CARACAS (JTA) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he does not agree with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertion that the Holocaust never occurred.
Chavez, who used his trip to the United Nations last week as a pulpit to criticize the State of Israel, in an interview Sept. 24 with Larry King stopped short of condemning the Iranian president, whom Chavez has said is among Venezuela’s closest allies.
"I do not deny the Jewish Holocaust. And I condemn it,” Chavez said. “But in South America, when the Europeans arrived, there were close to 90 million Indians; 200 years later, we only had 4 million remaining. That was a holocaust. And the Europeans denied this holocaust."
Chavez, who severed diplomatic relations with Israel last January following its military offensive in Gaza, accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza during his speech Sept. 24 to the U.N. General Assembly. Chavez said his criticisms were directed toward the government of Israel and not its citizens.
On King’s show that night, Chavez continued to criticize the Jewish state, calling it a “war-mongering” country.
Without referring to Chavez by name, Venezuela’s Chief Rabbi Pynchas Brener said much of the criticism being volleyed against Israel was anti-Semitic.
“Hundreds of thousands have been murdered in the African continent, without a tear or a protest from those that signal Israel as an aggressor, and that is an obvious demonstration of primitive anti-Semitism,” said the rabbi in an e-mail.