The Wall Street Journal’s “Jewish Problem”

Anti-German propaganda poster

Oh, look. The Wall Street Journal seems to have twigged to the fact that their leading “expert” on Latin America, Mary Anastasia O’Grady, is nothing more than a discredited hack parachuted in from the Heritage Foundation to promote far-right “values” at the expense of honesty and reality. So now they’re handing the job of slamming Chavecito off onto a new guy. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Mr. Travis Pantin and his stirring rendition of recycled manufactured outrage, “Hugo Chavez’s Jewish Problem”.

Right away, you can see that Mr. Pantin is one for the loaded language: “preaching a gospel”, “blessedly unvoiced”, “decisively rejected”, “dictator for life”, “wild rhetoric and diktats”, “by fiat”, and oh yeah, that wonderfully well-worn phrase, “questions about his emotional and mental stability.”

What a pity that the language-loading Mr. Pantin has only been skimming the surface, and it shows. If he’d sat through as many hours of Chavecito’s speeches in Spanish as I have, he’d realize that most of the Venezuelan president’s language consists not of “gospel”, “wild rhetoric and diktats” OR “fiats”, but of quiet, well-reasoned, informative and calm discourse that would put an Oxford don to shame. That’s one thing that impresses me about Latin American politicians: despite their “fiery” reputation up here, when you pay closer attention to them, the first thing you notice is the contrast between not only them and the media’s reporting of them, but also between them and our own politicians. We Canadians, for example, have a reputation for politeness, yet there is more scandalous language and violent gesticulation in our own mostly-white House of Commons during a single Question Period than there ordinarily is in Miraflores Palace in the space of a month. But you’d never know it from the way Chavecito gets covered in the English-language press. The only time anything he says ever makes the whore media up above the Rio Grande is when it’s something that can be spun somehow as outrageous (usually by taking it way out of context), or just outrageously funny, like the time he first caught my attention by poking some badly needed fun at Condi the Shoe Queen–who is, as he says, a woman disastrously out of her depth (and never more so than when writing derivative drivel about the Czechs). And when he called Dubya the devil, I knew he was joking (something the whore media is curiously reluctant to admit), but also that there was an element of truth to it–a truth that the Travis Pantins of this world are overpaid to obscure.

But maybe I’m being too harsh on the WSJ’s new boy? Hmm, you be the judge:

But to dismiss Mr. Chávez as a lunatic is to wish away his proven political skill. He is, without question, a powerful figure—and one who, thanks to a quirk of geography, is also in possession of dangerously large amounts of oil. His government claims to control over 100 billion barrels of proven reserves, by far the largest of any country in the Western hemisphere. Although estimates vary, at current production levels and prices Venezuela’s oil revenues may top $250 million daily.

Translation: What’s all our oil doing under his soil?

Nope, I don’t think I’ve misjudged Pantin at all. Sooner or later, usually after a softening-up preamble in which the reader is treated to all the usual anti-Chavez slurs followed by a light glossing-over of more emollient language designed to make the piece appear “fair and balanced” when it ain’t, it all comes around to this: Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil resources.

Those oil resources are under the control of an elected and immensely popular government–not only Chavez, but almost an entire parliament of his supporters–and they are not kindly desposed towards Corporate America. They have undertaken convincing steps to reverse the intended privatization of the national oil company, PDVSA. By putting the oil back squarely in the hands of the citizens, with foreign corporations (most of them based in the US) being forced to take the lesser role in any new oil development AND pay a healthy stack of taxes to boot, the Venezuelan government has reversed an impoverishing trend; Corporate America can no longer rob Venezuela blind. Venezuela is now coming into her own, and if anything angers Corporate America, it’s a country with lots of oil and little patience for…well, Corporate America.

But since Corporate America cannot declare war on all of Venezuela, even though the Bolivarian slogan, “Ahora es de todos” (Now it’s everybody’s) holds true, they have to settle for the next best thing: using Washington to wage a proxy war on their behalf. And the surest way to lay the groundwork? A crapaganda offensive, of course. But instead of targeting all Venezuelans, which would provoke an outcry far beyond Venezuela, they pick on just one man: Chavez. He is their chosen scapegoat in the crapaganda offensive. And who better to do it than the newspaper of Corporate America…the Wall Street Journal.

