web analytics
November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



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
IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz delivers lecture.
IDF Chief Rabbi: Nothing is Holy to Muslims on Temple Mount except Al Aqsa
Latest News Stories
It's business as usual as Gazans repair the tunnels used to smuggle in the long-range rockets that hit Tel Aviv.

Some of these Gazan tunnels were estimated to have cost $3 million to construct, but will they sustain continued flooding by rain and sewer water?

IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz delivers lecture.

“Ninety percent of them [Arabs] don’t know what is written in the Kuran.”

Soldiers start asking questions after Arab sniper narrowly misses killing Jewish motorist on Highway 60, south of Jerusalem.

“Lone wolves” trying to murder Jews are popping up too frequently.

Nazi loot hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt.

The Gurlitt Museum promises all looted art will be returned to the rightful owners.

Liberal Jews are for tolerance until they also have to be tolerant.

Israeli Shayetet 13 Naval commandos discovered a wounded fellow swimmer in the water, while they were doing a training exercise on Thursday morning. The commandos helped and treated the dolphin until a marine animal doctor could arrive to help it further. By the way, the temperature in Israel was between 52-66 degree Fahrenheit on Thursday, […]

A pre-Thanksgiving speech for Americans. Obama, are you listening?

“You’ve been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army.”

Murderers have upgraded their weapons from rocks and firebombs to guns.

Thanksgiving is an American secular holiday that most Jews have no problem celebrating due to its lack of overt religious symbols (unlike the American holidays right before and after it). Still, there are always holdouts for some reason or another. Let’s hear what you do…

Maybe he thought those white hoods are prayer shawls although they are closer to being burkas.

As the expression goes, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”

Hamas snipers fired from Gaza at an IDF routine patrol operating along the security fence early afternoon on Thursday. No injuries were reported, and the vehicle was damaged. The IDF responded with an artillery shell aimed at the source of fire.

Jacob Richman found this amusing mistake in the store. Do we eat these “extra crispy” soap nuts, or wash the dishes with them?

For every terrorist cell Israel announces it has captured, there are many more kept under wraps.

On Monday evening, tTwo Arab MKs hurled epithets at MKs David Rotem and Feiglin from the podium. Here is Feiglin’s response.

More Articles from Ron Kampeas

“We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text.”

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

“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.

The disagreements don’t seem to have gone away, despite a cease-fire that appears to be firmly in place.

“On the Hill and with some people with whom I have spoken who are robust Israel supporters, people are concerned if not angry,” one of the staffers, a Democrat, told JTA

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.

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: