(JTA) — Incendiary statements against Israel by the Venezuelan government have led to attacks on the Jewish community there, the American Jewish Committee said.
Since the start of Israel’s operation against Gaza in early July, Venezuelan Jewry has been subjected to attacks and intimidation from government officials and the media, according to the AJC.
The Jewish group said President Nicolas Maduro has publicly accused Israel of pursuing “a war of extermination against the Palestinian people” and has compared Gaza to Auschwitz.
“President Maduro is playing with fire and, if left unchecked, his incitement of state-sanctioned hatred against Jewish citizens could easily ignite with profoundly tragic consequences,” AJC Executive Director David Harris warned in a statement issued Sunday. “Ensuring the safety and security of Venezuela’s Jewish citizens should be a government priority, but President Maduro seems intent on outdoing the hostility towards Israel of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, and that’s saying a lot.”
Social media is full of vitriol against the Jews of Venezuela, including a recent Twitter message that read: “A deputy of the government’s party PSUV is organizing armed militias to attack THE Jewish community that lives in OUR Venezuela. They will attack synagogues and Jewish businesses.”
Graffiti reading “Protect the Homeland … kill a Jew” was found in the Caracas subway and the website of the Jewish newspaper, Mundo Israelita, was hacked on July 26 with anti-Israel messages.
Venezuela has a Jewish population of approximately 9,000.
“Ultimately, the Venezuela government will be held responsible for fostering this climate of hatred and its consequences,” Harris said.