As if engineers don’t already put up with enough ridicule, now they’re being psychologically profiled as sociopaths.
Two Oxford academics have published a 90-page paper [pdf] titled “Engineers of Jihad,” which explores the question of why so many engineers fill the ranks of militant Islamist organizations.
Part of the reason, they say, is that universities in Muslim countries are churning out a disproportionate number of engineering grads who are despondent over their inability to obtain meaningful employment. This frustration draws them toward “Islamism as the only credible political opposition to authoritarian and corrupt establishments.”
But an even larger part of the equation, they say, is the so-called engineering mindset. Previous surveys in the United States and other countries reveal that the proportion of engineers who declare themselves to be on the right of the political spectrum is greater than any other disciplinary groups–such as economists, doctors, scientists, and those in the humanities and social sciences.
But what does that have to do with Islamism? The academics argue:
A plausible answer is that the Islamists’ Weltanschauung shares several features with the worldviews found in the extreme right. One such feature is a corporatist and mechanistic view of the ideal society… which aims at preserving integrity in the social order. Extremist Islamist literature rejects Western pluralism and argues for a unified, ordered society ruled by a strong Islamic leader, in which an authoritative division of labor is created between men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims, political leaders and their flock. The fear of social chaos is a leitmotif of Islamist thought.
Furthermore, the characteristics defining right-wing extremism map out near-perfectly on those of Islamic extremism. One, called “monism” is “the tendency to treat cleavage and ambivalence as illegitimate…the repression of difference and dissent, the closing down of the market place of ideas.” A second feature, “simplism”, is the “unambiguous ascription of single causes and remedies for multifactored phenomena,” which in turn is closely related to seeing history as shaped by the clash between good and evil, and conspiratorially ascribing the forces of evil to one identifiable foe.
While monism and simplism may be shared by left-wing extremism, the last feature, called “preservatism,” is typical only of the right. Unlike left-wing extremism which aims at broadening the lines of power and privilege, preservatism aims to restore a lost, often mythical order of privileges and authority…. in its underlying craving for a lost order, its match with the radical Islamic ideology is undeniable: the theme of returning to the order of the Prophet’s early community is omnipresent in most salafist and jihadist ideology.
You can read the lively debate about this paper among engineers here. As for myself? Eh, I’m not buying it. If you boil this academic theory down to its most basic axiom, it states: Engineers tend to be fascists; Islamists are fascists; so engineers become Islamists. (A bit reminiscent of Woody Allen’s statement: “(a) Socrates is a man. (b) All men are mortal. (c) All men are Socrates. That means all men are homosexuals.”)
The problem with the term “Islamofascism” is that it tends to pigeonhole Islamism as a far-right ideology. In truth, it tends to borrow from the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum. So, when the Oxford guys say stuff like “unlike left-wing extremism which aims at broadening the lines of power and privilege, preservatism aims to restore a lost, often mythical order of privileges and authority,” I’d encourage them to read the work of terrorism expert and journalist Jason Burke who has observed:
At the ideological level, prominent thinkers such as Sayyid Qutb and Abu Ala Maududi have borrowed heavily from the organizational tactics of secular leftist and anarchist revolutionaries. Their concept of the vanguard is influenced by Leninist theory. Qutb’s most important work, Ma’alim fi’l-tariq (Milestones), reads in part like an Islamicized Communist Manifesto. A commonly used Arabic word in the names of militant groups is Hizb (as in Lebanon’s Hizb Allah, or Hezbollah), which means “party”—another modern concept.
In fact, the militants often couch their grievances in Third-Worldist terms familiar to any contemporary antiglobalization activist. One recent document purporting to come from bin Laden berates the United States for failing to ratify the Kyoto agreement on climate change. Egyptian militant leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has decried multinational companies as a major evil. Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers, once told a friend how angered he was by a world economic system that meant Egyptian farmers grew cash crops such as strawberries for the West while the country’s own people could barely afford bread. In all these cases, the militants are framing modern political concerns, including social justice, within a mythic and religious narrative. They do not reject modernization per se, but they resent their failure to benefit from that modernization.
