23 April 2009

Obama, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today President Obama is planning to attend a Holocaust memorial service. All nice and good - except when you remember who he's cozying up to these days. Hugo Chavez, dictator of Venezuela and Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad, president of Iran.

Chavez is an anti-semite and the Jews of his country are becoming increasingly uncomfortable and scared. Just this year the Hebraica Jewish Center was searched by heavily armed government officers looking for weapons and "subversive activity". A Christmas Eve speech by Chavez accused Jews of killing Jesus and being responsible for taking the money of the world.

In 2004 Chavez did the inexcusable:
Chavez sent Venezuelan security forces to raid a Jewish private school in Caracas as the school day was beginning, in an incident widely regarded by Jews there as a warning to support him or else. His forces terrorized young children, holding sub—machine guns as the school was searched. Of course, no evidence was found implicating anyone in the killing of the prosecutor. But the event can also be seen as a present to Iran, since Chavez was visiting Iran at the time of the raid on the school.

Things have not improved since then and things are just getting worse.
But the atmosphere has worsened lately, first and foremost because of Chavez’s increasingly inflammatory talk about Israel and its supporters. A television program called “The Razor,” broadcast on a state-owned channel, has featured lengthy rants about the presence of Mossad agents allegedly in the country working to unseat the Chavez regime with the support of the United States and opposition forces in Venezuela. The host of the show has also questioned the loyalty of leading Jewish figures to their home country. Despite repeated complaints by CAIV [Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela], the authorities have taken no action.

This brings us to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran. We know all about him. He's a Holocaust denier and a man who would be happy in a moment - if able - to wipe Israel off the map.

Which brings us back to President Obama attending a Holocaust memorial service. How can we take his attendance seriously when he's being friendly with dictators like Chavez and Ahmadinejad. Perhaps "friendly" is a strong word - but we have to wonder what Obama is thinking when he is handed a book by Chavez and later seen giving him a friendly handshake accompanied by a smile. We also must think about his policy of "talking" with Iran. Iran is currently building nuclear missiles. Where will those missiles reach if not Israel? We must again wonder about Obama's foreign policy of "talking" with our enemies.

As Holocaust Remembrance Day passes for another year - remembering the 6,000,000+ Jews (1.5 million of those being children) who were murdered specifically because they were Jewish - we must do more than repeat the mantra "Never Again". Perhaps Jews 65 years ago didn't have political strength to make more of an impact to save their Jewish brethren... but we do now. There are no excuses to doing what is right. We must make it quite clear that political expediency is not acceptable when it comes to our brother's and sister's safety around the world. Not acceptable.

[This weeks Jewish Press has an article by Rabbi Avi Weiss who is currently visiting the Jewish community of Venezuela.]

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