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August 29, 2016 / 25 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

Cuban Jewish Leader Claims ‘No Anti-Semitism Here’

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Under President Raoul Castro, synagogues in Cuba do not require security and there is no anti-Semitism, according to the vice president of one of the largest of Cuba’s scattered Jewish communities, David Prinstein.

In an interview with Agencia Judia de Noticias, Prinstein claimed, “There is no type of anti-Semitic expression against Jews and synagogues” in the country.

Cuba, he said, is the only country “with a synagogue that has its doors constantly open. There is “no kind of security at all, no kind of guards,” he told the news outlet.

Most of Cuba’s 25,000 Jews fled to Miami when Fidel Castro came to power and raised his Communist government. The iron fist began to loosen in the 1990s, however, and today religious communities are again able to practice their faiths, albeit with government eyes watching closely.

Interfaith dialogue is now the rule of the day for Jews in Cuba, he said.

“We are part of a Cuban interreligious platform where we hold continuous meetings tackling topics in common and positive for all parties. This has made possible an excellent relationship with all other religious denominations,” he said. Likewise, the government’s relationship with its Jews is, he said, “excellent.”

In fact, Prinstein said everything is “excellent.”

Cuba’s 1,500 Jews can choose between the island nation’s three synagogues and two cemeteries. The government, said Prinstein, has a “very open relationship, very sincere and above all respectful.”

Hana Levi Julian

Cruz at AIPAC: ‘Peace Through Strength’ [video]

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) spoke to AIPAC’s policy conference on Monday evening, March 21. He followed a raucous presentation by Donald Cruz, and one given earlier in the day by Hillary Clinton.

Cruz started his talk by correcting without naming Donald Trump. He said, “Let me say at the outset, perhaps to the surprise of the previous speaker, Palestine has not existed since 1948.” Point Cruz.

He continued by invoking the story of Purim, mentioning that Jews the world over will soon be reading the Megillah (Esther). He recounted that the evil Persian Haman described the Jews as “scattered and spread out.” The Talmud teaches us, Cruz explained, that when the forces for good are divided, evil can prevail. But when forces for good come together in unity, they can defeat tyrants. Do you see where this is going?

Cruz likened the time of Haman to the time in which we live. But he promised a near future in which Americans will come together,  within the Republican party and across America.

Aware that he has a reputation as a divisive personality, Cruz hit hard on that issue of unity, unity within America and then, after November, between America and Israel. “America will stand with Israel and defeat radical Islamic terrorists,” Cruz told the crowd.

He also mentioned that his colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham, had hosted an event for him earlier in the day, “which should allay the doubts of anyone here that the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can still do miracles,” eliciting a big guffaw.

As did both Clinton and Trump, Cruz mentioned the brutal murder of American Christian Taylor Force who was recently stabbed to death in Jaffa by a Palestinian Arab terrorist. Force was from Lubbock, Texas, so it was no surprise that Cruz mentioned him.

He used the tragedy to remind the audience that America and Israel are in the fight together against radical Islam. Sadly, not one of the candidates mentioned another American recently murdered in Israel, Ezra Schwartz. Schwartz was a Jewish teenager from Boston.

In his four years in the Senate, Cruz has initiated efforts to support Israel in various ways, and he mentioned several of them during his speech on Monday. One, a critical effort, was when he stood up to the U.S. State Department when it shut down Ben Gurion Airport during Operation Cast Lead, after a rocket from Gaza landed – harmlessly – a mile away.

Cruz had immediately called on the U.S. government to explain why it had imposed what he called an economic boycott on Israel, pointing out that the U.S. had not shut down the airspace in other hot war zones such as Pakistan, Afghanistan or even in the Ukraine, where a passenger airline had just been shot down by Russia.

When Cruz demanded that the Obama administration answer the question, the response he got was that his suggestion was ridiculous. Cruz then informed them that he would shut down every nomination to the State Dept. until it answered his question.

The closure of Israeli airspace was lifted within 36 hours, thanks at least in part to the action taken by Cruz.

