Labour MP Chris Williamson’s support for the Chavista regime in Venezuela is not what has made him unpopular with many Labour MPs – rather it’s his indulgence of anti-Semitism that has got him into hot water. But distinct though the two issues might seem, there is in fact a direct link between the two.
First, let us remember that Hugo Chavez is Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest political hero. He has lavished praise on Chavez more than any other figure and has issued not one word of criticism. “Chavez,” eulogised Corbyn in 2013, “showed us that there is a different and better way of doing things. It’s called socialism. In Chavez let us remember someone who stood up, was counted, was inspiring, is inspiring and in his death we will march on, to that better, just, peaceful and hopeful world.”
Chavez today is more widely remembered for his socialist economic policies which have turned what was once the richest country in Latin America – and still the one with the world’s largest oil reserves – into a total basket-case, with poverty rates above 94 per cent, widespread hunger and a massive refugee crisis. It is less widely known that he was a thoroughly unpleasant anti-Semitic thug.
Chavez ran a vicious anti-Semitic campaign during his years in power with the aim of demonising Venezuelan Jews and blaming them for the country’s ills. Chavez’s approach to Jews was summed up in his Christmas Eve speech in 2005 in which he said, “The world has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ…have taken control of the riches of the world.”
Synagogues were ransacked and vandalised, while government-controlled papers published cartoons with grotesque stereotypical caricatures of Jews and accused the Jewish community of having an agenda of world domination. Other Chavista politicians pressed home the assault. For example, the President of the State Assembly in Miranda (a member of Chavez’s inner circle) attacked a Jewish legislator on the grounds that the Jews had killed Jesus Christ and thus deserved to be slaughtered by Hitler.
Anti-Semitism is a core element of the Chavismo ideology, and the primary intellectual author of that ideology is an ultra-nationalist Marxist holocaust denier called Norberto Ceresole. In 1999, Ceresole published Caudillo, Army, People: The Venezuela of Commander Chavez, which set out the political underpinnings of Chavismo and the personality cult of Chavez. Ceresole identifies the Jews of Venezuela as the greatest threat to Chavismo in the very first chapter, charmingly entitled “The Jewish Question and the State of Israel,” in which he writes:
“The first time that I perceived the ‘Jewish problem’ was when I discovered, empirically, that the so-called ‘terrorist attacks of Buenos Aires’ (1992 and 1994)… corresponded with an internal crisis of the State of Israel and not with the action of a supposed ‘Islamic terrorism.’ From that time onward, the Jews erupted in my life. I suddenly discovered them not as I had known them until then, that is as individuals distinct from one another, but rather as elements for whom individuation is impossible, a group united by hatred.”
Chavez took a similar line of blaming the Jews for attacks on Jews when commenting on the looting of the main Caracas synagogue: “Like any police investigator, you have to ask yourself: who benefits from these violent attacks? Not the government, not the people, not the Revolution… It is they themselves who did it!”
Ceresole called the holocaust “the greatest lie ever told by humans since the Old Testament.” He published a series of books where he described the Holocaust as a myth and painted Israel as a threat. He subscribed to the ideas of three prominent French Holocaust deniers, whom Ceresole described as friends: Roger Garaudy (who wrote the prologue to one Ceresole’s books, El National-Judaism), Paul Rassinnier, and Robert Faurisson.
On his weekly radio and TV programme Aló Presidente in May 2006 Chavez called Ceresole “a great friend” and an “intellectual demanding great respect”.
A core element of the Ceresole-designed Chavista philosophy is the direct relationship between the leader and the people, unburdened by intermediating independent institutions. Ceresole portrayed Chávez’s electoral victory as follows: “The order that the people of Venezuela emitted on December 6, 1998 is clear and final. A physical person, and not an abstract idea or a generic party, was ‘delegated’ by that very people to exercise Power.”
The similarities with Corbynism are striking. Both share the concept of a heroic leader who can do no wrong. Both share contempt for independent institutions, such as a free media. Both are rooted in anti-Semitism. It is no accident that one of the most prominent defenders of the Chavista regime today, Alfred de Zayas, an anti-Semitic historical revisionist, is constantly promoted by Chris Williamson and other Corbynistas.
Corbyn’s praise for Chavez and Maduro should be a strong warning to us all. Corbyn stated in 2015, “we celebrate – and it is a cause for celebration – the achievements of Venezuela… we recognise what they have achieved and how they are trying to achieve it.”
Corbyn will follow the same path here and use similar methods. It is not only Britain’s Jews who should be worried.
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