I suppose for an entire generation, Fidel Castro is a harmless old baseball fan, and maybe a former principled Latin American revolutionary.
Forgotten is the fact that he tried to instigate a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States that would have cost millions of people their lives – though he's apologized for that, kind of.
And put aside that Castro deprived the people of Cuba of their liberty, tortured opponents and forced hundreds of thousands of Cubans into exile.
Realizing that his days on this earth are numbered and that he will soon go to meet Marx, he is in the process of rehabilitating his image.
And what better way to begin that process than by calling in a liberal Jewish American journalist (and an old Castro-hand, Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations) to have an extended conversation about Jews, Israel and Iran among other things.
The old dictator had read Goldberg's recent Atlantic article which argued – mistakenly in my view – that it was just a matter of time before Israel went to war against Iran to stop the mullahs from deploying atomic weapons.
Castro – now reinventing himself as some kind of humanist -- is all of a sudden worried about the danger of a nuclear conflagration.
So Castro drops Goldberg a couple of nuggets.
Does he think that Israel has a right to exist?
Uncle Fidel answers: "Si, sin ninguna duda" -- "Yes, without a doubt."
Gosh. I'm glad we got that out of the way.
And what about Jews, Goldberg asks? Does Uncle Fidel have a soft spot for Jews?
"I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything."
Not bad for a guy who kept equating Israelis with Nazis.
And what about Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial?
"The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust," Castro tells Goldberg.
Goldberg: "I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me."
Castro: "I am saying this so you can communicate it."
It gets better.
Now that Castro has dissented from Ahmadinejad, Goldberg reports that Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, has announced that he too, felt great "love and respect" for Jews."
Well, I suppose it's better than a slap in the face.
But let's get down to cases.
I do not like to see Castro air-brushing out the bad he has wrought. He's not getting a pass from me.
Castro is not an anti-Semite in the classical sense. Certainly, as a "dialectical materialist," he rejects Christian-rooted theological Jew-hatred. He admires Jews in history, most prominently Marx.
But his record of warfare – political, diplomatic, and military -- against the Jewish state is damning.
You can't want to snuff-out the Jewish state yet claim to love the Jews.
It would be like saying you love Muslims but want to destroy each and every one of the 57 Muslim states in the world because, maybe you think Islam is just a religion so Muslims don't deserve political states.
What follows is part of what Castro did against the Jewish state. And remember, he had no reason. Israel is on the other side of the world. We never did boo to him.
Castro began to train Palestinian Arab terrorists in Cuba in 1966. Keep in mind that there were no "occupied territories" in those days.
He did not break diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967 following the Six Day War along with the rest of the Soviet client states.
He did so only in the wake of 1973 Yom Kippur War at a solidarity with the Palestinians meeting of the so-called non-aligned nations in Algiers.
Cuban military instructors trained Palestinian Arabs gunmen in Middle East countries starting in the 1970s.
That's when the Palestinians patented airline hijacking, slaughtering Olympic athletes and leaving bombs in supermarkets.
You may think 9/11 was the start of the terror campaign against airports around the world. But it was the Palestinian terrorists who got that ball rolling.
Anyway, in 1973 and 1974, Cuban MiG and helicopter pilots were actually based in Syria. I think they even engaged in dogfights with Israeli planes.
Castro granted diplomatic relations to the Palestine Liberation Organization and in 1974 and allowed the PLO to establish an "embassy" in Havana.
Bear in mind that at this stage the PLO did not even claim to recognize Israel or to accept a two-state solution. Nowadays it at least makes believe it does.
But in those days it behaved like Hamas does today.
Still Castro extended his support to a movement dedicated to "liberating" Palestine from the Jews.
In 1974, he stationed a tank brigade on Golan Heights. That same year, as many as 3,000 Cuban soldiers were based in Syria working for Assad I.
This is what Castro said in 1975: "It is no secret to anyone that at any given moment of danger and threat to the Republic of Syria, our men were in Syria."
By 1976, the CIA estimated that 300 Arab fedayeen were training in Cuba.
In 1977, Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (an outfit set up to allow Christian-born Arabs who were Marxists to fight Israel alongside the Muslims) visited Cuba.
All along, mind you, Castro ostensibly claimed to support direct negotiations between parties.
In 1978, he hosted Yasser Arafat and George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Arafat's "state" visit to Havana was to discuss terror training not coexistence with Israel.
Fast forward to 1991: Cuba voted against a U.N. Resolution to revoke the infamous 1975 General Assembly Resolution that the Arabs pushed through besmirching Zionism (the national liberation movement of the Jewish people) as "racism."
In 2001, just as Arafat had launched his second intifada that would claim 1,000 Israeli lives, Castro called on the delegates attending the -- incongruously titled -- U.N. World Conference "Against Racism" in Durban, South Africa to "put an end to the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people."
Now, fast forward to …today.
Cuba's Communist Party newspaper still "reports" on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict purely in black and white terms. Hence the headline:
"Palestine Refuses to Negotiate If Israel Resumes Colonization."
Look, I am delighted that Castro is not a Holocaust-denier, these days you can't take anything for granted. But he's still a defamer of Israel.
What would it take for me to bury the hatchet?
I want to see him take responsibility for what he did to Israel all these years.
I want him to stop Cuba from automatically voting with the Arab and Muslim bloc at the UN.
I want him to re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
Let him prove that his interview with Goldberg was the substantive beginning of a trend, not just an old commite trying to spin his image.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
No Kudos to Castro
I am a Jerusalem-based journalist and political scientist and a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report focusing on the Jewish World. I’m a former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post and was founding managing editor of Jewish Ideas Daily. Over the years I’ve written for Newsmax, Israel My Glory and a range of other outlets. I was also editorial director for www.balfour100.com and recently published THE BALFOUR DECLARATION SIXTY-SEVEN WORDS – 100 YEARS OF CONFLICT. Before making aliya in 1997, I worked in NYC government and as an adjunct assistant professor of political science. My memoir about growing up on the Lower East Side (well, it is more than about that) THE PATER: MY FATHER, MY JUDAISM, MY CHILDLESSNESS is available via online booksellers, Amazon kindle, and (select) in brick and mortar bookshops. By arrangement, I brief individuals and groups visiting Israel on the conflict and Jewish civilizational issues. Let me hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
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