From Venezuela’s Jews Fear More Attacks As Chavez’ Anti-Israel Campaign Intensifies (Associated Press, 2/6/09):

As President Hugo Chavez intensifies his anti-Israel campaign, some Venezuelans have taken action, threatening Jews in the street and vandalizing the largest synagogue in Caracas–where they stole a database of names and addresses.

Now many in Venezuela’s Jewish community fear the worst is yet to come.

Chavez has personally taken care not to criticize Israelis or Jews while accusing Israel’s government of genocide against the Palestinians. He vehemently denies inciting religious intolerance, let alone violence.

But Venezuela’s Jewish leaders, the Organization of American States and the U.S. State Department say Chavez’s harsh criticism has inspired a growing list of hate crimes, including a Jan. 30 invasion of Caracas’ largest synagogue.

About 15 people overpowered two security guards at the Tiferet Israel Synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting “Jews, get out” on the walls. Most worrisome, according to Elias Farache, president of the Venezuelan-Israelite Association, was their theft of a computer database containing many names and addresses of Jews in Venezuela.

Police are now posted outside the synagogue, and prosecutors said Friday that the security guards “could be involved.” Venezuela’s attorney general ordered them to court on Feb. 13–two days before Venezuelans vote in a referendum that could enable Chavez to extend his rule indefinitely.

One week before the invasion, a Chavista columnist named Emilio Silva posted a call to action on Aporrea, a pro-government Web site, describing Jews as “squalid”–a term Chavez often uses to describe his opponents as weak–and exhorting Venezuelans to confront them as anti-government conspirators.

“Publicly challenge every Jew that you find in the street, shopping center or park,” he wrote, “shouting slogans in favor of Palestine and against that abortion: Israel.”

Silva called for protests at the synagogue, a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, seizures of Jewish-owned property, the closure of Jewish schools and a nationwide effort “to denounce publicly, with names and last names the members of powerful Jewish groups present in Venezuela.”

Aporrea later replaced the column with an apology that describes Silva’s posting as anti-Semitic and exhorts Chavistas to show more discipline by criticizing the Israeli government rather than its people or Jews in general.

The events in Venezuela underscore the wisdom of the Founding Fathers’ decision to include the right to bear arms in our constitution.  While there are certainly serious drawbacks to the right to bear arms, this nation’s founders correctly saw the second amendment as a way for the common people to resist a tyrannical government, and also as a way for besieged ethnic or religious minorities to defend themselves.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks I wrote:

At the moment, the principal beneficiaries of the right to bear arms are American Muslims, who have come under attack by those who somehow hold them responsible for last week’s horrific events. Over the past week Muslims have been the victims of dozens of despicable hate-crimes. Gas station attendants have been shot at, punched, and attacked with machetes. Mosques, temples, and Islamic centers have been fired upon, vandalized, firebombed, and attacked with Molotov cocktails. Businesses have been burned down and fire-bombed. Muslim girls have been beaten, a Pakistani woman was almost run over by a car, and a Sudanese man was attacked with a knife.

At least two victims of these hate-crimes are dead. Muslim-owned businesses have closed and many parents have held their children out of school because they fear harassment and violence. Small groups of Muslims in isolated, rural areas have been threatened and fear assaults upon their communities.

There are many instances in American history of besieged ethnic or religious groups successfully using the second amendment right of armed self-defense. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, for example, armed Korean merchants and residents brandished weapons to defend their homes and businesses from the angry mobs who had specifically targeted them.

In the late 1950s, Civil Rights leader Robert F. Williams led the black community of Monroe, North Carolina in its struggle to defend itself against the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups. Inspired by armed Native Americans who had recently repelled a white supremacist attack on their reservation, Williams organized armed self-defense patrols which successfully defended the black community against marauding racist vigilantes.

One hundred and fifty years ago this month besieged free blacks, escaped slaves, and abolitionists also made good use of the right of armed self-defense. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, which gave Southerners the right to send slave catchers into the North to capture and re-enslave escaped slaves, the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass recommended that fugitive slaves and their allies organize armed self-defense. There followed many instances, including the famous Battle of Christiana, Pennsylvania in September of 1851, where white abolitionists, free blacks, and escaped slaves united, took up arms, and fought off slave catchers.

What opponents of the second amendment have never understood is that the prime benefit of the right to bear arms is now and always has been reaped without a shot being fired. The main benefit does not lie in the occasional person who shoots an attacker in self-defense. It doesn’t lie in the many attacks that are stopped by warning shots or the brandishing of a weapon. The main value of the second amendment is that anybody who considers attacking a home, a business, or a community, has to fear one thing above all–the people there may be armed.

The full article was Attacks on American Muslims Reaffirm Wisdom of 2nd Amendment (Pasadena Star-News & Affiliated Papers, 9/19/01).

I’m also reminded of Russian dissident author Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s assertion that the Soviet purges on the 1930s–where millions were arrested and sent to labor camps–simply could not have happened if people were armed and police suffered casualties when trying to make arrests. The zeal of the oppressor, whether it be an anti-Semitic mob or thuggish secret police, seldom extends to being willing to be fired upon.

To Hugo Chavez’s credit, he “phoned [Jewish leader Elias] Farache…in a conversation broadcast live on state television, and vowed to guarantee the safety of Venezuela’s 15,000 Jews. He condemned the synagogue attack.” I would also add that criticism of Israeli polices, including misguided criticism, is not the same as anti-Semitism.

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