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May 1, 2014 4:41 pm

Venezuelan Jewish Leader Says Anti-Semitism Has ‘Exploded’ in Recent Years in Latin America

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Antisemitic graffiti in Venezuela. Photo: wiki commons.

Sammy Eppel, activist and director of The Commission for Human Rights at B’nai B’rith Venezuela, said on Monday that anti-Semitism in Latin America has significantly increased in recent years.

“The problem is that there is big damage that has been done in the last 12, 10  years,” he said. “I was born in Venezuela and I lived there all my life and I never felt anti-Semitism from anybody… we were never discriminated and all of a sudden in 2004, it explodes.”

Eppel made his comments as a panelist at a special conference held at the United Nations in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 2006, he said, the Venezuelan Jewish community had to open an office and hire five professionals to monitor anti-Semitism in government and government-sponsored media.

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In April 2011, while former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was in Cuba undergoing treatment for various health problems, a correspondent for Venezuela’s national radio, Radio Nacional de Venezuela, did a series of programs promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The book, which is the second most printed publication in the Arab world after the Koran, describes a popular anti-Semitic notion that the Jewish people are planning global domination. The book is also available at book fairs in Venezuela promoted by the government, Eppel added.

“I’d never heard of the Protocols before 15 years ago. You couldn’t find it in Latin America before. Now, you see it all over the place,” he said. “It’s official literature for [Arab] schools, for their people…When they come to Latin America, they bring it with them.”

Eppel explained that while Venezuelan President Maduro, elected in 2013, pledged that he will not allow anti-Semitic behavior in his country, the damage has already been done in many areas. Hatred toward Jews has even seeped into Venezuela’s government.

“Why would a politician be demonized or be deemed not fit for public office for the fact of being Jewish? That’s anti-Semitism. That’s discrimination,” said Eppel, who is also a political analyst and journalist. “In Venezuela it happened that a Catholic, a practicing Catholic, he happened to have two Jewish grandparents, and because of that he was disqualified. I mean that’s very nasty stuff.”

The discrimination is prevalent across Latin America. Eppel pointed out that less than a month ago, on Good Friday, Madrid’s ABC ran an op-ed claiming that during Holy Week, Jews would kill Christian children, and extract their blood to make matzahs for Passover. Eppel expressed frustration over the limited response it received.

“You would think that the entire country of Spain would’ve risen to condemn this. Nobody [in Spain] did,” he said.

Eppel also stressed that “one of the big disturbances” in Latin America is Iran’s activism in the region as it works to spread its radical and anti-Semitic ideology.

The Islamic Republic operates a television station in Spanish that “spews venom” about Jews, according to Eppel. They are also taking over Arab and Christian institutions in Latin America and converting them into anti-Semitic establishments, he said.

“There seems to be a marriage between the extreme right, represented  by the Iranians and their Fascist type… of government, and the extreme left,” he said about Iran’s relations in Latin America. “They got together and said ‘well, the only thing that we all agree is that we have to bash Israel, we have to bash Zionism and we have to bash the Jews.’ ”

In Latin America, many terrorist groups are seen as ‘resistance movements’ and their members are identified as ‘freedom fighters,’ and are therefore recipients of aid.

The Latin American Parliament has adopted a comprehensive declaration against anti-Semitism, and Eppel hopes it becomes law one day. He called for government action in the form of legislation, to ensure that discrimination against Jews does not continue to expand in the region.

“I believe that the only answer to this situation is education and legislation,” he said. “After you enact the legislation, you have to train the police, you have to train the district attorneys, the judges to actually recognize that crime and how to prosecute it and how to go about it. That’s why legislation is important.”

“If we don’t have those two things – education and legislation – we are not going to succeed, at least in Latin America.”

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