Also, within the context of Islamic observance, these new Sunni militants are not considered traditionalists, but radical reformers, because they reject the authority of the established clergy and demand the right to interpret doctrine themselves, despite a general lack of academic credentials on the part of leading figures such as bin Laden or Zawahiri
The most convincing research on the topic of Islamist recruitment that I’ve seen concerns network theory. Researchers have studied the membership of militant Islamist groups and found that recruitment overwhelmingly relies on pre-existing social networks: friends, family, university organizations, even sports clubs. If these countries produce large numbers of engineering students—and if engineering students and graduates tend to flock together—that seems a more likely explanation.
Well, this was predictable. The Tehran Times has just published an article about the resignation of Arun Gandhi from the Institute for Nonviolence under the headline “Gandhi grandson falls victim to Zionist lobby.”
It seems that Arun and his family are rather bitter about the whole affair. Money quotes:
Arun Gandhi had taken a peace mission to Palestine and had met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat just 10 days before his death. He had met Israeli leaders as well, and later sat in silent protest against the construction of what he described as the “apartheid wall” by Israel to block the Palestinians in segregated quarters.
Mr. Gandhi said he had come in the line of fire since then with a particularly virulent arm of the Jewish lobby in the U.S. launching a concerted campaign against him. “I forget their name, but I call them Zionist Nazis,” he said.
Gandhi’s son said he could only wish that the Jewish lobby had looked at his father’s comments dispassionately and acted on his advice. “That would make them stronger, but instead they have proved him correct,” Tushar Gandhi stated.
Tushar Gandhi said he felt “very sad that the country that teaches freedom to the world had allowed my father to be hounded and persecuted in this manner.” He said that while there were many Americans who were supportive of my father, “official America had maintained a stony silence, and it is their people who come here and try to teach us lessons on human rights.”
Well, yes…Shame on Americans for not coming to the defense of a guy who claims that Jews are responsible for the global culture of violence. Seriously though, who would have thought that Mahatma Gandhi’s grandkids would be prime candidates for anger management?
Last year, photographer and Emmy-winning director Michael Franzini had video crews approach teenagers in four cities to find out if they knew about the Holocaust. More than 60 percent of them didn’t know.
He then sought out the Boston advertising agency Arnold Worldwide, which is responsible for the highly-acclaimed, anti-smoking “Truth” campaign.
The result of that collaboration is now being aired on Think.MTV.com: Two 30-second spots that use contemporary images and scenes to teach young people about the Holocaust.
Adweek offers this assessment:
Without being judgmental or preachy, the spots take an individual “you are there” approach that will no doubt jolt their target audience into awareness….Each is based on an actual photo in the collection of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In one spot, a typical family hangs out, kids doing homework, mom preparing dinner, when they’re all dragged out of the house at gunpoint by brutal soldiers, who herd them onto a truck already crowded with other families. That staggering scene is then frozen into the actual sepia-toned photograph of Jews in Germany in the same position. The second ad shows a subway car in New York during rush hour, teeming with people. The car suddenly slams to a stop and dogs and soldiers rudely push everyone out. Again, as soon as the people hit the platform, the image is frozen into the actual one taken during just such a Gestapo purge.
This is brilliant, award-winning work, and should be seen by a much wider audience. It gives me shivers.
Here are the video spots. What are your thoughts?
I strongly recommend this article appearing in the journal Arab Media & Society. The International Crisis Group and the Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo hosted a special workshop for Arab journalists regarding the ongoing genocide in Darfur–which has received scant coverage in the Arab media. Some attendees acknowledged that part of the reluctance to cover the story stems from the fact that Arab militias are the perpetrators, not the victims of violence. But the failure to cover Darfur speaks to a much deeper malaise within Arab journalism circles:
Others pointed to the constant talk of Zionist plots and Western conspiracies in Arab coverage of Darfur, the preoccupation with “strategic Arab interests,” and what one political editor called the “fantasies” about a Western oil grab, all of which came at the cost of reporting on the human toll.
Al-Gizouli of the Sudanese writer’s union said the history of Arab journalism is to blame. An entire generation of journalists and intellectuals were weaned on the notions of Arab mobilization and confrontation in the face of the imperialist and colonialist aggressor. That legacy is heard in the Darfur coverage. “There is no voice but the battle with Israel and the imperialists. That is what has been fed to the Arab intellectuals. If there is no role for Zionists, [the Arab reporter] creates it from his own imagination and Zionism means conspiracy, the main gallows on which hangs the conscience of the journalists.”