Cruz pointed out that on one of his three trips to Israel, he visited a hospital in the north, where “Israel has treated more than a thousand Syrians, free of charge.”

He quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Israelis use missile defense system to protect our citizens, while Hamas uses its citizens to protect its missiles to launch into his one mention of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Clinton had sought to justify Hamas keeping its missiles in schools and hospitals by explaining that Gaza is very small and crowded.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Obama Gift List to Former Enemies Continues: Cuba Plucked from Terrorism Sponsor List

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

So, let’s see. He “reset” with Russia’s Putin – ask the Crimeans what they think of that move -, he sent loving happy new years notes to Iran, and that produced a warm and loving feelings towards America. He drop-kicked Egypt’s Mubarak from the buddy league but snuggled up with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi. That did not do much for Morsi, and he spit in the eye of Israel’s Netanyahu whom everyone agrees actually benefitted from Obama’s animosity.

So to whom is U.S. President Barack Obama now handing out party favors? Why, it’s none other than Raul Castro, el jefe of Cuba.

That’s right. The happy dictator to our immediate south either was granted this gift or was simply rewarded, unbidden, with the imminent delisting of Cuba from the U.S.’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

First, the punishments which will be lifted if Cuba is removed from the terrorism list include: a ban on arms-related exports and sales; 30-day Congressional notifications for exports of goods or services deemed “dual use,” meaning they could have peaceful uses but they also could have be used to support terrorism; and prohibitions on economic assistance.

Unless Congress acts to prohibit the delisting, 45 days after the President issues the report making that recommendation, Cuba goes off the list.

How did this happen?

We learn from a press release issued by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, April 13, that Obama directed the State Department to launch a review and then provide him with a report to determine whether Cuba should continue to be designated as an official terrorism sponsor this past December. The president did that as a “critical component of establishing a new direction for U.S.-Cuba relations.”

Well, perhaps not surprisingly, the State Department recommended “based on the facts and the statutory standard” that Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism be rescinded.

To be sure, it might have been possible for the State Department to determine Cuba was ineligible for removal from the designated list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

Why, according to the State Department’s statement, if Cuba had “provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six months,” or if it had refused to provide “assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future,” those naughty boys would remain on the terrorism list. But the answers to the questions being asked were such that the president was able to give one of his new best friends, Raul Castro, the good news.

In issuing its statement recommending the removal of Cuba from the state terrorism listing, the State Department carefully pointed out that the narrow requirements it focused on constitute the qualifications set by Congress for what countries can be removed from the terrorism sponsors list. That statement also pointed out that the criterion for review was a narrow and Congressionally-determined one.

The basis for removal from the list does not mean that American authorities have determined Cuba, a Communist nation with one political party, is no longer engaged in repression or human trafficking or any other significant departures from modern democratic societies, but those issues are not part of the calculation for terrorism sponsoring de-listing.

“While the United States has had, and continues to have, significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these concerns and disagreements fall outside of the criteria for designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” is how the State Department couched it.

“Circumstances have changed since 1982, when Cuba was originally designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism because of its efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America. Our Hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago. Our determination, pursuant to the facts, including corroborative assurances received from the Government of Cuba and the statutory standard, is that the time has come to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” the statement continued.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Diplomatic Ties with US May Strike Out Baseball in Cuba

Monday, December 29th, 2014

To the dismay of baseball fan Kit Krieger, future travels to Cuba will no longer include get-togethers with ex-Washington Senators pitcher Connie Marrero.

Marrero, who played for Washington from 1950 to 1954, died in Havana last April at age 102, a few months after Krieger’s last visit and three years after Krieger helped arrange for Marrero a $10,000 annual pension from Major League Baseball.

Theirs was a special friendship, one of many forged by Krieger, a Vancouver resident who will return to Cuba in late February — his 30th visit there beginning with a 1997 trip related to his job with the British Columbia teachers federation. That trip spawned a love affair with the country and its baseball scene.

