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Abandoning Cuba's Jews By: Myles Kantor
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 13, 2003

The meek may receive pity but not respect. 

Over 90% of Cuban Jews have emigrated since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.  Cuba’s remaining Jews endure media coverage such as this:

  • “Palestinian adolescent kills himself to call attention to the genocide the Israeli government commits against his people” (November 4)
  • “New Palestinian victims due to escalation of Israeli violence” (November 3)
  • “The Israeli wall is a large prison to deprive of land the Palestinians they want to exterminate” (October 23)
  • “Israeli army’s systematic destruction of homes continues in Rafah” (October 14)
  • “Israel reveals plan to construct 600 new homes for Jews” (October 3)
  • “Report presented at UN convention denounces Israeli apartheid against Palestinian people” (September 24)

In totalitarian Cuba, to protest Israel’s demonization risks being charged with “crimes” like “disrespect” and “enemy propaganda.”

“I am assaulted by the anti-Israel propaganda,” Cuban Jew Ricardo Behar remarks.  “It is a constant nightmare over our minds.”  Cuban Jew Tony Fune refers to the regime’s “persistent Judeophobia” that manifests in the media’s “endless hours of hatred against Israel.”

Five synagogues remain in Cuba, none of which has a rabbi.  The Castro regime’s prohibition of private schools bars a rabbinical seminary, leaving rabbis from abroad to serve Cuban Jews on temporary visits.

I recently asked a senior official of a major Jewish humanitarian organization what his organization has done to provide permanent rabbis for these synagogues.  “The [Cuban] authorities do not permit foreign-based clergy to serve as residents in Cuba,” he responded.  Requesting anonymity, he added, “I would hate to do anything that would antagonize the Cuban authorities.”

In these words one hears the echo of another awful attitude.

Taking a cue from the German National Socialists, in April 1936 Arab leaders in British Mandatory Palestine called for a boycott of Jewish businesses.  Boycott soon became arson and murder.  “Arab terror spread to all corners of the country,” future Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion recounted in his memoirs.

What is known as the Arab Revolt lasted until 1939 and killed over 400 Jews.  The Jewish Agency, formed in 1929 to represent Jews with the British, responded to the atrocities by declaring havlagah (restraint).  (Ben-Gurion was head of the Jewish Agency at the time.  During Israel’s war for independence in 1948, this admirer of Lenin didn’t hesitate to blow up the Altalena, a Jewish ship containing precious weapons and ammunition.  The attack killed sixteen men.)

One Zionist noted British astonishment at how the Jewish community was “allowing itself to be murdered,” and Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky remarked that havlagah had created “a situation in which everything is forbidden the Jew and everything permitted the Arab, a situation in which one side may commit any crime, and in which the Jew can be compared to a terrified mouse, while the Arab feels at home everywhere.”

The scene evoked Israeli poet Chaim Bialik’s “In the City of Slaughter,” about the 1903 Kishinev pogrom:

...the heirs
Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees,
Concealed and cowering—the sons of the Maccabees!
The seed of saints, the scions of the lions!
Who, crammed by scores in all the sanctuaries of their shame,
So sanctified My name!
It was the flight of mice they fled,
The scurrying of roaches was their flight;
They died like dogs, and they were dead!

It was a terrible image for a terrible condition. 

Havlagah also occurred after Hitler came to power in 1933.  The B’nai B’rith and American Jewish Committee, for instance, opposed a campaign to boycott German goods.  Jewish activist Peter Bergson recounts of Jewish leaders’ inaction in A Race Against Death:

…they treated it routinely.  It was another pogrom, like—they had a kind of fatalism about it, which prevented them from seeing the magnitude of the horror…I felt a terrible sense of frustration…it isn’t a question of they didn’t believe, because there was no debate about it, they knew what was going on.  But, they didn’t act!

Today Cuban Jews suffer the systematic violation of their human rights under the Western hemisphere’s most anti-Zionist regime.  What Jewish organizations have acted in their defense?

The Anti-Defamation League calls itself “the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry”; ADL national director Abraham Foxman refers to anti-Zionism as “nothing more than the newest mask worn by hatred” in his new book, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism.  The B’nai B’rith refers to its “proud record of promoting and protecting human rights, confronting all forms of discrimination and bigotry, and fighting for the interests of Jewish communities wherever they exist.”

Neither organization has issued so much as a press release on the Castro regime’s anti-Zionism and subjugation of Cuban Jews. 

It’s havlagah all over again, and it’s a disgrace.

Myles Kantor is a columnist for FrontPageMagazine.com and editor-at-large for Pureplay Press, which publishes books about Cuban history and culture. His e-mail address is myles.kantor@gmail.com.

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