Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The story gets told: anti-Semitism and press restrictions

This deliberately weird title comes from one observation that I am making: the foreign excursions of Chavez visiting all sorts of dictators before visiting democratic countries might not be benefiting Chavez as much as he hopes for. In particular it is forcing some countries to have a deeper look at what is going on inside Venezuela. In this Chavez is not helped at all by his big mouth and poor choice of symbols.

The main thing that has surfaced lately is the perception of a growing anti-Semitism within Venezuela. This blogger has reported on that long ago and got quite a lot of flack for it. But I am being vindicated as the days pass. No the question is not how anti Semitic Chavez is but how much is he willing to act on it.

For example in the notes coming from Israel newspapers on the withdrawal of the Israeli ambassador in Venezuela we can read in the Jerusalem Post:
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told The Associated Press. "We have a problem with the leadership in Caracas that hugs the Iranian president who calls for the annihilation of Israel."
Haaretz observes that the Jewish community of Venezuela is starting to react more strongly on the latent anti Semitism within chavismo:
The Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela, or CAIV in Spanish, denounced "anti-Semitic statements" in government-backed media and the "arbitrary bias of representatives of the government ... toward one of the sides of the conflict."
Haaretz duly notes the “efforts to banalize the Holocaust” in Chavez speech, and notes that a few months ago the CAIV leadership tried to excuse another anti Semitic utterance of Chavez even as a majority of the Jewish population in Venezuela seems to have been against the directive of the CAIV bureau (something Haaretz might want o inquire within?).

That CAIV announcement appeared in El Universal last Friday but it is not on line. Thus I had to take the picture on the right (click to enlarge). I have circled in red the most pertinent parts. In this text the Jewish Confederation of Venezuela does the following: deplores the situation in the Middle East showing concern for the suffering of ALL the people (even though they endores Israel as would be expected, but at least they show concern for all victims which is not the case of many a Venezuelan authority); complains bitterly about the partiality shown by the Venezuelan government be it at the national level or local level; complains about anti Semitic comments from the state media under the cover of "anti sionism". That is it, the CAIV has officially accused the Venezuelan government of anti semitism. We are waiting for a reply, not coming so far.

Coincidentally today Phil Gunson published a piece on the status of the freedom of expression in Venezuela. If at the start he replays the usual complaints of chavistas that the media is in the hands of the opposition he ends the article explaining how this has completely changed, that it is now Chavez who has the big advantage, with less checks from the opposition than he had when the media was supposedly 95% in the hands of the opposition. In fact two sentences are worth quoting:
The Consejo Nacional Electoral (national electoral authority / CNE), has decided to place no special restrictions either on the Sunday programme [Alo Presidente]or the cadenas during the 2006 election campaign, giving the president a massive propaganda advantage.
Thus we have a president running for election that will not need to pay for a huge, even tremendous media blitz while the opposition will have to pay dearly a very limited advertisement slot. But more worrying is this other piece:
But a recent judicial order, banning certain types of press coverage of a sensitive political case, is just one sign that such guarantees are by no means watertight.

With many other areas of national life already subject to strict government control, journalists in Venezuela – local and foreign – are, understandably, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Indeed, more and more self censorship is observed and this blogger cannot help but notice that many topics are now lightly covered by the press, if covered at all; while follow up of embarrassing situations for the government is sorely missing in some cases. Coming back to the start of this post, what I find personally an outrage is that Chavez gets progressively more and more of his anti Semitism out in the open (amen to his followers expressing this more and more) while there seems to be a reluctance of the press to follow up on that. So far the only strong article I have seen outside of this blog is from Milagros Socorro (while Ms. Socorro and myself deplore the bombings of Lebanon and remind people that Venezuela is a multi ethnic country, including many Arab/Muslims among our immigrants and that we cannot take sides; this was even picked up by Big Pharaoh blog who might not know enough about Venezuela to spell the name correctly, but did get the message nevertheless, loud an clear). Fortunately overseas the word spreads as one can read form the Monday Op.Ed in the Washington Post by Jackson Diehl. At least we can be sure that the Washington Post is clear on Chavez anti semitism, that his words are now closely followed, in particular in Teheran.

I will remind folks in Venezuela the words associated with Pastor Niemoller, most appropriate words now that folks have forgotten, conveniently, about those fired at PDVSA in 2003; or those that are on the Tascon list; or those who dared to oppose Chavez strongly and that all applaud to only leave them rot in jail after trumped trials; or those who have preferred the roads of exile as they could not safely exert their journalism. All now close their eyes, ears and mouths as they are trying to get some of the money Chavez throws around, but the Piper gets paid someday.

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

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