Krieger, 65, would go on to found Cuba Ball, a company bringing baseball-mad tourists to the island nation — a venture begun really to enable himself to visit affordably with groups.

With President Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement on renewing diplomatic relations broken off by the United States in 1961, Krieger sees a double-edged sword: Cuba will emerge from U.S.-imposed isolation, but the country’s professional baseball scene could ultimately disappear, like America’s Negro Leagues following the integration of Major League Baseball.

In the near term, he figures, Cuban baseball will remain unchanged, since the country can hardly be expected to allow foreign teams to poach its premier talent — at least not without hefty payments, as in Japan. Individual players, Krieger adds, are unlikely to risk defecting while knowing that renewed diplomacy could prompt Washington’s lifting of an economic blockade, enabling them to legally sign lucrative contracts abroad.

Following Obama’s announcement, MLB released a statement saying that it will monitor whether the policy shift affects “the manner in which [teams] conduct business on issues related to Cuba.”

Krieger says he sees Cuba as “the largest pool of untapped baseball talent in the world, and no one knows if [the news] will open this pool.” But he fears “the beginning of the end” of a Cuban baseball reality caught in a sweet time warp evoking America of the 1890s. Eventually, Krieger says, Cuban baseball “will become integrated into the international baseball community, which it isn’t now.”

His love for Cuban baseball led him more than a decade ago to join the Society for American Baseball Research, where he recruited like-minded fans for the trips. He’s similarly passionate about family history, frequently conducting research on Jewish genealogy websites. Thanks largely to meticulous records kept by his ancestors, Krieger (his given first name is Ernest) can trace several branches in Poland and Germany back to 1700.

“I can even tell you the name of my grandfather’s mohel,” he quips.

Krieger’s baseball and genealogy interests at times have coincided: His late mother, Ann Kohlberg, grew up in an apartment building at 320 Riverside Drive in Manhattan, across the hall from New York Giants star Mel Ott. Kohlberg’s cousin, Don Taussig, went on to play outfield with the franchise after its move to San Francisco.

While Krieger doesn’t usually seek out Jewish residents or sites while in Cuba, another Jewish traveler, retired professor Oscar Soule, does.

Soule, of Olympia, Wash., who will be traveling with Krieger to Cuba in February, has been to the Caribbean nation five times and makes a point of going to a Havana synagogue on each visit. The draws for him are the baseball games and meetings with government officials, as well as such diamond legends as Omar Linares and Victor Mesa that wouldn’t happen without Krieger.

Marrero, a 5-foot-5 right-hander who posted a 39-40 record in the majors and made the American League’s All-Star team in 1951 at age 40, benefited from Krieger’s attention in his final years as he lost his eyesight and hearing. Krieger solicited notes of appreciation from the aging pitcher’s American contemporaries, all of whom Marrero fondly remembered. More than 90 letters arrived, and scores more for Marrero’s 100th birthday, including from Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Tommy Lasorda, George Kell and Harmon Killebrew.

JTA

Alan Gross to get $3.2M Compensation

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Alan Gross, the Jewish contractor freed last week from Cuba, will get $3.2 million in compensation for his five years in prison, Reuters reports.

Gross was arrested and jailed in Cuba while working on a USAid-financed project for company DAI. Cuban authorities sentenced him to 15 years in prison for providing satellite internet equipment to Jews in Cuba.

He and his wife sued DAI and the US government in 2012 for gross negligence.

Gross was freed last week in a prisoner swap as part of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba. He thanked the Jewish community, among others, for its efforts on his behalf during his years in jail.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Obama Negotiated with Cuba ‘Behind Everyone’s Back,’ Lawmakers Charge

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama negotiated with Cuba to restore diplomatic relations “behind everyone’s back,” lawmakers charged Wednesday night after he announced the restoration of full diplomatic ties with the island nation.

News agencies in the United States buzzed on Thursday with the details of how Obama accomplished that task in a personal 45-minute telephone call on Tuesday with President Raul Castro. The call followed 18 months of secret talks between the White House and Cuban officials that also involved the highest levels of the Vatican – and Pope Francis himself.

