At first glance, La Voz de Aztlán (The Voice of Aztlán, www.aztlan.net ), a Chicano Web site based in Los Angeles, seems like any other minority-geared, politically progressive Web site. The site posts editorials and news reports on events relevant to the Los Angeles Chicano population. Recently, though, La Voz has published scathing anti-Semitic remarks that have as its targets the L.A. Jewish community.
La Voz's turn to anti-Semitism began during the 2000 elections, when it blamed the Westside Jewish community for corrupting democracy and -- more onerously -- creating "Judenrat" Latino politicians who are supposedly owned by Jewish interests. Since then, La Voz has constantly mentioned the concept "Jew" in articles attacking individuals. It referred to Michael Eisner as "the super Jewish mogul" and hinted that prominent Latinas had attained their status because they were married to Jewish men.
In March, La Voz turned its bile specifically toward the Southern California Jewish community with an article titled "La Raza and Jews on Collision Course in Alta California." La Voz used recent political issues, such as so-called "wealthy Jew" Ron Unz's passing of Proposition 227 in 1998 as proof that Jews are conspiring to subjugate emerging Latino political power. Regarding the Jewish community, the editorial states, "The sectors that they cannot control directly, they will do it indirectly through the purchase of influence as well as the cunning manipulation of ethnic and other minorities."
The editorial sparked controversy in the Latino community and brought about letters from Raul Yzaguirre, president of National Council on La Raza (NCLR), and Frank Quevedo, the vice president of Southern California Edison, demanding a retraction. Thomas Saenz, vice president of litigation for Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), also wrote a letter independent of MALDEF. "When I read the Web site, it was late Friday, and I was unable to alert MALDEF about it, so I wrote a letter on my own behalf demanding that La Voz de Aztlan apologize," Saenz said. "I also requested that I be taken off La Voz's e-mail list until the Web site apologized for its anti-Semitic remarks."
Rather than apologize, La Voz noted in "Apologize to the Jewish Community or Else!" (posted April 2) that "sending 'vendido' [sell-outs] Hispanics to do their dirty work is a favorite ploy of Jews in Los Angeles."
Its most recent anti-Semitic attacks centered on defeated L.A. mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa. When Villaraigosa lost, La Voz published an article entitled "Why Tony Lost" with a picture of Villaraigosa superimposed with a yarmulke and an excerpt from him boasting of his commitment to diversity by helping the Museum of Tolerance. The article explains Villaraigosa's loss by noting, "Villaraigosa was perceived as a candidate being shoved down our throats by principally Jewish interests from the Westside of Los Angeles."
"The Web site is venomous," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "It touched on all the points that it could [amongst other things, posting the 'Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion' and a graphic of the Star of David superimposed with a swastika]. The site will certainly make it into 'Digital Hate' and will definitely go into our museum as an example of intolerance."
Although tensions and political battles have occurred between the L.A. Latino and Jewish communities before, both Saenz and Cooper note that prior incidents have been free of slanderous attacks and, in fact, were positive. "Past tensions between the Latino and Jewish communities did not devolve into racist and anti-Semitic generalizations and innuendo," Saenz said. "Rather, they have sparked dialogue between the two communities that strengthened the ties between us.
"After the initial horror and slander of this Web site, people must take a half-step back and think about the evolving nature of Latino-Jewish relations," Cooper noted. "Relations do not [happen] by osmosis. There will be incompatibilities, but that is the nature of coalitions. Rather than let them divide us, our communities have always rallied around shared issues." Cooper stressed that incidents like this should be treated as isolated rather than widespread. "The important thing to remember is that there will always be bigots that try to undermine any coalition-building."
Both Saenz and Cooper feel La Voz's comments will not hurt overall Latino-Jewish relations but point out the harm inflicted on everyone. "I think the site does serious harm that goes beyond Latino-Jewish relations," Saenz said. "It diminishes all of us with its hate. We all have a responsibility to denounce sites like these."
"Web sites like these try to tap into the disappointment and anger over political losses or perceived shortcomings within a community," Cooper said. "The hope is that they can reap a backlash by playing the anti-Semitism card. This site is taking its template directly from the Nation of Islam."
Asked about the significance of the site to Latino-Jewish relations, Cooper added, "I won't even give it the dignity of labeling it a wake-up call. If any conflicts are present in the Latino-Jewish community, they will be dealt with in the manner they always have: dialogue and strengthening the ties between both communities. I hope sites like these are a reminder to priests, rabbis, and everyone that hate is never far."