U.S. Jewish Group Calls on Bolivian President to Act Against anti-Semitism

President Morales's hostility to Israel has `encouraged attacks' against Jews and Jewish institutions, U.S. advocate says.

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Bolivia's President Evo Morales holding a replica of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2011. Credit: Reuters

A rise in anti-Semitism in Bolivia, including last Saturday's attack on the main Jewish cemetery in La Paz, prompted the American Jewish Committee and other advocates to call on President Evo Morales to take countermeasures.

"President Morales's hostility toward Israel has encouraged regular attacks against the country's Jewish population in the media and violent attacks on Jewish institutions," Dina Siegel Vann, AJC Director of Latino and Latin American Affairs, said in a statement.

"This is a very dangerous trend that only the government can and should vigorously turn back and end."

The AJCommittee, a prominent Jewish-affairs advocate in the U.S., also quoted Ricardo Udler, president of the Jewish Community of Bolivia, as calling on the government to investigate the latest incidents.

The synagogue in Cochabamba in central Bolivia was attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails in April and in July, the AJCommittee said.

Morales severed diplomatic ties with Israel in January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, saying Israel was committing genocide against the Palestinians.

And at the end of July, during Operation Protective Edge against Hamas, Bolivia declared Israel a "terrorist state." The country also canceled its agreement enabling Israelis to visit Bolivia without visas, an accord that had been in place since 1972. 

Morales said, according to AFP, that the Protective Edge offensive showed "that Israel is not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community." 

The Bolivian Jewish community numbers a few hundred. In January, JTA reported that with funding from Germany the community opened its first Jewish museum, in Charobamba, south of La Paz.