Articles by: Eric Wingerter and Justin Delacour
In the early morning hours of January 31, vandals broke into Tiferet Israel, a Sephardic synagogue in Caracas. They strewed sacred scrolls on the floor and scribbled “Death to the Jews” and other anti-Semitic epithets on the walls, before making off with computer equipment and historical artifacts. Understandably, the incident frightened and upset many in the Venezuelan Jewish community. Right away, U.S. news outlets, including The New York Times and The Miami Herald, linked the incident to Venezuela’s increasingly strained relations with Israel, after the two countries suspended diplomatic relations two weeks earlier over Israel’s bombing of Gaza, then still under way.
The U.S. press tends to portray left-leaning Latin American governments as hotbeds of anti-Semitism. In the case of Venezuela, this storyline has been promoted in three key ways: (1) attributing anti-Semitic acts or statements by private citizens to the government, (2) conflating legitimate criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism, and (3) relying on press statements by U.S.-based Jewish organizations at the expense of Venezuelan Jewish organizations.