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The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Cuban Shame By: Myles Kantor
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Strong affirmations entail strong actions.

Simon Wiesenthal weighed less than 100 pounds when American troops liberated Austria’s Mauthausen concentration camp on May 5, 1945.[1]  The former architect then devoted his life to bringing Nazi criminals to justice—criminals like Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo member who arrested Anne Frank and her family in 1944.[2]


Wiesenthal also confronted the new anti-Semitism of his time: demonizing Israel.  In 1968, he issued a report on East Germany’s anti-Israel campaign after the 1967 Six Day War.  Titled “The Same Language: First for Hitler—Now for Ulbricht,” Wiesenthal examined parallels between Nazi propaganda against Jews and East Germany’s against Israel (authored by many ex-Nazis).[3]


That was a noble stand to take.  Jews in totalitarian East Germany couldn’t express their outrage, but Wiesenthal spoke out.


Wiesenthal died in 2005, but the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center continues his work.  Founded in 1977, the Wiesenthal Center’s mission statement refers to “confronting antisemitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.”[4]


Pursuant to this mission, the Wiesenthal Center has confronted anti-Zionism in regions including Latin America, where it has an office in Buenos Aires.  Recent press releases have focused on hostile actions toward Israel by Venezuela,[5] El Salvador,[6] and Costa Rica.[7]


It is proper to condemn anti-Zionism in countries like Venezuela that support Iran’s neo-Nazi regime.  It is also very strange that the Wiesenthal Center has been conspicuously silent about Latin America’s most anti-Zionist country that praises Hezbollah and Iran: Cuba.


Perhaps ignorance explains the Wiesenthal Center’s silence, though the Castro regime has flagrantly demonized Israel for decades and supported its enemies.[8]  One would think an organization that monitors Latin America might have noticed this.


Ignorance does not explain things, however, because the Wiesenthal Center knows about Cuba’s most recent Israel-bashing and support for Hezbollah.  It has known for over two months.


I know because I notified the Center.  Herein follows a chronology of how an organization does a snow job.


On August 2 during Israel’s struggle against Hezbollah in Lebanon, I sent a letter to the Wiesenthal Center’s communications director, Michelle Alkin, and the Center’s office in Florida.  The letter documented Cuba’s equation of Israeli operations in Lebanon with Auschwitz and a holocaust.


On August 8, I sent Alkin my article on Cuba’s support for Hezbollah.  She thanked me, and on August 10 I asked her what the Center’s intentions were on this issue.  I sent a second inquiry on August 22, to which she did not respond.


On September 1, I received a letter from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Wiesenthal Center, asking me for material on Cuba’s anti-Israel campaign.  (Apparently Alkin could not forward the material to him that I sent her.)  I did so on September 3.


I did not hear back from Rabbi Cooper and sent an inquiry on September 12.  He responded that day and remarked that the Center “takes very seriously the information [on Cuba] which I have shared with my colleagues whose primary responsibility includes Latin America. We will do our best to counteract thru (sic) direct protest and possibly the OAS [Organization of American States].”  I asked him on September 13 what the time frame would be for that “direct protest.”


He did not respond.


On September 27, I received a letter from Sergio Widder, the Center’s Latin American Representative, once again asking for material on Cuba’s anti-Israel campaign “so that we can take an appropriate initiative.”  (Apparently Rabbi Cooper could not forward the material to Widder that I sent him.)  I did so that day.


I did not hear back from Widder and sent an inquiry on October 4 asking what action the Center would be taking on Cuba and in what time frame.  “We've been having trouble with our Internet service provider,” Widder responded that day, adding, “I hope to have further information for you by next week.”


How long would this merry-go-round of spin go on?  I don’t know, because here’s where I step off.


Simon Wiesenthal confronted East Germany’s ant-Semitic tyrants and defended the Jewish homeland at a critical time.  The organization that acts in his name knows about Cuba’s equally vile depictions of Israel during another critical time.  And it has said nothing.


Mr. Wiesenthal deserves a lot better.



[2] An Austrian court acquitted Silberbauer in 1964, who became a police inspector in Vienna after the war.  See “Austrian Court Frees Man Who Arrested Anne Frank,” The New York Times, October 16, 1964.

[3] See Jeffrey Herf, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 188-189.  Walter Ulbricht headed East Germany from 1950 to 1971 and presided over the imposition of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

[8] See “Cuba on Israel: Policies and Statements,” Staff Report by the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, March 18, 2003, http://www.cubacenter.org/media/news_articles/israel.php3.


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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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