Chavez' War Against the Jews

07/02/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Imagine you're a Jew living in a country where you don't feel safe practicing your religion.

Imagine your place of business being smeared with anti-Semitic messages, your synagogue attacked and desecrated, and the school your children attend raided on trumped up suspicions of conspiracy.

Imagine the media calling for your people's expulsion, articles suggesting your religion is the root of the world's ills.

Imagine -- perhaps worst of all -- that these actions and messages are being sponsored by your own government.

Now imagine you speak Spanish.

Because what I'm describing isn't pre-war Germany, but present-day Venezuela.

I recently traveled on assignment for HDNet's World Report to Caracas, Venezuela with correspondent Jennifer London to investigate claims by the Jewish community that anti-Semitism has taken hold of the country. We spent a week traveling around the capitol city, talking to leaders of the community, and we witnessed first hand the threats against the Venezuelan Jews.

"In my case, I feel a duty to say it like it is," Sammy Eppel, a Jewish activist in Venezuela, tells us. "Being afraid -- of course I'm afraid. I mean, I have a family, I have children -- I've been threatened. But I hope that those things would never actually happen -- those things that they promise me over the phone that they're going to do to me or to my family."

But while anti-Semitism exists all over the world, Jewish Venezuelans say their case is different -- because in Venezuela, they tell us, the anti-Semitism stems directly from the government.

"At least in my case, for the first time in recent history, I mean, we see what I would call government sponsored anti-Semitism in a Western country," says Eppel.

When we first heard this from Eppel, and many others in the community, we were shocked - and even a little dubious. State-sponsored anti-Semitism... in 2010? ... in Venezuela? On the surface, it didn't make sense.

But as we continued our investigation, the evidence continued to build. There was the anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on the synagogues and businesses owned by Jews; there was the police raid on the Jewish school Hebraica that was based on a "tip" that the school was involved in an assassination plot [no evidence was ever found]; there were the frequent publications in the state-run media calling for the expulsion of the Jews; and there was even the anti-Semitic rhetoric of President Hugo Chavez himself.

Perhaps it is this last example that Jewish Venezuelans fear the most. When your own president is comparing Zionists to Nazis on national television, and insinuating that it is people of your religion that have all the wealth in the world ("the descendants of those who crucified Christ"), and then publicly expels the ambassador of Israel during a war that your country has nothing to do with, I can understand why you might start to feel nervous.

But why? What could possibly be the motivation?

Maybe that is most shocking of all....

Find out Tuesday night by watching World Report on HDNet at 9pm ET (6pm Pacific) in the world premier "Chavez's War Against the Jews."

Finally, one community's danger brought to light.

Watch "Chavez's War Against the Jews" on HDNet's World Report Tuesday, May 4th at 9pm ET, 6pm PT. The show will re-air Wednesday night. Check your local listings for details.

For a preview of this documentary, click below:

UPDATE: Soon after this post went up, I received a message from one of my sources in Caracas saying: "the government is asking the [Jewish] community to stop the transmission of your program.' It said further, 'Our answer [to the government] will surely be that any request should be addressed to the network and that our community has no such powers and being believers in freedom of the press we will never be inclined to even make such request.'"