As part of the deal, USAID worker Alan Gross returned from Cuba on a U.S. government 757 aircraft after five years in custody, along with a U.S. intelligence agent who had spent the last 20 years of a life term in prison.

The move, which was carried out without any knowledge of Congressional lawmakers on either side of the aisle, inflamed already hot tempers about Obama’s penchant for doing things on his own. Media commentators and some legislators on Thursday referred to the president as “King Obama.”

The president further exacerbated that anger by saying he was “ending an outdated approach that had failed to advance U.S. interests for decades… The previous approach failed to promote change, and it’s failed to empower or engage the Cuban people,” he said. “It’s time to cut loose the shackles of the past and reach for a new and better future with this country.”

Democratic lawmakers expressed shock and disappointment that the president had spent 18 months negotiating with an “enemy, Communist regime” without even consulting with any other legislator from his own party.

Members of the Cuban immigrant community were incensed that Obama had cut through more than half a century of sanctions and provided a “shot in the arm” to the repressive regime they fled for its brutality.

Castro said the 52-year embargo had caused enormous human and economic damage. He added there was still disagreement on many issues, including that of foreign policy.

Following the announcement, however, the Dow Jones Industrial Average leaped, possibly in response. Media commentators began discussing what the economic implications would be if Congress could not control corporate financial and production flow in and out of Cuba.

Hana Levi Julian

Cuba: Rewarding Bad Behavior

Thursday, December 18th, 2014
That would be our POTUS-in-Chief, pulling his

self-defined “right thing to do” out of nowhere (some would make a more anatomical allusion) at a time when Cuba has been busy doing exactly the wrong thing.

First, let us at least rejoice that Alan Gross has been released.  We can be glad for his sake that he is back home with his family.

The rest of the news is not so good.  Obama traded three Cuban spies for Gross and a U.S. intelligence agent, and will open up financial and banking relations to Cuba, besides authorizing travel and reopening a U.S. embassy in Havana:

American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years, and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap, but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”

In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it.

The concern here is only partly the specific measures taken, however.  The context in which they are being taken is of even greater concern.

Context

Russian officials made two major announcements in the last six months: that Moscow would reopen the sprawling Cold War-era listening post near Havana, at Lourdes; and that Russian forces, now including strategic bombers (an unprecedented feature), would resume operating from Cuba to conduct patrols targeting the United States.

Russia has, in fact, been operating intelligence collection ships from Cuba and sending them on patrols off the southeastern U.S. coast.

Meanwhile, Cuba continues to engage in an illicit arms trade with North Korea, which facilitates the proliferation of arms to terrorist groups and bad regimes round the world.  (See here and here as well.)

Cuba also continues to be deeply involved in the repressions inflicted by Central America’s socialist caudillos on the people of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.  For more than half a century, Cuba has been one of the chief security problems of Latin America.

In the last five years, the nexus between the Castroites and the chavistas (Chavez, his successor Maduro, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega) has expanded to include – increasingly overtly – Iran.  Cuba’s trade relations with Iran – always, for such nations, largely a cover for arms and intelligence cooperation – have been growing rapidly in the last several years.  (The more warehouses and heavy machinery are ostensibly involved in the commercial trade, the more military-strategic import it typically has.  The transportation sector is one of the best covers for military cooperation.)

China, moreover, has been cultivating increased military as well as trade ties with Cuba in the last few years (see here and here as well), and is reported to have intelligence operatives manning a Cuban listening post in Bejucal.

These are some of the big, important things that have been going on with Cuba in the time period that ought to affect our decisions about Cuba.  If we’re going to go down the path of normalizing relations with Cuba, each and every one of these things should be on the table.   The payoff from pursuing this course should be – explicitly, and up front – a set of verifiable commitments from Cuba to not continue in these activities which are prejudicial to the United States and the security of the Western hemisphere.

J. E. Dyer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/cuba-rewarding-bad-behavior/2014/12/18/

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