Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 5, 2006

Hugo Chávez’s Antisemitic Christmas Speech

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 pm

Tom Gross reports:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced in a Christmas speech that “the descendants of those who crucified Christ” have appropriated the riches of the world.

Speaking at a rehabilitation center on December 24, the controversial left-wing president said “the descendants of those who crucified Christ… have taken ownership of the riches of the world, a minority has taken ownership of the gold of the world, the silver, the minerals, water, the good lands, petrol, well, the riches, and they have concentrated the riches in a small number of hands.”

The full speech (in a PDF file, in Spanish) is here; the relevant part is on page 18 of the PDF file.

My Spanish is not all that great, but it’s enough to confirm that this is not a gross mis-translation or taken out of context. My (Babelfish-assisted) translation of the surrounding passage is:

There was no money — and where was the money? The money in Venezuela was concentrated… as well as in the world, because this is a world-wide phenomenon, you know? This morning I finish reading the last report of the United Nations on the world situation, and it is alarming — and for that reason I say that today more than ever before in the last 2005 years we need Jesus Christ, because the world, the world, is exhausting every day, every day, the wealth of the world, because God, whose nature is wise, gave the world sufficient water so that all we had water, the world has sufficient wealth, sufficient land to produce foods for all the world-wide population, the world has sufficient stones and minerals for the construction, so that there was not anybody without a house.
The world has [enough] for all, then, but there are minorities, the descendants of such who crucified Christ, the descendants of such who threw to Bolivar from here and also crucified [them] in Santa Marta, back in Colombia. A minority has appropriated the wealth of the world, a minority has appropriated gold of the planet, the silver, minerals, waters, good land, petroleum — the wealth, then, and have concentrated the wealth in few hands: less than the ten percent of the population of the world own more than half of the wealth worldwide and … more than half of the inhabitants of the world are poor and every day there are more poor men throughout the world. We are determined, determined here to change history …

Clayton Cramer tries, but fails, to give Chávez the benefit of the doubt:

I found myself wondering: is he talking about the United States? But it wasn’t Americans who crucified Jesus. (Actually, it wasn’t Jews who crucified Jesus; it was Romans–but little details like history don’t usually bother anti-Semites.)

Clayton also says:

I thought that this sort of anti-Semitism was completely gone–but since the speaker is a bit of a hero to the left, I guess that I am not surprised[.]

We Americans (both Jewish and not) tend, if we think about it at all, to think that antisemitism is gone — because here in America, it basically is. The events in France in 2002-03 (and to a lesser extent, Germany and England) were a shocker to a lot of people, but antisemitism never really died in the rest of the world. In Europe, it was just submerged for a generation or two — probably because the Holocaust made people feel guilty for appaering, if not actually being, antisemitic.

There has always been an antisemitic undertone in Latin America. There’s a reason so many Nazis found refugees in Argentina, and I’ve heard the theory that Vatican II never really made it down to the masses in some of the poorer countries in South America. And of course, the fact that “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a best-seller in Japan is proof that antisemitism can exist without any actual Jews — and even without a history of a religion that makes the accusation of deicide against Jews.

Except from the Arab countries plus Iran, we have basically had a honeymoon from antisemtism for the last half-century. But the honeymoon is over (except in the United States, and I pray that remains the case). In the UK, unlike in the US, they have Chief Rabbi, and he said recently:

In an interview with BBC Radio yesterday [i.e.,Jan. 1] to mark the Christian New Year, Britain’s normally mild-mannered chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, warned that a “tsunami of anti-Semitism” is threatening to engulf many parts of the world. Dr Sacks said he was “very scared” by the rise in anti-Jewish feeling, which had led to Holocaust denial, attacks on synagogues and a boycott of Jewish groups on university campuses.

Among British concerns, he cited the fact that since 2002, Jewish student groups on 17 British campuses have faced the threat of expulsion from fellow students who claim to merely be anti-Israeli rather than anti-Semitic. Dr Sacks said attempts to “silence and even ban” Jewish student groups were “quite extraordinary” because most of Britain’s 350,000 Jews regarded themselves primarily as “British citizens”.

And here in Virginia, we have seen a small part of the effect. Among our neighbors are a Jewish family who moved here from France about a year and a half ago, after concluding that it was not safe to raise Jewish kids there. They’re great people and we love them, but we wish they’d had a less discouraging reason to move here.

UPDATE (1/6/06): The English-language mainstream media is picking up on the story a day after the English-language blogosphere. At least if you count the Jerusalem Post, the Times of India, or the Houston Chronicle as “mainstream.”

One Response to “Hugo Chávez’s Antisemitic Christmas Speech”

  1. mike Says:

    Welcome to the 21st century.

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