Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States, speaks of numerous members of the Jewish community who have supported the struggles of peoples against imperialism and Zionism, and he rejects any attack against the Jewish people.
Watching television footage of one of the necessary and legitimate protests against the Israeli Embassy in Caracas, I spotted a lone sign with a slogan that left me thunderstruck. The slogan was something like: “We condemn Hitler for not having completed his work of extermination. . . .”
The frightening message, totally alien to the Bolivarian process and the Chavista commitment to liberty, democracy, equality, and social justice, shows that, every now and then in our struggles and protests, “loose cannons” come dog us and that we have to detect them and neutralize them and expel them like any foreign body.
Those hidden anti-Semites are much like other “loose cannons” such as professional anti-clericalists who shout, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” when they encounter a believer, incited by the undeniable fact that a majority of the Venezuelan Catholic hierarchy refused to use their potential capacity to become a bridge between Venezuelans in the opposing camps and instead embraced the ultra-right-wing Creoles and the immoral dictatorship of the media. What’s lost on these pseudo-Chavista infiltrators is the deep Christian foundation of our socialist process and the social fact that most Venezuelan Catholics, including nuns and priests at the grassroots, are committed to the Bolivarian revolution.
None shall ever be permitted to use the recurrent crimes against humanity committed by the mediocre and murderous militarist elite of the State of Israel as justification for twisting the just rebellion of the Palestinians and solidarity with them into anti-Semitic aberrations.
No leftist has the right to forget that the Jews — historically persecuted, not by the Muslims who for centuries opened their doors for them, but by first the Christian crusaders, then the inquisitors, and finally the Nazis — have a historical tradition of pioneering solidarity with social rebellions and progressive thought. Never forget such illustrious Jews as Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Bob Dylan. Never forget the participation of Jews, even at the cost of their lives, in civil, labor, social, and anti-war struggles in the United States or struggles against the ultra-Catholic military dictatorships in the Southern Cone. Never overlook the fact that, in the United States, against the organized anti-Chavista campaign supported by the “Israel lobby” in that country, American Jewish intellectuals have spoken up: the most famous intellectual in the world, Noam Chomsky, so often cited by President Chávez, and Joseph Stiglitz, a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, who has supported us in our struggles against the dictatorship of neoliberalism.
But even if there had been no progressive Jew in history, which isn’t the case, it would still be a mortal sin to silence the Jews or call for their extermination. What we must do is to discuss, openly and face to face, the Zionist deviations and the systematic violations of human rights of the Palestinian people. The killing of innocents or righteous fighters in Gaza cannot be solved by applying the radicalized lex talionis which is precisely the barbaric adventure undertaken — with the cruelty of criminals and electoral opportunists — by the Israeli battalions.
Repeatedly during the Fourth Republic in Venezuela, crypto-Nazi groups were established, which occasionally vandalized synagogues and other Jewish buildings with anti-Semitic symbols and slogans (e.g., “MSN,” “Tradition, Family, and Property,” etc.). In general, those were ultra-radical Catholics — of whom Hitler was one — of the upper-middle class, who, instead of setting up a vulgar corner bar decorated with a bullfighting theme in their home, opted for a Nazi corner with flags and swastikas, old editions of Mein Kampf, Wehrmacht helmets or Gestapo caps, and sometimes also a fine Luger awaiting an opportunity to kill a Jew. To my surprise, by the way, some compatriots from the Jewish community in Venezuela, whether due to anti-Chavista conviction or sheer lack of awareness, have ended up marching in protest against our Bolivarian government side by side with those crypto-Nazis, inflamed by the poisons spewed by the media’s dictatorship.
In those days, too, the Venezuelan diplomats, at the United Nations and other international forums, supported the vast majority of decisions in favor of the Palestinian cause. We just abstained, as in fact I personally did more than once, from any draft resolution containing untenable ultra-radical propositions. I especially remember that, during my time as a member of the Venezuelan Mission to the UN, I organized a meeting, in 1978 at the Tudor Hotel New York, between a group of Venezuelan diplomats, recent graduates guided by the director of our School of International Studies, Carlos Guerón, a Jewish Venezuelan, and the head of the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Oraganization, Hassan Rahman.
In this international political battle, we, who have a balanced attitude to the problem but are committed to the Palestinian people, come across two manipulative visions that we must not accept. One comes from those who insist on the Holocaust denial as if it were a matter of statistics. One wonders: at what number does the Holocaust begin? Six million? Four million? Two million? One million? Half a million? The controversy would be laughable if it were not tragic. For me there is no doubt that there was a policy of extermination of the Jews in Christian Europe. To trivialize it is to disrespect the memory of its victims and the truth, as it would be to deny the genocide in Armenia, in Rwanda-Burundi, in Hiroshima-Nagasaki, or in Palestine, including the genocide of the indigenous population in Latin America.
The other is the blackmail that gets imposed on us, through the international media dictatorship, which accuses any persons or organizations of being anti-Semites when we raise our voice for the Palestinian cause and denounce the ghettos and concentration camps in Palestine, whose inhabitants are being exterminated by those in search of a final solution, with the First-World “Christian” support, deliberately massacring Arab children in order to eliminate future “terrorists.”
Familiar as I had already been with the suffering of the Jewish people since my childhood, through my conversations with my family and my readings, upon arriving at my first diplomatic assignment in Warsaw, the first thing I noticed was the climate of terror sown, among the already decimated Jewish community in Poland, by the anti-Semitic purges designed by the then Interior Minister Mieczysław Moczar in 1968, which affected even key Jewish leaders of the Polish Communist Party. Familiar as I am since my adolescence, through my personal dialogues and readings, with the suffering of the Arab-Palestinian people who have been forced to pay for the crimes committed by the Nazis, I cannot but recognize what has been done to the Gaza ghetto as a policy of genocide.
There is much more to say about all this, but for now it’s enough that we are filled with spiritual oxygen, and we proclaim the brotherhood of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists, all who believe and pray, and all who don’t believe and don’t pray.
Roy Chaderton Matos, born in 1942, is Venezuela’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (since 15 April 2008). He began his diplomatic career under the Rafael Caldera government as Secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy in Poland (from 1969 to 1972). Under the Hugo Chávez government, he was Foreign Minister from 2002 to 2004; Ambassador to France from 2004 to 2006; diplomatic advisor to Francisco Arias Cárdenas, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Nations, in 2006; and Ambassador to Mexico in 2007. The original article “Chavismo: Cristiano, Antinazi, Pro-Musulmán y Pro-Judío” was published by Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, Radio Nacional de Venezuela, TeleSur, and YVKE Mundial on 30 January 2009. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).