Now that you know what you really need to know, let’s get on with it and follow Mr. Pantin through the usual infernal pantheon of baddies Chavecito is supposed to be in bed with:

Unlike Fidel Castro, who as a client of the Soviet Union had to apply to his patron for funds, Mr. Chávez is thus free to indulge his ambitions. “In Venezuela we have a strong oil card to play on the geopolitical table,” he told the Argentinian newspaper Clarín in 2005. “It is a card,” he added, “that we are going to play forcefully against the nastiest country in the world, the United States.”

To this end, Mr. Chávez has made common cause with FARC, a narco-terrorist group working tirelessly to overthrow the legitimately elected democratic government of Colombia, Washington’s closest ally in South America. No less ominously, he has aligned his government with regimes and terror groups that would otherwise seem to hold little attraction for a Spanish-speaking country on South America’s northern coast. These include Libya—which awarded Mr. Chávez the al-Gadhafi International Prize for Human Rights, named for the country’s dictator—as well as Syria, Hezbollah, and Hezbollah’s patron Iran. Virtually alone among world leaders, Mr. Chávez is an impassioned defender of Tehran’s right to pursue nuclear technology and has even hinted he would be willing to finance it.

See that? Right there, in the middle of all those bad guys? (Okay, so I underlined it.) The author has shown his hand. The oil is actually the objective of the WSJ’s crapaganda offensive, but in a masterful act of deflection, it is cunningly placed in the designated villain’s hand as a weapon. A sword–not of Bolivar, but of Damocles. This is misrepresentation at its finest, for as anyone who’s been seriously following the Venezuelan situation knows, the oil revenues have gone to good use buying all the things Venezuelans needed but lacked: food, education, healthcare, well-built homes, and oh yeah, an updated national defence arsenal complete with Russian-made planes, missiles and machine guns to replace the old FAL rifles. The oil has been a weapon, yes, but not so much against the robber country as in aid, comfort and defence of the robbed.

That’s a vital distinction, and it’s one that Pantin doesn’t want you seeing or contemplating. Instead, he fixates on the designated villains, intimating that Chavecito is so isolated in the world that he has to associate primarily with these bad guys, conveniently obscuring the fact that they are the foreign leaders he sees least (outside of BushCo!), and his main associations with them are through OPEC (in the case of Libya and Iran, who are both members) and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (what? Venezuela is non-aligned? Fancy that!) Far more often than hanging out with Libyan dictators (who have, incidentally, been discreetly removed from the US’s bad-guy list) and Syrian “terrorists” (about whom, if we were honest, we would admit that we know so little that it’s hard to comment in any terms other than what Washington wants us using), Chavecito can be seen in the company of his fellow Latin American leaders. Incidentally, with a few isolated exceptions such as the presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Peru, they are squarely behind him when it comes to reducing poverty and building Latin American solidarity and economic co-operation. That’s another inconvenient fact Mr. Pantin wants us to ignore as he goes straight for the jugular with the biggest slur of all–the “antisemitism” canard:

As this list may suggest, there is something else, aside from simple anti-Americanism, at work in Mr. Chávez’s foreign policy. He and his supporters are in the grip of another age-old obsession, albeit one with a few indigenous twists: an obsession, that is, with the supposedly excessive power of world Jewry, and in particular of Venezuela’s few, prosperous and increasingly imperiled Jews.

Oh, joy. I was wondering when he’d finally get around to that!

Of course, once he finally gets to his point, Pantin dives right into the Big Lie, face first. Curiously, though, he starts with a point of history which Chavecito, who knows that subject better than any other, would undoubtedly be aware of:

During the struggle for independence from Spain, the fugitive revolutionary Simón Bolívar found refuge among a group of Venezuelan Jews, some of whom later went on to fight in the ranks of his liberating army.

…which rather undermines the idea that Chavecito has a “Jewish problem”; as would the simple fact that he’s never said an actual antisemitic word, and anything he has said that has been so construed, has turned out to be not about Jews, but about oligarchs. There is simply no way that Chavecito would say Jews had persecuted Christ (that would be the imperial Romans, who had every political reason to do so), and certainly no way would he accuse them of having persecuted Bolivar (whom they offered not only refuge, but their own bodies on the line in his revolutionary army, to boot). We therefore have t
o conclude that the “Jewish problem” is not Chavecito’s.

