I don't begrudge a man a peaceful burial. God knows. What is more humbling than death?
But no sooner than Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dies does Facebook and certain organs of the Jewish press light up with accounts of Chavez's obvious anti-Semitism. He unquestionably spied on and intimidated the Venezuelan Jewish community to such a degree that half its population fled under his rule; his supporters graffitied Jewish buildings and harassed Jewish communal leaders; he courted Iranian President Ahmadinejad, not only a blatant hater of Jews but a man on a nuclear mission to obliterate Israel; and his followers regularly circulated the insidious pamphlet of lies known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a work of fantastical proportions claiming a world-wide Jewish conspiracy to control money and power, an early blueprint for the rise of Nazism.
The Left, which I sometimes have the misfortune of being a part of because of my belief in a more fair distribution of income, workers rights, and in the case of Israelis and Palestinians, two states for two people, has the problem of getting so bogged down in its disdain for Zionism (while remaining curiously silent in the face of, say, Syrian massacres on a daily basis) that it forgets to recognize an anti-Semite when it sees one.
It's what I diagnose as a bad case of the "Yeah-Buts." "He had a problem with Israel and Jews who support Israel--yeah, but he was trying to build a true Socialist Democracy!" Or so the argument goes.
There is no shortage of criticism of Israel--read any Israeli newspapers lately? Say what you will about policy and leadership. But Leftist lovers of the late Hugo Chavez should have the integrity and courage of their convictions to call out a man who couldn't help but hate the Jews.
Perhaps in his death, his delusions won't torment him so much. The alleviation of that suffering is better for us all.
For further reading, see Adam Chandler at Tablet, Michael Kaminer in today's Forward, the JTA, and some chilling quotes here in Haaretz.