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Tiféret Israel Synagogue attack

Tiféret Israel Synagogue attack
Part of the spillover of the 2008–2009 Gaza War
The Tiféret Israel Synagogue, target of the attack
LocationCaracas, Venezuela
Date31 January 2009; 15 years ago (2009-01-31)
TargetTiféret Israel Synagogue
No. of participants
15

The Tiféret Israel Synagogue attack was an attack on Caracas, Venezuela's oldest synagogue that took place on the night of 31 January 2009, during the shabbat. The attack occurred amid a rise in tensions prompted by the 2008–2009 Gaza War, after Venezuela severed diplomatic relations with Israel and Israel responded by expelling Venezuelan officials from the country.[1]

Background

Following the onset of the 2009 Israel-Gaza conflict, the Venezuelan government expressed disagreement with Israel's actions. On 5 January, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez accused the United States of poisoning Palestinian president Yasser Arafat in order to destabilize the Middle East.[2] He also described the offensive by Israel as a Palestinian "holocaust".[2] Days later, the Venezuelan foreign ministry called Israel's actions "state terrorism" and announced the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and some of the embassy staff.[2]

Following the order of expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, incidents targeting various Jewish institutions occurred in Venezuela.[3] Protests occurred in Caracas with demonstrators throwing shoes at the Israeli Embassy while some sprayed graffiti on the facility.[4] At the Tiféret Israel Synagogue, individuals spray-painted "Property of Islam" on its walls.[3]

Attack

During the night of 31 January 2009, an armed gang consisting of 15 unidentified people broke into Tiféret Israel Synagogue, the synagogue of the Israelite Association of Venezuela and the oldest synagogue in the Venezuelan capital Caracas and occupied the building for several hours.[5] Security guards were tied up and gagged and the gang destroyed offices and the repository where the holy books were stored; this happened during the Jewish Shabbat. They daubed the walls with anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli graffiti that called for Jews to be expelled from the country.[6] They also stole a database that listed Jews who lived in Venezuela.[7]

The vandals had also stolen the security footage of the incident, however, the computers with the recordings were recovered in the course of the investigation.[8]

Investigation

In February 2009 the Venezuelan authorities arrested 11 individuals in connection with the attack, including eight members of various police forces.[9] (Initially, the number of police involved was reported as seven.)[10]

According to El Universal, the investigative report stated that one of eleven arrested defendants, Edgar Alexander Cordero, a bodyguard for a rabbi at the synagogue and a metropolitan police officer, asked the rabbi for a loan which he refused to give. Cordero decided to rob the synagogue of money, which he believed was locked in its safes.[11] According to Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami, anti-semitic vandalism had merely been a tactic, "First, to weaken the investigation, and second, to direct the blame toward the national government."[12][13]

At least 6 of the 11 individuals arrested were eventually convicted of aggravated robbery, among other crimes.[14]

Reactions

Nicolás Maduro, who was the acting Venezuelan Foreign Minister at the time, condemned the act as a "criminal act of vandalism". The Information Minister Jesse Chacón also condemned the attack; he denied that there was any connection with the government.[15]

International protest

  • United States: In New York, around 250 people, including Jews and Venezuelans, protested in front of the Venezuelan consulate for the attacks on the synagogue.[16] The event was supported by the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Board, the American Jewish Committee, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. US politicians called on President Hugo Chávez to protect the country's Jewish population following the event. Sixteen Democrats and Republicans wrote a letter demanding an "end to the intimidation and harassment of the Jewish community."[15]
  • Israel: Israel's Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the desecration of Caracas' main synagogue and accused Venezuelan authorities of instigating the attack. The spokesman for the ministry, Yigal Palmor, declared that they considered "this attack to be reprehensible and unacceptable,"and "that this type of violence can only occur in Venezuela with the approval of the authorities at the highest level of the State," adding that "we know that the Venezuelan people are neither racist nor anti-Semitic." The spokesman acknowledged that an increase in anti-Semitic acts in Venezuela and other countries had been detected in the last month, but warned that the act against the synagogue "is particularly alarming." Likewise, he maintained that Israel would not send any message to Venezuela, declaring that "relations have been cut off abruptly by President Chávez's decision, so there remains no official dialogue channel open."[17]
  • Peru: At least fifty members of the Jewish community in Peru and Peruvian citizens of other religions protested in front of the Venezuelan embassy in Lima against the attack wearing white and carrying banners, later delivering a protest letter against the desecration of the synagogue at the embassy, demanding that the case be investigated and those responsible for the attack punished.[18]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Israel Expels Venezuela Envoys, Cuts Ties With Caracas". Haaretz. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "Venezuela expels Israeli ambassador". Al Jazeera. 7 January 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b Romero, Simon (31 January 2009). "Synagogue in Venezuela Vandalized in Break-In". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  4. ^ Toothaker, Christopher; Press, The Associated (26 February 2009). "Jewish Center attacked in Venezuela; no injuries". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  5. ^ BBC, 1 February 2009, Synagogue desecrated in Venezuela
  6. ^ Noticias24.com Archived 17 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Bomb damages Caracas synagogue – JTA – Jewish & Israel News". Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Escolta de un rabino, implicado en el ataque contra sinagoga de Caracas - La Jornada". www.jornada.com.mx (in Spanish). Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  9. ^ "Venezuela: detienen a 11 personas por el ataque a una sinagoga". LA NACION (in Spanish). 9 February 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  10. ^ "Jewish center attacked in Venezuela". UPI. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  11. ^ "Police woman led attack against synagogue in Caracas". El Universal (Caracas). 9 February 2009. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
  12. ^ "Crónica AP: "Ex escolta de rabino, sospechoso del ataque a la sinagoga"". Noticias24.com. 9 February 2009. Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Presentó los resultados de la investigación de los ataques a la Sinagoga". Noticias24.com. 9 February 2009. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  14. ^ "MP logró condena de 6 personas por robo a la Sinagoga - Información - Ministerio Publico" (in Spanish). 26 August 2014. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  15. ^ a b US politicians call on Chávez to protect Venezuela's Jews The Guardian. 3 February 2009
  16. ^ admin (4 February 2009). "Hundreds rally opposite Venezuelan Consulate". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  17. ^ "Hugo Chávez condenó el ataque a una sinagoga en Caracas". LA NACION (in Spanish). 1 February 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  18. ^ "La comunidad judía en el Perú protestó ante la embajada de Venezuela - Perú 21". archivo.peru21.pe (in Spanish). Retrieved 13 March 2023.
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