Israel eyes Venezuelan Jews


Venezuela’s Jews are afraid and should get help immigrating to Israel, a senior Knesset member said.

Effi Eitam of the right-wing National Religious Party returned from a low-profile visit to Venezuela over the weekend with an ominous report about the Latin American country’s 12,000 Jews.

“They’re asking for help,” he told the daily Ma’ariv on Sunday. “They know they are living on borrowed time there but are afraid of showing signs of panic.”

Ties have been strained between Jerusalem and Caracas under President Hugo Chavez, who is openly hostile to the United States and friendly with Iran. Chavez has further distressed Venezuelan Jews with comments widely construed as anti-Semitic.

Eitam said he would ask the Israeli government to make arrangements to bring in Venezuelan Jews en masse, adding that community members with whom he had spoken voiced interest in an aliyah free of red tape. Israel’s ambassador to Venezuela, Shlomo Cohen, is largely shunned by the Chavez government, according to Ma’ariv.

“The fear is that Chavez will exploit the opportunity if a conflict erupts between Israel and Iran or between Iran and the West, and he will either nationalize the Jewish property in his country or take other measures,” Eitam said.

“The Jews there are confused and frightened and very much want Israeli help to organize. Some have already evacuated their family members to other places, such as Miami or Panama. Every family has an emergency evacuation plan.”


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