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Public Statements

Condeming the Attack on the Tiferet Israel Synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


* Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my profound concern and indignation regarding the recent attack on the Tiferet Israel Sephardic synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela.

* The attack, which occurred just days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on the Jewish Sabbath, was reminiscent of Kristallnacht.

* For five hours, violent anti-Semites profaned and vandalized a Sephardic synagogue in capital city Caracas, leaving behind graffiti with words of hatred.

* But the violence didn't stop there. Sacred torah scrolls were hurled about recklessly and damaged. The synagogue's guard was held at gunpoint and was found on the floor of the building by synagogue members on Saturday morning.

* Let me be clear. This brazen attack on the Venezuelan Jewish community did not occur in a vacuum.

* It was the direct result of the Venezuelan government's leaders, officials, media commentators and others, who have fostered an atmosphere of intimidation against the Jewish community.

* During the Gaza crisis, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements were made by the Venezuelan President, the foreign minister, interior minister, the president of the national assembly, a number of congress members, and governors across the country.

* In the most recent example of his blatantly anti-Semitic public comments, President Hugo Chavez said ``the Israelis criticize Hitler but have done something worse,'' and also asked ``Don't Jews repudiate the Holocaust? This is precisely what we're witnessing.''

* Hateful, fear-mongering comments like these were condemned by our own Department of State, in a 2008 report where they listed ``drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis'' as an example of anti-Semitism.

* President Chavez ``condemned'' Friday's attack on Tiferet Israel as briefly as possible, making no mention of plans to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in his country. He did, however, take a considerable amount of time to throw mud at his opponents, accusing them of staging the synagogue assault. This is unacceptable.

* In November 2008, President Chavez signed a statement along with the presidents of Argentina and Brazil condemning religious intolerance, and ``in particular anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism.''

* In the strongest of terms I urge the government of Venezuela to live up to this statement, and end the incessant bullying and harassment of the Jews of Venezuela.


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