Jewish Community of Venezuela Fears for Their Safety

The Venezuelan Jewish community fears more anti-Semitic attacks as the president, Hugo Chavez, strengthens his campaign against Israel.

Since the campaign started some Venezuelans have taken to threatening Jews in the streets and vandalizing the Caracas synagogue, where they also stole a private database of names and addresses.

Chavez accuses Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian nation, but has made sure to not criticize Israelis or Jews in any of his public comments.

Despite that, The Organization of American States and the U.S. State Department believe that Chavez’s condemnation has stimulated the growing number of hate crimes in Venezuela .

Police are now stationed outside of the Tiferet Israelite Synagogue after 15 people overcame two security guards and shattered religious objects, painting “Jews, get out” on the walls. Prosecutors believe that the security guards could be involved in the plot. Elias Farache, the president of the Venezuelan-Israelite Association believes the worst thing about the invasion was the theft of the database that contains the names and addresses of many of the Jews in Venezuela.

One week before this incident. A columnist who supports Chavez, Emilio Silva, posted on a pro-government Web site calling Jews “squalid” and telling readers to confront them as conspirators. “Challenge every Jew that you find in the street, shopping center, or park, shouting slogans in favor of Palestine,” he wrote.

He went on to call for boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses, seizures of Jewish property, protests at Synagogues and the public announcement of the members of powerful Jewish groups in Venezuela.”

The Web site later repealed the column with an apology that asks "Chavistas" to thoughtfully attack the Israeli government and not Jews in general. A couple of other anti-Semitic postings by Silva remained on the site including one that criticized the archbishop of Venezuela for not speaking out against the Gaza offensive.

With the impending referendum that could make Chavez’s rule indefinite; the president broadcasted a promise to keep the 15,000 Venezuelan Jews safe live on state television. But he also said that the attack on the synagogue could have been an inside job and demanded that the Jewish leaders who accused his government publicly recant their statements.

The Jewish population of Venezuela includes families that have lived in the country for over two centuries and many survivors of World War II. Past statements by Chavez supporting Iran and other Israeli enemies hasn’t effected the Jewish population.

Now, though, the Jews of Venezuela fear the worst is yet to come.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.