web analytics
September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Alan Gross Revelations Could Hamper Campaign For His Release


Alan Gross

Alan Gross

WASHINGTON – For the Jews of Cuba, it was the ultimate Internet connection. The high-tech equipment that U.S. contractor Alan Gross brought with him to Cuba in 2009 to help connect local Jews to the Internet reportedly included a SIM card that makes it almost impossible to track satellite signals and is generally unavailable to civilians, even in the United States.

That was one of the revelations in an Associated Press report earlier this month that has exacerbated concerns Cuba will hang tough on its stated determination not to release Gross, a 62-year-old Maryland Jewish man who was in Cuba to do work for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for crimes described as “acts against the integrity of the state.”

Yet the AP report, apparently based on mission reports by Gross, helps reinforce the claim that Gross, his family, his employer and the State Department have made all along – that Gross’s mission was straightforward and not at all nefarious: He wanted to hook up Cuba’s Jews with their brethren worldwide.

The AP article “doesn’t change what we’re doing,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We never argued the matters that were raised” regarding Gross’ activities, he said.

According to the AP story, Gross understood the dangers he faced. That is evident both in his reports – he called his enterprise “risky business in no uncertain terms” in one memo – and his actions. He recruited Jewish tourists to help bring in the devices, and the most damaging evidence, according to AP, was the sophisticated SIM card he has in his possession.

Yet the story also makes clear that Gross, who was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, hardly fits the profile of a spy, which is how Cuban President Raul Castro described him.

“Alan Gross was working as a contractor for the U.S. government to promote democracy in Cuba,” said William Daroff, the Washington director for Jewish Federations of North America.

“He was convicted by a court in a country that does not respect the rule of law. His now over two years in a Cuban prison is unjust and we demand the Cuban government release him and that the American government use all of its influence to bring him home.”

The Jewish Federations and the local Jewish Community Relations Council in Washington have taken the lead in pushing publicly for Gross’s release, including petitions and vigils outside the offices of Cuban representatives.

“It hasn’t had any impact at all, if anything it’s only strengthened peoples’ resolve,” Ronald Halber, the director of the Washington JCRC said, of the AP story. The JCRC is set to launch on Wednesday a petition at FreeAlanGrossNow.com urging Pope Benedict XVI to make the case for Gross’s release when he visits Cuba next month.

Gross is said to be ill, having lost 100 pounds of the 250 pounds he weighed before his arrest. His daughter and mother have suffered bouts with cancer during his incarceration.

Those close to the case say privately that the AP’s revelations would not be news to the Cuban authorities. However, they are concerned that making them public will inhibit any Cuban willingness to release Gross.

The AP story describes Gross’ mission as setting up hundreds of Cubans – particularly the island’s 1,500 Jews – with WiFi hotspots for unrestricted Internet access as part of the democracy promotion by USAID, a State Department program. The story depicts Gross’s interactions as primarily with Cuba’s Jews.

“He did nothing wrong other than to connect peaceful non-dissident Jewish communities to the Internet,” said Steven O’Connor, the spokesman for Development Alternatives Inc., the USAID contractor that hired Gross.

Gross’s wife, Judy, addressed the AP story’s claims for the first time on Sunday in a breakfast with congregants at Congregation Chizuk Amuno in Baltimore.

“To suggest that Alan had any ulterior motive other than to help Cuba’s small Jewish community improve its access to information through the Internet and Intranet is categorically false,” she said in prepared remarks shared exclusively with JTA.

“Unfortunately, in countries like Cuba, the free flow of information is forbidden, and therefore it should come as no surprise that Alan had to be careful and discreet while he was in Cuba.”

She added, “That members of the media and the blogosphere continue to debate and analyze Alan’s work – a discussion in which the participants openly speculate as to his motives and his actions, despite having never met the man or even spoken with him – while he rots in a Cuban prison without the opportunity to freely and openly respond, is deplorable.”

Judy Gross described her husband’s mission as setting up unfettered Internet access to communicate with Jews outside Cuba and an Intranet so the communities – some in remote areas – could communicate with one another, “allowing them to share things like recipes, prayers and even sports scores.”

She described testimony at Gross’s trial by an elderly Cuban Jewish man who needed assistance in getting to the stand.

