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INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Venezuela anti-Semitism concerns USCIRF commission

WASHINGTON (BP)–The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has appealed to the U.S. State Department and the United Nations to protect Venezuela’s 15,000-member Jewish population from violence in the wake of anti-Semitic rhetoric by the country’s president, Hugo Chávez.

Many Jews in Venezuela have fled the country in recent years and tensions escalated when Israel launched a military operation in the Gaza Strip at year’s end, said a statement released by USCIRF chair Felice D. Gaer. Chávez, government officials and state media condemned Israel as an “assassin government” committing “genocide” in Gaza, Gaer said.

“Over the past several years, the Jewish community has suffered as President Chávez and government-affiliated media publicly made anti-Semitic remarks and published anti-Semitic cartoons and opinions,” Gaer said. “As President Chávez’s rhetoric increased, some Venezuelan citizens demonstrated in front of and vandalized the Israeli embassy, and this escalated into vandalizing Jewish businesses with anti-Semitic slogans, and calling for a boycott of all Jewish businesses in Venezuela.”

While Chávez publicly condemned the Feb. 1 attack on a synagogue, USCIRF expressed concern that he used the opportunity to condemn his opposition in an upcoming controversial vote and that reports of anti-Semitism are not being fully investigated by the government.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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