Jewish Group: Chavez Foe A Target Of Anti-Semitism

Published February 17, 2012 8:27PM (EST)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A prominent Jewish group urged President Hugo Chavez on Friday to prevent what it labels anti-Semitic attacks on the opposition's presidential candidate in Venezuelan state media.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned a column titled "The Enemy Is Zionism," which described the Jewish ancestry of Henrique Capriles Radonski and labeled him a secret follower of Zionism, which it called "the most rotten sentiments represented by humanity."

The column written by Adal Hernandez was posted on the Web site of state-run Radio Nacional de Venezuela on Feb. 13.

The column said Capriles "has a platform opposed to our national and independent interests" and urged Venezuelans to reject "international Zionism" by re-electing Chavez on Oct. 7.

Like the vast majority of Venezuelans, Capriles practices Catholicism. His mother came from a family of Sephardic Jews who escaped Nazi persecution and sought safety on the Caribbean island of Curacao before settling in Venezuela.

Oddly, the column also accused Carpiles of involvement in a group that promoted "the national Aryan race," referring to a racial concept promoted by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Capriles has not publicly commented on the column and did not respond Friday to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles, California-based Jewish human rights group, announced on Friday that its director of international relations, Shimon Samuels, sent a letter to Chavez asking him to prevent further anti-Semitic attacks against Capriles.

"We urge President Chavez to put an end to this campaign that will surely become more threatening as the elections date approaches," the letter states. "Chavez carries the ultimate responsibility for his own media outlets and can personally stop their hate-mongering."

Information Minister Andres Izarra did not immediately respond to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Chavez has repeatedly denied allegations of tolerating or promoting anti-Semitism. Representatives of his government strongly criticized an anti-Semitic column published by Venezuelan state media in 2009, preceding a break-in and vandalization of the largest synagogue in Caracas, where intruders stole a database of names and addresses.

Chavez strongly condemned the incident and vowed to punish acts of anti-Semitism.

By Salon Staff

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