ON JANUARY 25 in West Palm Beach, Florida, members of the Cuban Anti-Slavery Alliance assembled to demand "Emancipation Now for Cuban Jewry." The Cuban Anti-Slavery Alliance views opposition to Fidel Castro’s autocracy as an anti-slavery struggle in the tradition of the American abolitionists.
A vibrant Jewish community of approximately 12,000 lived in Cuba before Castro came to power in 1959. Since then, over 90 percent of those people have fled the country.
Cuban Jews were not exempt from Castro’s massive nationalization (i.e., theft) of property. A representative of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society observed in 1961:
All assets [have been taken] over by the government, the militia, or other bandits who have simply taken over everything which our brothers have left behind after having worked for many years, sacrificing themselves to make their way…Those who remain can do nothing; business is dying for lack of merchandise, and the large industries, as well as the small ones, are being nationalized. Owners are being watched strictly.
In 1965, Cuban Jewish exile Felix Reyler wrote in "The Fascist Profile of Castro": "When the uniformed and swaggering Castro speaks to the suffering masses of Cuba concentrated in the public square, he repeats exactly the actions of Mussolini in the Plaza of Rome and Hitler in the Plaza of Nuremberg."
Indeed, Castro’s rhetoric and almost invariable military attire mirror Der Fuhrer and Il Duce. Consider the nexus between Castro’s "Inside the Revolution, everything; outside the Revolution, nothing" and Mussolini’s "Everything within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State."
None of this is coincidental. In high school, Castro carried a copy of Mein Kampf and emulated Mussolini’s gestures; he later owned twelve volumes of Mussolini’s writings. At the conclusion of his "History Will Absolve Me" speech while on trial for the 1953 Moncada barracks attack, Castro echoes Hitler at his trial for the failed putsch of 1923.
If a Jew in Cuba today repeats Reyler’s discerning words or writes similar ones, he can be charged with "disrespect" or "enemy propaganda," severed from family and livelihood. If Cuban Jews gather in a home to discuss Castro’s commonality with the Pharaohs, they can be charged with "illicit association."
Juxtapose this with Frederick Douglass: "Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist."
In addition to muzzling Cuban Jews and sponsoring terrorism against America, Castro has been a virulent enemy of Israel. To cite a few examples:
- Castro remarked at the first conference for the Organization of Latin American Solidarity in August 1967, "What is Israel? A state instrument of Yankee imperialism."
- In 1968, Castro sent military instructors to Jordan to train Palestinian fedayeen ("men of sacrifice").
- During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Castro deployed three thousand troops including tank drivers and MiG and helicopter pilots to Syria. Thus he was complicit in the deaths of the 2,688 Israeli soldiers killed during the war. (Israel’s population was under 3.5 million in 1973.)
- In 1975, Castro declared that "Yasser Arafat is a man whom we deeply love and admire and to whom we have always shown our solidarity." That same year, Cuba supported the infamous United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism. The January 18, 1976 edition of Cuba’s Granma Weekly Review praised the resolution for showing the "identical imperialist origins and racist structure of the Israeli Zionist regime that is occupying Palestine and the one that is exploiting the black masses in South Africa."
- In 1991, Castro opposed repealing the 1975 resolution.
- In 2001, Castro visited and affirmed solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Libya—all anti-Semitic totalitarian regimes and sponsors of terrorism.
Imagine being a Jew in a regime that considers the Jewish homeland to be racist by nature and has supported the PLO and other Arab Brownshirts for over thirty years.
If a Cuban Jew wishes to flee this obscenity and immigrate to America or make aliyah (immigration to Israel), he cannot leave without permission and payment of exit fees. (To even request permission to leave makes one a pariah.) Aliyah, it should be noted, is a major act of religious exercise for a Jew. To make aliyah contingent upon totalitarian caprice is therefore a gross violation of religious freedom.
In light of Cuban Jewry’s captivity and Castro’s intense anti-Zionism, it is appalling that some Jewish organizations not only ignore their brethren’s bondage but actually subsidize Castro.
American ORT, for instance, has planned a "Mission to Havana" for March 14-18. The cost of the trip—approximately $2000 per person—includes an "English-speaking guide" and will pour much-desired dollars into the regime. The B’nai B’rith has the chutzpah to feature a photograph of Fuhrer Castro on its website for "humanitarian missions" to Cuba. As one might say in Yiddish, what a shandeh (shame, disgrace).
The individuals who assembled in West Palm Beach on January 25 were conscientious, peaceful, and cogent. May their hope for Cuban Jewry’s emancipation soon be a reality.
*For further information, see Caroline Bettinger-Lopez’s Cuban-Jewish Journeys: Searching for Identity, Home, and History in Miami, David J. Kopilow’s Castro, Israel, and the PLO, and Robert M. Levine’s Tropical Diaspora: The Jewish Experience in Cuba.