This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
Is it likely that a contemporary state in Latin America would dare to adopt an official policy of anti-Semitism? We would like to believe that the answer is No. Not in our part of the world. Not in view of the universal disavowal of racism among nations of the region. But take a look at what is happening in Venezuela, and suddenly it doesn't seem unlikely at all.
The reprehensible attack on a synagogue in Caracas on Jan. 31 has spread widespread fear within the Jewish community in Venezuela and sent shivers across the hemisphere. The brazen and well-planned assault represents an escalation in a menacing drumbeat of events that began years ago under President Hugo Chavez and includes the welcoming embrace of Iran, Israel's sworn enemy; the recent break in relations with Israel; and the growing volume of anti-Semitic propaganda tolerated, when not actually sponsored, by Mr. Chavez's government
This was no random act of vandalism. Two security guards were overpowered by about 15 people who ransacked the synagogue's sanctuary and offices, shattering religious objects and leaving graffiti such as, "Jews, get out." Such actions will multiply unless the government takes an unequivocal stand against anti-Semitism and stops spewing anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hatred in the government-controlled media.
Mr. Chavez issued a pro-forma condemnation, but he would be more believable if he had not led the way in attacking Israel for the recent conflict in Gaza, and if his own government were not inciting anti-Jewish violence. Mr. Chavez himself compared Israel's actions in Gaza to the Holocaust. At the same time, a well-orchestrated campaign has been under way on TV, radio, print and Internet media owned by the government that openly questions Israel's right to exist, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
It doesn't help Mr. Chavez's credibility when a pro-government group of journalists urges the public to boycott businesses owned by Jews. Rabbi Pynchas Brener of Venezuela is pessimistic, telling a Jerusalem newspaper that he fears for the future of the Jewish community there, which numbers about 15,000.
Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of all this is the silence of Mr. Chavez's equals across the region. No government or head of state in Latin America, even in countries with larger Jewish populations, has come forward to condemn the events in Venezuela. This failure will only embolden the haters and inciters of violence. Does the silence imply consent, or just indifference? Surely the other leaders of Latin America can see that what is happening in Venezuela is an official policy of anti-Semitism in all but name and declared intent.