“The Arab journalist is an offspring of his environment,” agreed Hissou of Deutsche Welle. “We had imperialism and Zionism with double-standards. Arab officials say Bush is jeopardizing Sudan, so Arab journalists must accept this conspiracy.” He read a series of excerpts from Arab coverage that, he claimed, demonstrated that the reporting “is heavily freighted with ideological and political assumptions that … imperil our journalistic neutrality.” Hissou quoted Al-Hayat’s influential columnist Jihad Khazen as writing that the Bush administration and the Israel lobby are using Darfur “as a smokescreen to hide other crimes, from Palestine to Iraq” and Hissou claimed that while Al Jazeera has given substantial coverage to Darfur, “it has invited Arab analysts, writers, and physicians to ridicule all reports transmitted by the global television networks on the various acts of murder, rape, and forced displacement.”
Many Arab news organizations get—and report—a distorted view of Darfur because they visit as part of tours arranged by the Sudanese government which, according to Sudanese columnist Alhaj Warrag, takes the view that “everything in Darfur is a conspiracy of the Zionists” and imposes “redlines” on its own media that mean Sudanese reporters cannot cover anything about violations of human rights, police or security. “I am an Arab and a Muslim and I was nearly ready to accept this,” he said, until he went to the camps “and I met someone who watched his sister being raped by the Janjaweed.”
The most emotional attack on Arab media coverage of Darfur came from Nabil Kassem, producer/director of Jihad on Horseback, a documentary about Darfur commissioned by Al Arabiya three years ago but killed after pressure from Saudi Arabia. Kassem, who still works for Al Arabiya, was bitter about what he calls “fantasy” reports in the Arab media that Arab tribes were forced to flee attacking Africans and claims that the refugee camps were Zionist propaganda.
“The Arab tribes fleeing from the Africans, where are they?” he asked. “Then I went to the camps the Arab media said didn’t exist.” Kassem said he left his objectivity in the dust of the Darfur desert. “I am speaking as a humanitarian, not a journalist who is neutral,” he told the gathering. “How can anyone go and see millions of displaced people and remain balanced?”
Here’s the latest salvo in the ongoing controversy over Ms. Magazine’s refusal to publish an ad from the American Jewish Committee (AJC): An organization called MADRE (with the motto, “Demanding Human Rights for Women and Families Around the World”) has just issued a press release declaring its solidarity with Ms. –
The mission of Ms. is to report on US and global struggles to combat sex discrimination and oppression and to provide feminists with the information they need to take action to win equality for women and girls. The AJC ad does not further this mission and the magazine only accepts advertisements that do so. In fact, the AJC (formerly a liberal organization) today espouses hardline neoconservative politics that are clearly at odds with the rest of Ms. Magazine’s mission “to promote women’s equality, social justice, sustainable environment, and non-violence.”
Ah yes, the evil neoconservative AJC, which denounces waterboarding as a form of torture, campaigns to end genocide in Darfur, championed the establishment of a UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and an International Criminal Court, filed briefs in court cases opposing discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, and which supports women’s reproductive rights. How dare the AJC think they belong in the pages of Ms. Magazine?
You know that Ms. (and MADRE) have screwed-up royally when even the Nation’s Eric Alterman is pissed off:
I can’t claim to be a regular reader of Ms. Magazine, and so I guess they won’t miss me when I say I don’t plan ever to pick it up again, and while I always thought well of the organization MADRE, I guess I’ve not done much for them either and they won’t miss my support, but this is a blog and I get to say what I want, and I’m saying Ms. and MADRE are on the side of censorship and fear and possibly anti-Semitism and, as such, should be shunned by all of us who prefer free speech to these things….After all, where would feminists be if everyone who disagreed with them reserved the right to censor as well?
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice has just published an interview with Michael Weinstein—the Air Force veteran and former White House attorney who sued the Air Force, demanding a permanent injunction against alleged religious favoritism and proselytizing in the service. He is also the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, to combat what he sees as a concerted effort by hardcore Evangelical Christian organizations to treat the armed forces as a mission field, ripe for conversions.
