CARACAS, Venezuela (JTA) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Israel a "genocidal state" during nationally broadcast comments following violent clashes aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla.
Chavez called Israel a "cursed terrorist and murderous state" amid shouts of “Long Live Palestine” during a June 1 speech, the day after Israeli Navy commandos boarded a Gaza-bound ship and nine people were killed in the ensuing violence. He also accused Israel of supporting the local opposition against his government.
“Israel is financing the Venezuelan opposition. There are even groups of Israeli terrorists, of the Mossad, who are after me trying to kill me,” he said.
In response, the American Jewish Committee said in a news release last Friday that the Organization of American States should condemn the comments in the “strongest possible terms.”
“These baseless accusations by President Chavez are downright dangerous and are used by him to bolster his own political standing,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
In the same speech, Chavez sent his “greetings and respect” to the local Jewish community.
“They know they have our affection and respect," he said, adding later that "I doubt very much that a Venezuelan Jew would support such an atrocity.”
The local Jewish community has had a strained relationship with the government following a spate of attacks against Jewish houses of worship last year, including an assault against the city’s main synagogue.
Other Latin American nations closely aligned with Chavez have come out strongly against the Jewish state. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa recalled his country’s ambassador from Tel Aviv, while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he was suspending diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Venezuela ruptured its diplomatic ties with Israel last year following the war in Gaza.