Whose is it, then?

Well, Travis Pantin has some rather funky ideas:

Since Mr. Chávez took the oath of office at the beginning of 1999, there has been an unprecedented surge in anti-Semitism throughout Venezuela. Government-owned media outlets have published anti-Semitic tracts with increasing frequency. Pro-Chávez groups have publicly disseminated copies of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the early-20th-century czarist forgery outlining an alleged world-wide Jewish conspiracy to seize control of the world. Prominent Jewish figures have been publicly denounced for supposed disloyalty to the “Bolívarian” cause, and “Semitic banks” have been accused of plotting against the regime. Citing suspicions of such plots, Mr. Chávez’s government has gone so far as to stage raids on Jewish elementary schools and other places of meeting. The anti-Zionism expressed by the government is steadily spilling over into street-level anti-Semitism, in which synagogues are vandalized with a frequency and viciousness never before seen in the country.

Really? That’s news to me, and I’ll bet it’s news to Venezuelan Jews, too. In fact, the leading Jewish organization in Venezuela has even gone so far as to defend Chavez against such spurious charges as the ones levelled by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. And more recently, there has been evidence that if the WSJ has no idea how to distinguish between denunciations of Jewish leaders involved in treasonous activities (at least one prominent orthodox rabbi was seen at Miraflores during the Carmona coup), and actual antisemitism, at least prominent Chavista figures are being more than careful to make and emphasize that vital distinction:

“We have to be very careful about what is going on in Venezuela, especially what is going on in the private universities,” Mario Silva asserts on his pro-Chávez television talk show La Hojilla (“The Razor Blade”) in late November 2007. The provocative host points out that in television news footage of a recent student march against proposed changes to the Venezuelan constitution, which were voted down December 2, a leader of the marchers crosses a police barricade and signals for the others to follow. Silva identifies this person as the brother of prominent Rabbi Jacobo Benzaquen.

“I repeat, so as not to be called anti-Semite, those Jewish businessmen not involved in the conspiracy should say so,” Silva premises. He then draws the connection between the Benzaquens and another well-known Rabbi, Pinchas Brenner, who participated in the April 2002 coup d’état and appears in video footage with coup leader Pedro Carmona in the presidential palace where Carmona was declared the new (illegitimate) president. “These persons are actively participating in the conspiracy… and a lot of the [opposition] student movement now in activity is related to that group,” Silva declares.

Is this an example of that “street-level anti-Semitism” Pantin was yattering about? Pantin claims it is; he even lists it with his “arresting evidence”, but he doesn’t say what was behind those remarks. So let’s look a little closer at what’s been going on:

In 2004 federal police searched, critics say “raided,” a Jewish school in Caracas. Recent critics allege that they conducted a similar search on December 1, 2007 in Hebraica, a sprawling private Jewish community center related to the school. Neither search discovered anything, nor was anybody repressed or hurt.

Both searches were denounced as “inexplicable,” “anti-Jewish,” “harassment theatre,” and “intimidation” by various critics, including Abraham Levy Benshimol, president of the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela (CAIV), who acknowledges that no acts of anti-Semitic violence have been committed against the Venezuelan Jewish community. Those leading the outcry make abundantly clear that the searches were conducted when kids were present and there was a wedding taking place, but they ignore the broader context and further facts.

For instance, the search warrant for the 2004 search was granted based on evidence that the notorious Israeli intelligence organization Mossad may be connected to the assassination of a Venezuelan Federal Prosecutor Danilo Anderson, who was investigating the authors of the 2002 coup – including allies of Rabbi Pinchas Brenner – when he was murdered in a car bombing in an allegedly Mossad-like manner. The search was part of an investigation of Anderson’s murder, seeking information regarding the murder and possible future destabilization plans in facilities where suspects were known to operate.

Denunciations of last December’s search leave out the fact that it occurred the day before the controversial constitutional reform referendum. The run up to the referendum was intensified by a steep increase in acts of false propaganda and violent protest committed by people and organizations opposed to the reform in various regions of the country, which seemed part of a coordinated destabilization effort among large national and transnational businesses, student groups, and opposition political leaders.

