The al-Aqsa intifada had a significant impact in Venezuela because of its large and influential Arab population. The radical language used against Israel was not infrequently antisemitic.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Venezuela’s Jewish community numbers about 22,000 out of a total population of nearly 22 million. Most of the Jews live in the capital Caracas, while the second largest community is located in Maracaíbo. The Confederación de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela (CAIV) embraces four organizations: Asociación Israelita de Venezuela (Sephardi), Unión Israelita de Caracas (Ashkenazi), the Zionist Organization and B’nai B’rith. All but one of the 15 synagogues are Orthodox and over 75 percent of school-age children attend Jewish schools. The community publishes the newspaper Nuevo Mundo Israelita.
The al-Aqsa intifada had a significant impact in Venezuela because of its large and influential Arab population (1.3 million, according to Arab sources in the country, but probably higher). Responses to the intifada in the media, in wall graffiti and by Arab organizations in Venezuela such as FEARAB (Arab Federation for Latin America) were directed at de-legitimizing the State of Israel, which was accused of causing the Palestinian tragedy.
The radical language used against Israel was not infrequently antisemitic, for example, the comparison of Israeli soldiers with Nazis. The economic journal Reporte (5 Oct. 2000) published a full-page message by the Special Mission for Palestine in Venezuela (Mision Especial de Palestina en Venezuela), stating, inter alia, that “Israelis have to admit that our people are suffering a holocaust… [and] many pogroms… and [they have created] a diaspora because of the politics of the State of Israel.”
The national Caracas-based El Nacional, and El Sol, an independent newspaper published on Margarita Island, printed a FEARAB announcement on 17 October 2000, stating that “the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the savage aggression of the Zionist military machinery confirms once again the presence of neo-Nazism in the Middle East and that Barak’s Zionist government violates international and humanitarian norms and carries out mass killings of innocent people, mostly children, women and old people.” FEARAB called on progressive parties in Venezuela “to sustain the intifada so as to pressure the Nazi-Zionist government of Israel into recognizing a Palestinian state as a homeland of the Palestinians, with Jerusalem as its capital.”
In Caracas, and especially on the campus of the Catholic University of Venezuela (UCV), a leaflet of the International Solidarity Committee (Comité de Solidaridad Internacional – COSI) was circulated, calling for a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy on 20 October 2000, during which a petition would be conveyed to the embassy protesting “the cruel massacres of the heroic people of Palestine.” Some 60 demonstrators arrived on the day, bearing Palestinian and Syrian flags and posters, and handed out leaflets which distorted the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and de-legitimized the State of Israel.
An article by Jaled Ali Ayoub Bazzi, in the newspaper Ultimas Noticias of 24 November 2000 and entitled “Arab Terrorists?,” claimed that it was not the Palestinians who were terrorists but international Zionism, which had turned the Arabs into victims in 1948.
Graffiti which appeared on the bridge leading from Plaza Venezuela to the Central University on 24 October, stated, inter alia: “International revulsion for Zionist garbage.” Similar slogans were also reported in November.