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Wiesenthal Center raises concerns over new Venezuelan Vice President’s ties to Hizbollah

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has raised concerns over Tareck El Aissami’s, the newly made up Vice President of Venezuela’s, ties to Hezbollah, as well as Islamic regimes in the Middle East.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center released a report which expresses concerns that El Aissami “is closely identified with Shiite Iran, the Hizbollah terrorist organization and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s family, whom he apparently hosted in Caracas”.

El-Aissami is also linked by the report, through his links to Iran, to involvement with the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish Centre bombing, which killed 85 people and injured over 300, as well as to drug and weapon trafficking between Latin America and the Middle East.

The leader of Hizbollah famously said that that “the Jews will gather from all parts of the world into occupied Palestine, not in order to bring about the anti-Christ and the end of the world, but rather that Allah the Glorified and Most High wants to save you from having to go to the ends of the world, for they have gathered in one place–they have gathered in one place–and there the final and decisive battle will take place“.

Despite claims from various people within Hizbollah that the organisation is merely anti-Zionist, and in fact supports the religious rights of Jews, Robert Wistrich’s book “The Fatal Obsession” details how their ideology fuses both political anti-Zionism with historically common, and far more vitriolic, Islamic antisemitism. This includes, but is not limited to, prominent figures within Hizbollah describing Jews as “the grandsons of apes and pigs”, with one official saying “”If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli”. Jews being described as “weak” or “cowardly” is a common strand of thought in Islamic antisemitism.

Hizbollah has also imported various elements of Western antisemitism into its ideology, with Hassan Nasrallah allegedly claiming that “Jews invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities”, and saying that it is evident from the Quran “what they did to the prophets”, invoking the common Christian claim that the Jews are collectively responsible for killing Jesus. Both of these claims are those which we may more readily associate with the far right than with far left or Islamic antisemitism.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is thus rightly concerned that the promotion of an individual with close ties to such a group could lead to a worsening situation for the country’s Jews. Hugo Chavez had a long record of making antisemitic statements, and whilst some of these were clearly related to his ideological opposition to Zionism, some demonstrated the characteristics of traditional antisemitism, with him at one point describing Jews as “the descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ”. When challenged about his antisemitism, Chavez went so far as to say that such claims were “part of an imperialist campaign”.

The relationship between Socialist Venezuela and Islamic antisemitism in the Middle East is a complex one. The country may well feel that, in a part of the world in which left wing governments are particularly concerned about the possibility of opposition or interference from America, they must form alliances elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, in this case it clearly has led to what CAA Chairman Gideon Falter has described as a combining of “the strains of far-right antisemitism, far-left antisemitism and Islamist antisemitism into one super-resistant antisemitic ideology that is almost invulnerable to the usual social immune defences of reason and opprobrium”.

There is a clear risk that El-Aissami may, as  Dr. Ariel Gelblung of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre says “transform antisemitism into state policy and further the transplantation of the Middle East conflict to South America”. Though there have been efforts to protect Venezuela’s Jewish Community, with El-Aissami having been Justice Minister when the Government was forced to reassure the Jewish community following the desecration of Synagogues in 2009, his links to extremism, and to the 1994 attack in Buenos Aires in particular, are extremely worrying for the Jewish community in the country and must be addressed by the Government to convince international observers that Venezuela will be provide safety for its Jews.