His nemesis is the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), a private organization with 14,000 active-duty members on more than 200 U.S. military bases around the world. In its mission statement, the OCF says its goal is “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.”
I have mixed feelings about Weinstein. I applaud his efforts to confront religious intimidation and harassment in the military. But, his over-the-top comments sometimes have the distinctive sound of moonbat wings flapping. Case in point: In his interview, he notes that about 12.6 percent of the American public are hardcore, rightwing Evangelicals, and adds:
Now, I remind you, Hitler never had more than eight percent of the German citizenry in the Nazi party; I don’t think Stalin ever had more than 2.9 percent of his closest association. So, this is plenty, particularly when you are talking about a command and control structure like the U.S. military. The frightening prospect that our conventional and nuclear forces–technologically the most lethal organization ever created by humankind—was falling into the hands of a Christian Taliban.
Um, OK. Personally, I’m not anticipating an Evangelical military coup anytime soon (though it would be an awesome plot for a suspense novel).
Still, his interview is worth reading in full. Some choice quotes:
I tell people also this is not a Christian-Jewish issue, it is a fundamentalist Christian versus the Constitution issue….By last week, over 6,800 active duty members of the United States Marine Corp, Navy, Army and Air Force have come to our foundation pretty much as spiritual rape victims/tormentees and the shocking thing is 96% of them coming to us are Christians themselves. Roughly three-quarters are traditional Protestants, like Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodist. We get Mormons, we get Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Southern Baptist. One-fourth of that 96% percent of that total universe of 6,800 — more each day —one-quarter of that 96% are Roman Catholic. About 4% will be Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, Jain, Shinto, Native American spirituality or atheist or agnostic.
I’ve had people constantly come to me, “What is it with you, Mikey. You are a good Republican; you are from a conservative, military family.” They don’t understand why – “why are you stopping us from bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the troops. The troops will not be raptured if you do that.”….They’ve used the names of Jack Benny and Danny Kaye, Burt Lancaster, Dr. Seuss, Gandhi, Einstein, little Anne Frank, the two million children under the age of 12 that were slaughtered in the Holocaust. They will say, “Look Mikey, they’re all burning eternally in the fires of hell for rejecting Jesus Christ because they all were Jewish. We do not want that to happen to you and your family, so back off, stop it.”
On a related note, the OCF publishes a magazine called Command. (What, not “Commandment”?) Anyway, one article genuinely creeped me out: The memoir [pdf] of a young lieutenant deployed in Iraq, who observed:
Americans work hard to ensure that our families or communities will have a better life. We plan and prepare for the future almost like we will never die. The U.S.’s monumental development for such a young country shows the results of this type of attitude. In Iraq, however, to think and plan for the future the way we do is almost seen as sinful according to Islam.
To ask an Iraqi to look a month or a year ahead is like asking him to find a way to get to the moon. It’s almost as if they don’t understand the progressive nature of time and the link between every decision one makes. Iraqis have a fond appreciation and memory of the past, but they have little respect for their ability to influence the future for the better with simple decisions today.
According to Islam, only God controls the future. While I believe that such a concept is true, it doesn’t prevent me from preparing for the future or taking necessary actions to ensure a particular event happens. The Bible has various passages on the matter. God controls the future, and He uses humans to carry out His work. Most Iraqis, however, believe that whatever hand they’re dealt is from God, thus they shouldn’t do anything to change it.
I wonder if this gross distortion of Islamic religious doctrine will serve as the Evangelical rationalization for U.S. failure in Iraq: “Islam has rendered Iraqis incapable of planning for the future.” Onward Christian soldiers…
Al Qaeda’s “constituents” are growing increasingly impatient with their organization’s progress. I mean, hello?, after twenty years of terrorism, Bin Laden hasn’t added many check marks to his grand “to-do list”: Overthrow the apostate regimes in the Middle East? (Nope) Smashed the “Crusader-Zionist” alliance? (Um, no.) Established a Global Caliphate? (Working on it…)
Apparently, in an effort to hear out these gripes, AP reports that Al Qaeda invited questions from its supporters on various militant Islamist websites, with the promise to respond “as soon as possible.” The questions themselves are quite revealing:
One, allegedly a former Arab al-Qaida fighter in Iraq, complained about Iraqi fighters discriminating against non-Iraqi mujahedeen.