“When the prosecutor asked him what Alan showed him on the Internet, he became emotional and said, ‘We saw the world!’ ” she recounted. “A bit taken aback by this response, the prosecutor asked the witness to explain further. He said that Alan used the Internet to show them places they had never seen before – pictures of the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the city of London. Clearly he did so through Google Earth, something we take so much for granted in our country.”

Gross’s backers still hold out hope that the Cubans may consider his release, although the news from last year is not good; his lawyers have exhausted the Cuban appeals system, up to and including a plea to President Castro.

Additionally, the reported Cuban request in exchange for Gross’s release – the release of the “Cuban Five,” U.S.-based Cuban intelligence officers arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 – would be difficult in the best of times. In an election year it is seen as impossible given the anti-Castro sentiments prevailing in Florida, a swing state.

Hoenlein said the Presidents Conference is continuing its appeal to figures and countries that may have influence with Cuba.

Daroff said the burden of securing Gross’s release was on the entity that sent him on his mission: the U.S. government.

USAID spokesmen did not return multiple requests for comment. State Department officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have said that securing Gross’s release is a priority.

(JTA)

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Alan Gross Revelations Could Hamper Campaign For His Release”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf, March 9, 2012, deployed with Carrier Air Wing 17 to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.  (illustrative only)
First Time: Iran, China Begin Joint Naval Drills
Latest News Stories
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Turkey has retrieved 49 citizens who were held hostage by the ISIS terror organization in Iraq, allegedly without paying ransom.

Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf, March 9, 2012, deployed with Carrier Air Wing 17 to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.  (illustrative only)

For the first time ever, Iran and China have begun joint naval drills focusing on “relief and rescue operations” in the Persian Gulf.

US Defense corporation Lockheed Martin has registered an Israeli subsidiary after opening an office in Be’er Sheva.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu and FM Yair Lapid have reportedly come to an agreement over the 2015 state budget for Israel.

A delegation of 12 Jordanian parliamentarians have cancelled a planned visit to Gaza on security grounds.

ConEd has created a series of multilingual gas safety videos for New Yorkers.

Even secular Jews are slamming Yair Lapid for a calling a press conference on Shabbat about absolutely nothing important.

An Israeli mini-drone crashed Saturday morning near Marjayoun in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel.

This Monday, starting at 4:30 p.m. ET, a rally is taking place on the steps of Lincoln Center. The rally is intended to give a voice and add faces to the ongoing furor over the Metropolitan Opera staging a wildly anti-Semitic opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer.” The opera was first staged in 1991, and is […]

The Senate has approved the ‘ISIS Bill’ to train and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels against ISIS, but the American military is hoping for more.

The two Iranians had changed the photos in the stolen passports, replacing them with their own.

The victims found the bomb, began to tinker with it, and it exploded.

French fighter planes hit ISIS targets in Iraq on Friday.

A convoy of bulldozers supported by tanks reportedly entered Gaza on Friday.

Approximately 1000 Kurds, mostly women and children, are running for their lives to the Turkish border to escape ISIS (Daash).

The general did not say which variant of the missile the country bought, bu did mention the DF 21 is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

More Articles from Ron Kampeas

It’s not yet clear if Nemmouche was acting on orders and, if so, whether the orders came from ISIS.

Capital-Bldg-091214

“The Jewish community is going to have to work harder,” said one veteran official who has worked both as a professional in the Jewish community and a staffer for a Jewish lawmaker.

President Obama in an April 25 press conference seemed ready to take a break. “There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives,” he said.

Obama himself suggested that a break from the process may be necessary.

But Israel’s stance is not sufficiently consequential to set off a fight between friends, neoconservative scholars said.

Tensions between Russia and the West are mounting over the Russian military takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, with the United States and European countries threatening to impose sanctions.

Expansive outreach, of course, is nothing new for AIPAC. But in the wake of battles over Iran sanctions legislation that pitted the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse against the White House, many congressional Democrats and liberals more generally, AIPAC’s traditional emphasis on Israel as a bipartisan issue has taken on added urgency.

Administration officials and Jewish groups sympathetic to Kerry’s initiative say there is a longer-term agenda in preempting attacks on the framework peace agreement the Obama administration is expected to propose soon.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/global/alan-gross-revelations-could-hamper-campaign-for-his-release/2012/02/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: