Note: Abraham Foxman is National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Richard Heideman is President of B’nai B’rith International.
Dear Mr. Foxman and Mr. Heideman,
I assume you heard about the suicide bombings last week in Israel that murdered seven and wounded over fifty (“wounded,” which can range from a minor laceration to losing limbs).
I would like you to imagine being a Jew in a country whose media describes these atrocities as “a consequence of the escalation of violence provoked by Zionist policy.”
In this country, you can’t write a letter to the editor or assemble in protest. If you speak out, you can be imprisoned for “enemy propaganda” or “disrespect.”
This is what it’s like to be a Jew in Cuba.
The quotation above is from the September 19 edition of Cuba’s Granma International. This year Granma has also accused Israel of genocide and equated Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with Adolf Hitler. (For the sake of brevity, I won’t enumerate many more similar claims by Cuban media in 2002.)
As a state-controlled publication, Granma reflects the opinions of Cuba’s 43-year autocrat, Fidel Castro. At last September’s United Nations “anti-racism” conference in Durban, South Africa, Castro representatively spoke of “ the dreadful genocide perpetrated, at this very moment, against our Palestinian brothers.”
Castro has been consistent in his hatred of the Jewish homeland. He deployed thousands of troops to aid Syrian aggression against Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War; welcomed Yasser Arafat to Cuba in 1974; and supported the infamous 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism (and opposed its repeal in 1991).
In the 1980s, Cuba published books like Zionism: The Fascism of the Star of David and The Other Face: The Truth about the Secret Relationships between Nazism and Zionism. Distinguished scholar Irving Louis Horowitz notes in the spring 2002 issue of The National Interest, “Training and arming Palestinians from the PLO forces [by Cuba] is ongoing.”
How would you feel if you were a Jew in Cuba? How would you feel to see Israel regularly compared to Nazi Germany and not be able to say anything about it?
Mr. Heideman, you have described the B’nai B’rith as the world’s largest Jewish human rights organization. Mr. Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League describes itself as “the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.” You said before the House Subcommittee on the Middle East on April 18, “We Americans who cherish our freedom of speech and freedom of the press know very well the power of words. As a Holocaust survivor I know very well the power of words.”
Why haven’t you spoken out on the systematic violation of Cuban Jews’ human rights, Mr. Heideman? Why haven’t you denounced Granma’s venomous words, Mr. Foxman?
Cuban prisoner of conscience Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet wrote in a January 1999 letter to Coretta Scott King, “The mass media manifests an open anti-Semitism. The government is openly partial towards the Arabs while it promotes contempt for the
Cuban Jew Tony Fune courageously said this year, “I understand that we have no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, no freedom to travel, no freedom to choose how we will educate our children. And I understand that's not right.”
What does it say when captives of totalitarianism speak out and influential free Jews say nothing? What does it say when those Jews ignore the most anti-Zionist regime in the Western hemisphere, only 90 miles from America?
I’m not surprised that neo-Nazis don’t denounce Castro’s campaign to delegitimize Israel. I’m not surprised that they don’t denounce the captivity of Cuban Jews. I don’t expect indignation from Hitler’s apologists.
But I do expect it from you, gentlemen. Please speak out and defend your Cuban brethren. Please say what they cannot.