Like many in the West, the questioners appear uncertain whether al-Qaida’s central leadership directly controls the multiple, small militant groups around the Mideast that work in its name, or whether those groups operate on their own.
Many appear frustrated that al-Qaida is not doing more.
“When we will see the men of al-Qaida waging holy war in Palestine? Because frankly our situation has become very bad,” writes one, with the username “Seeking the Path.” “As for al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia,” he asks, “are there efforts to revive jihadi action there after the blows that hurt us?”
Another, signed “Osama the Lion,” asks: “Why doesn’t al-Qaida open a front in Egypt, where there are wide opportunities and fertile ground for drawing in mujahedeen?”
Another, called “Knight of Islam,” asks, “We are awaiting a strike against American soil. Why has that not been done? Why are the Jews in the world not struck?”
A few who write in claim to be active fighters in militant groups. One, with the username “Phenixshadow,” says he is a member of the al-Qaida branch in North Africa that has been blamed for attacks in Algeria.
“What do you expect from us? Should we follow the instruction of the mother organization to target the ‘far enemy’ — the Zionist-Crusader (America) — or do we focus our efforts on the apostate regime (Algeria)? Or do you advise a middle path of striking both enemies?” he asks.
Another, signed “Alfirati60,” says he is a Syrian who joined al-Qaida in Iraq before its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006. The writer complains bitterly about al-Qaida’s decision to form an umbrella group with other Iraqi insurgents known as “The Islamic State of Iraq.”
“Things got worse after the organization joined the Islamic State, when Iraqis took over all the issues,” he writes. The Iraqis care “only about liberating Iraq not about establishing God’s law,” an apparent reference to the al-Qaida goal of a single Islamic state.
“Indeed, they neglected many of the (non-Iraqi) brothers since they care only about the safety of Iraqis and Iraq.”
Another hot topic is Iran. Several ask why al-Qaida does not attack the mainly Shiite nation. They express concern over rumors of an understanding between al-Qaida and Iran. “One of the lies spread to fight al-Qaida is that al-Qaida is linked to Iran,” one writes. “They point to your failure to attack the Iranian regime.”
Many others simply ask for advice on how and where to join jihad. One man says he is a 23-year-old living with his divorced mother.
“I want to travel to join jihad and I sought my mother’s permission, but she would not give it to me,” he says. “Can I go without her permission?”
The mechanics of Internet rumors fascinate me….thanks to email, newsgroups, and blogs, just one small error in the chain of communication turns falsehoods into virtual truth. It’s like that old game of telephone played out on a global scale. (See, for instance, my post Algeria Goes Postal.)
The latest victim of this phenomenon is the University of Kentucky, which was deluged with outraged emails and phone calls following the “news” that the university had stopped teaching the Holocaust out of fear that it would offend Muslim students.
The newspaper, Kentucky Herald-Ledger, has the background:
The hoax began after a report that said a history department in northern England had stopped teaching about the Holocaust. The report said the school did not want to arouse Muslim students who had any feelings of anti-Semitism or opinions that the Holocaust never happened.
Someone altered this report to say that: “All schools in the UK have stopped teaching about the Holocaust in their history classes.”
This was, and is, false. The report concerned only one school in the United Kingdom — the one in northern England. It had nothing to do with the University of Kentucky. But at some point, the “UK” in the circulating e-mails became the “University of Kentucky.” No one knows who altered the statements.
Bernhard Debatin, a professor at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and an expert in online media, international media and ethics, said in an e-mail that rumors on the Internet can lose any sense of context in a hurry: “The viral mode of communicating these rumors electronically via e-mail chains makes sure that no personal accountability can be ascribed …
“What’s remarkable, however, is the fact that this type of e-mail rumor is still taken seriously enough by some people that they feel compelled to write to the University rather than doing some critical fact-checking. This raises the more general issue of media literacy in the age of the Internet. It takes rather gullible and naive users, who are willing to forward such messages, for a rumor to spread and grow.”
