez as a gasoline vendor who is colorful, unruly and crass, but basically harmless. Brazil 's Lula , Uruguay 's Tabaré Vázquez and Argentina 's Mrs. Fernández must seriously consider whether he is the kind of preferential ally to whom they would couple their countries and the Mercosur.

Chile's Mrs. Bachelet and Peru 's Alan García cannot ignore that they're in the theater of operations, as the military folks say, and that, sooner or later, their countries will also be dragged to the hornets' nest. Lamentably, that's what Palestinization is -- bloody chaos.

The final conclusion of all this is very clear: the benign neglect of Chávez and his allies is a major strategic error and a dangerous moral failure. On one hand, his anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism endanger the Jewish communities of Latin America , as Venezuelan Jews know all-too-well. On the other, his anti-Americanism, with all its international ramifications, affects the economic and political interests of the United States , and at the same time becomes a challenge to this nation's security.

The news that the FARC -- allied to Chávez and to Islamic arms traffickers -- sought to buy 100 pounds of uranium, presumably to build a “dirty bomb,” is not something that may be taken lightly. Before the attack on the Twin Towers , it seemed absurd that a handful of crazies would do what we now know they did. With Chávez, it's exactly the same. To NOT take him seriously is a most grave mistake.

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