…some of whom, sadly, happen to be Jewish. Just as some prominent bankers and financiers also happen to be–an acknowledgement which is not to be read as a veiled allusion to a “global Jewish conspiracy”, nor should it lead to counter-accusations of an anti-semitic strain in Bolivarianism. That would be, as Norman Finkelstein would say, Beyond Chutzpah.

But that apparently doesn’t trouble young Mr. Pantin. Even near the end of his lengthy disquisition on the supposed Nazification of Venezuela, he has to come clean on the real motives for why the Jews of the opposition really hate Chavez…and yet won’t go to safe, saintly Israel:

When asked why they stay, some wealthier Jews say that the answer is economic. “The problem . . . is that you could never live like this anywhere else,” the owner of a Caracas textile plant told a reporter from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Nobody here really wants to go to Israel. You would need to have 10 times as much money to live this way.” Others, less well off, are similarly reluctant, and offers by the Israeli government to ease the process of aliyah have so far met with few takers.

The stated reasons are many. Even amid all their trouble, it has been pointed out, Venezuela’s Jews retain a workable relationship with the Chávez government. Jewish journalists can still speak out. Nor have Jewish business been targeted for expropriation by Mr. Chávez’s redistributionist policies. Jews can still travel freely, and anti-Semitic violence has not touched many of them personally.

Hmmm. Kind of puts a crimp in all Pantin’s claims of Jewish persecution and accusations of “antisemitism [as] an instrument of state policy” in Venezuela, no? The Jews have it good there, and they know it; their real problem is that they fear–without reason–that their considerable possessions will be taken away from them. They scream and panic over a blow that they anticipate, but which never falls. And if they flee, they will have it no better, even if the ideology of the host country is more to their liking. And in fact, without realizing it, they will have played into the hands of their own worst enemy, whom they have in common with all other Venezuelans: Corporate America.

What all this should show is that Venezuelan Jews, particularly those in the opposition, are, like their majority Roman Catholic counterparts, not exactly averse to terrorism and crapaganda in their efforts to discredit and depose a president they falsely perceive as inimical to their business intere
sts. What’s sad, though, is that these Jews have chosen to throw in their lot with the fascistic element–the same that in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy would have interned them in death camps. They are much like those who, in Poland, would have policed the Warsaw ghetto, collaborating with the Nazis; they are also like the ones who would have sucked up to the camp guards in Auschwitz, becoming Kapos and repressing their fellow Jews in an effort to gain favor with their own oppressors.

It is never a good idea for any member of any minority, persecuted or not, to get behind a band of fascists in an effort to improve their own status. The moment those arch-Catholic oppositionists in Venezuela gained the upper hand in earnest, had the coup of ’02 “taken” as intended, chances are they’d have thrown their rabbinical allies under the bus, rather than elevating them to new heights. “Persecuted” Jews make excellent figureheads for coupmongers to use in crapaganda; they do not, however, stand to gain much once the coup goes ahead. If you don’t believe me, just look at the leader of another “persecuted” sector of the opposition, Carlos Ortega, the unelected leader of a now-discredited trade union federation, the CTV. He joined Pedro Carmona, the head of the bosses’ federation, Fedecamaras, in calling for Chavez’s head–only to be shunted unceremoniously aside once Carmona had sworn himself in as “president”. Just as several prominent Venezuelan generals, believing they would obtain prominent positions in the Carmona administration, betrayed the armed forces (which were and still are overwhelmingly pro-Chavez), and ended up empty-handed and looking very foolish when the newly self-crowned dictator ignored them.

This is what was really in store for all those suck-ups–including the Jewish ones. Did they seriously think the oligarchy would make an exception for them, just because of what happened 70-odd years ago across the Atlantic? If they did, they haven’t learned any more from history than have the terrorist car-bombers of the Israeli Mossad, or for that matter, the war criminal Ariel Sharon. Having been a victim in one place and time does not excuse one from the consequences of being a persecutor in another.

It isn’t wrong to criticize what Israel has done to the Palestinians (Israelis criticize it all the time!), and it ought not to be wrong to probe Israeli government connections to illegal activities in Latin America either, but the Wall Street Journal–the paper of Corporate America and all its allies–hasn’t twigged to that yet.

One might say that this vast blind spot is their “Jewish Problem”.

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