The president of the Jewish community in Venezuela on Monday accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of promoting anti-Semitism and giving the phenomenon legitimacy.

Speaking at the World Jewish Congress conference in Jerusalem on Monday, Abraham Levy Ben Shimol said "you probably hear of many anti-Semitic incidents, but where we live, the anti-Semitism is sanctioned; it comes from the president, through the government, and into the media. Since the government is very involved in the day-to-day lives of its constituents, its influence is much more effective."

Ben Shimol added that in recent days, swastikas have been spray painted on the walls of the Caracas synagogue and a Palestinian flag was waved during a parliament session. "We Jews are going through a difficult time. We hope it will be over soon and that the future will shine upon us," Ben Shimol added.

Earlier this month, Chavez announced that Venezuela had severed diplomatic ties with Israel in protest of its military offensive in the Gaza Strip, calling Israel's military actions a "holocaust."