On Friday, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. issued a statement that said, in part:
“We are concerned not just about our own reputation but by the hurt that may be caused to people who believe a public research institution could perpetrate such a miscarriage of justice. Furthermore, we are concerned about the implications the e-mail makes about the Muslim population in Lexington — that they would make such a request to have the Holocaust barred from the curriculum. We hope that correcting this rumor will give us an opportunity to emphasize the University of Kentucky’s commitment to teaching about this horrific and significant historical event.”
On a personal note, I’ve committed my own share of mistakes on this blog–either because I was sloppy and read something too quickly; or because I repeated a “fact” from a source that I deemed credible (without checking other sources). When one of my readers points out such a mistake, I immediately correct it. Still, it worries me when I become part of the chain of miscommunication. Once you hit that “publish post” button, it’s like releasing a virus that spreads and breeds of its own accord, even after you correct the initial mistake.
Often, my bullshit detector is pretty reliable–for instance, my gut told me that story about a mandatory dress code for Jews in Iran was full of crap. Still, nobody has yet built a full proof bullshit detector. In that respect, I recommend that bloggers periodically check out sites like Snopes.com, which helpfully archive and debunk Internet rumors.
The same crowd of Brits who have been pushing for an academic boycott of Israel are now demanding that a parliamentary committee investigate the “Israel Lobby,” which it claims has a powerful influence on the British government’s Middle East policy.
As the Jewish Chronicle reports:
Their letter, to Charles Ramsden, the secretary of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, accuses British MPs of “eating out of the Israeli government’s hand” and claims “friends of Israel” have embedded themselves “in the British political establishment and at the very heart of government” to sway British policy.
It focuses on the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), questioning the loyalty to Britain of its director, Stuart Polak, if he were to become an MP, and points out that Middle East Minister Kim Howells is a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel.
Pro-Israeli sources said the call for an investigation was a “desperate attempt” to generate publicity for a revival of the boycott movement.
Stuart Polak, director of Conservative Friends of Israel, described it as extraordinary that a group of “virulently anti-Israel campaigners” wrote a letter that will never be investigated. CFI, he insisted, was “proud of what it does. We will continue educating members of Parliament, parliamentary candidates and others within the Conservative Party.”
Meanwhile, British anti-Israel author Stewart Littlewood has penned this editorial endorsing the investigation:
All MPs (and many parliamentary candidates) are exposed to the lobby’s influence and a large number apparently carry its message into their parliamentary work, causing damage to our democracy and harm to Britain’s interests and reputation abroad.
The regime’s tentacles reach into the Standards Committee itself, where the three political party appointees are top-ranking Friends of Israel or closely connected to Friends of Israel.
Sigh. Tentacles? These folks really need to find a more original metaphor:
In years past, Venezuelan Jewish leaders have defended Hugo Chavez against accusations of anti-semitism aired by such American Jewish groups as the Simon Wiesenthal Center. But, as the Forward reports, that mood has now changed:
When two dozen heavily armed policemen came to search the Hebraica community center in the Venezuelan capital one night last month, the Jewish community here finally snapped.
The government officers who entered the sprawling, country club-like complex were ostensibly looking for a stash of weapons and for evidence of “subversive activity.” They found neither. In the subsequent days, the Venezuelan Jewish community’s umbrella organization, the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela [CAIV], fired off a statement denouncing the raid as an “unjustifiable act” aimed at creating tensions between the community and the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez.
The December operation took place on the night preceding a crucial referendum on proposed constitutional reform that would have granted Chavez broad powers and the possibility to run indefinitely. The reform was rejected by a thin margin.
“It seems that the only interpretation is that this was an intimidation by the government,” Abraham Levy Benshimol, president of CAIV, told the Forward.
The run-up to the December referendum was not a good time for the Jewish community’s relationship with Chavez. The community had close ties with former defense minister Raúl Isaías Baduel, and it honored him after he left the government and became a fierce opponent of Chavez. The honor was used by some pro-Chavez circles to claim that an American-Zionist conspiracy was trying to oust the president from power.
The atmosphere has worsened lately, first and foremost because of Chavez’s increasingly inflammatory talk about Israel and its supporters. A television program called “The Razor,” broadcast on a state-owned channel, has featured lengthy rants about the presence of Mossad agents allegedly in the country working to unseat the Chavez regime with the support of the United States and opposition forces in Venezuela. The host of the show has also questioned the loyalty of leading Jewish figures to their home country.