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A Warning to Olmert By: Matthew Wagner
The Jerusalem Post | Wednesday, August 30, 2006


World Jewish Congress leaders from the US and Europe met Sunday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and others Israeli officials for "marathon consultations" following a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in the Diaspora sparked by the military conflagration in Lebanon.

"Smaller, more isolated Jewish communities, such as those in South America, are the most vulnerable," said Israel Singer, chairman of the WJC's Policy Council, who recently completely a tour of Jewish communities in South and Central America.

Singer said he was particularly concerned about the situation in Venezuela due to the anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic comments made by President Hugo Chavez.

"Venezuela is an issue that we brought up with the prime minister," said Singer, who recently met with Chavez in Argentina. "He showed understanding and we agreed that the situation needed further attention.

Other smaller Jewish communities that have expressed a feeling of insecurity include Ukraine, Switzerland and Belgium, said a WJC spokesman.

Singer said that the war in Lebanon undermined the idea that Israel was impervious and all-powerful. "It shook a lot of people up," he said.

The delegation also met with Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Commenting on the rise in anti-Semitism as a result of the war, Peres said that Israel needed to improve its military technology. "The feeling of insecurity is psychological," he said. "The only thing we can do to combat it is improve our ability to fight this new type of terrorism which uses ballistic missiles."

On Monday, the delegation will meet with Mossad head Meir Dagan to discuss security arrangements at Jewish institutions in the Diaspora.

Last Thursday, the haredi weekly Mishpacha published an interview with Israel Vizer, a Jew who purportedly headed intelligence under former Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera. Vizer warned of renewed anti-Semitism in Venezuela if Chavez is reelected in October.

"Chavez won't hurt Jews physically," Vizer said. "But he might expropriate their property."

The WJC visit came just two days after El Salvador's decision to move its embassy out of Jerusalem, making it the last country to close down its Jerusalem-based embassy.

Two weeks ago Costa Rica, another Central American country, announced it would move its embassy to Tel Aviv. The embassy relocations were directly linked to increased Arab pressure after the war.

The delegation WJC president includes Edgar Bronfman, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress president Alexander Mashkevich, Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins, Evelyn Sommer, chairwoman of the WJC's American Section; Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the WJC Executive; and Stephen Herbits, WJC secretary-general.

In a press release, the WJC stated that "the war in Lebanon is affecting Jewish communities worldwide. According to data collected over recent weeks in the offices of the WJC, it appears that a drastic deterioration has occurred in the security of dozens of small Jewish communities around the world.

"Additionally, heads of Jewish communities have recently alerted leaders of the WJC to a new wave of anti-Semitic incidents around the world, making it apparent that many Jews feel insecure, isolated and abandoned."

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