One shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.
So the saying goes.
But, regrettably, there are exceptions.
Hitler comes to mind. So does Stalin, Pol Pot and a host of other powerful haters who — for reasons ranging from madness to racism to political extremism — missed no opportunity to act on their hate.
Hugo Chavez, who joined the ranks of the dead this week, never attained the pedestal reserved for the aforementioned, but his words and deeds showed that he aspired to those dubious heights.
He, like them, was a hater. A political extremist. A totalitarian. A paranoid dictator.
Like some of them, he was also a virulent anti-Semite.
Chavez, Venezuela’s strongman for 14 years, always denied that last tag. He was, in his own vernacular, an “anti-Zionist” whose hatred of Israel apparently knew no bounds nor responded to any calls to reason.
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He liked to speak of his “affection and respect” for Venezuela’s Jewish community, yet he spied on them, accused them of dual loyalty and treason, publicly upbraided them, even secretly unleashed his police on them in attacks on their synagogues.
Like the aforementioned, Chavez also hated America. Like his friends in Iran and North Korea, he adhered to an anachronistic and simplistic world view that ascribed virtually all evil and woe to the “imperialistic” US and its allies (especially Israel).
Chavez clung to the deadly and bankrupt notion that social equality and justice can only be achieved through iron-fisted rule and utter disregard for human rights.
If the bloody 20th century — and the legacies of fascism and communism — taught us anything, it is that such political philosophies always end in massive suffering, if not outright genocide.
Again — thank G-d — Chavez was never able to get that far. All the signs of his leadership, however, indicate that he was heading, deliberately and with determination, down that very road.
His death this week cut that mission short, which we are forced to describe as a good thing, not only for many Venezuelans but perhaps also for Chavez’s own soul.
May he rest in peace.
We know that many others are resting much easier now, knowing that they no longer have him to fear.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News