- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009


President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela distorted Israel’s motives in its attacks on terrorist targets in Gaza and trivialized the Holocaust by comparing the Israeli assault to Nazi genocide, 75 leading Holocaust scholars said in a letter sent to the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington.

“The Holocaust was the deliberate, systematic mass murder of 6 million innocent Jews by Germany and its collaborators. By contrast, Israel is acting in legitimate self- defense against Hamas terrorists,” said the scholars, who included three former senior officials at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

They added that Israel “has no interest in harming innocent residents of Gaza and, indeed, has done its utmost to avoid civilian casualties, whereas Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians.”

Mr. Chavez last week accused Israel of a holocaust against Palestinians in Gaza. Over the weekend, he called Israel the “murder arm” of the United States.

“The holocaust, that is what is happening right now in Gaza,” the socialist leader said in televised remarks on Jan. 6, the same day he expelled Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Cohen.

In their letter, the scholars from Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel and the United States said, “Any comparison between Israel and the Nazis outrageously distorts Israel’s action and trivializes the enormity and nature of the Holocaust.”

Its signers included Michael Berenbaum, former research director at the Holocaust museum in Washington; Irving Greenberg, past chairman of the museum council; and Walter Reich, a former director of the museum.


When the president of Azerbaijan first meets President Obama, he will spend valuable time explaining why he shut down U.S. radio broadcasts in a country widely criticized for restricting press freedom, the chairman of a congressional human rights panel predicted.

The southwest Asian nation suspended international radio broadcasts Jan. 1. Citing a law that limits FM frequencies to local stations, the government took Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corp. off the air.

“Azerbaijan’s record on media freedom was poor before this,” said Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

“Now, Azerbaijanis without access to cable or the Internet, which means most of the listening audience, are cut off from objective, impartial sources of information.”

Azerbaijan faces broad criticism from other human rights groups over its restrictions on press freedom.

Last year, Freedom House said the plan to take the foreign radio broadcasts off the air “would deal a blow to the country’s already dismal press-freedom record.”

Mr. Hastings, in his remarks inserted into the Congressional Record, said his commission last year warned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that he risked straining relations with the United States.

“We pointed out that keeping congressionally funded RFE/RL and VOA off the FM airwaves was an unwise and unfriendly move and that ending those programs was a poor way to start a relationship with incoming President Barack Obama,” Mr. Hastings said.

“I regret that when President Aliyev eventually meets President Obama, they will have to spend time discussing why [Azerbaijan] has shut down U.S.-funded radio stations instead of exploring ways to deepen the relationship between our countries.”

The CSCE, informally known as the Helsinki Commission, has nine members from each house of Congress and one member apiece from the State, Defense and Commerce departments.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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