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July 31, 2016 / 25 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

Enough with ‘Bibi’

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

What we call people matters.

After making aliya in November 2009, one of the first news articles I recall reading was a Jerusalem Post report titled “90 Fatah terrorists ‘pardoned’ to bolster Abbas.” The prime minister then was Binyamin Netanyahu, who went on to further incentivize terrorism with the Shalit deal.

On the latest 104 terrorists to be freed by Netanyahu, I have seen some shocked reactions along the lines of “This isn’t the man we elected.” Seriously? This would be like a tennis fan in the 1980s acting surprised to see Stefan Edberg go to the net or John McEnroe throw a tantrum.

The vileness of Netanyahu’s latest action was matched only by its predictability. There’s a point where being clueless becomes obnoxious, particularly when it results in nationally suicidal electoral behavior.

Some bloggers who have condemned the terrorist releases display a different problematic habit. Here are three examples:

  • “Bibi is making a mockery of our justice system.”
  • “Nothing exemplifies Israel’s looming civic disaster quite like Bibi’s recent announcement to free terrorists.”
  • “Shame on you Bibi Netanyahu. Shame on you for your fecklessness and lack of courage and backbone.”

I agree with all of the above, but the informal reference to Netanyahu undermines the writers’ intention. When you call someone by a nickname, how offensive and damaging can his acts really be?

By contrast, this informality doesn’t appear in Frimet Roth’s assessment of the latest releases. I don’t think that is coincidental. A mother doesn’t tend to call the man who freed the murderer of her child “Bibi.”

Years ago I wrote extensively about human rights abuses and anti-Semitism in Cuba, my work being cited by people including a National Book Award winner and a multi-Grammy Award winner. The apologists for Cuba’s despotic regime often refer to Fidel Castro by his first name. Several opponents of the regime have done likewise, unwittingly perpetuating the sympathetic attitudes they seek to reduce.

Like Cuba, Israel is a small country with an informal culture, and over time nicknames in Israel have become widespread—thus for example “Bogie” Ya’alon, “Buji” Herzog, “Arik” Sharon, and the prime minister. This implies endearing social warmth on the one hand, but excessive informality can also beget coarseness and cloud moral clarity—like using a man’s nickname in the context of him freeing our brothers and sisters’ murderers.

The man who expelled 8,600 Jews from Gush Katif and empowered Hamas is no Arik to me.

The man who tramples on justice and tells the world that Jewish blood is cheap is no Bibi to me.

The next time you’re about to call the prime minister by his nickname, consider the bereaved families whose pain he has increased. Consider how you would feel if you were one of them. Does “Bibi” still seem appropriate?

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

Federal Judge Dismisses Alan Gross’ Lawsuit against Government

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

A federal judge dismissed on Tuesday a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by Alan Gross, the American-Jewish contractor imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that under federal law, the government cannot be sued for injuries that occurred in another country.

Gross and his wife Judy filed a $60 million lawsuit in November against the U.S. government and a government contractor, charging that Gross should have been better trained and informed of the risks before going to Cuba to set up Internet access for the Jewish community there.

Gross, 64, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba for “crimes against the state.” He spoke virtually no Spanish and traveled to Cuba five times under his own name before his arrest.

Gross’ family and U.S. State Department officials say that Gross was in Cuba on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the country’s 1,500 Jews communicate with other Jewish communities using the Internet.

The main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.

The Grosses settled in mid-May with Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland-based contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, for an undisclosed amount.

JTA

Report: Muslim Countries ‘Worst Violators of Religious Freedom’

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Ten out of the 15 countries with the worst religious freedom abuses are Muslim, according to the recently released U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2013 Annual Report identifying the status of religious freedom throughout the world, and citing countries that are the least tolerant of religious freedom.

IRFA requires the President of the United States, who has delegated this authority to the Secretary of State, to designate as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, those governments that have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom.

IRFA defines “particularly severe” violations as ones that are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious,” including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, or “other flagrant denial[s] of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”

After a country is designated a CPC, the President is required by law to take action to remedy the situation, or to invoke a waiver if circumstances warrant (As the late JFK put it: He may be an SOB, but he’s our SOB).

For the 2013 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight countries as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

USCIRF also finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

USCIRF also places countries on its Tier 2 list, where the country is on the threshold of a CPC status, meaning that the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are particularly severe and that at least one, but not all three, of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard is met.

The Tier 2 designation provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom, thereby giving policymakers an opportunity to engage early and increasing the likelihood of preventing or diminishing the violations. USCIRF has concluded that the following eight countries meet the Tier 2 standard in this reporting period: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, and Russia.

But not to worry – the State Department has issued indefinite waivers on taking any action against Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. As a result of these waivers, the United States has not implemented any policy response tied to the CPC designation for either country.

Gives a whole new meaning to the slogan “Freedom must be earned.”

In Egypt, the government has failed to protect Coptic Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the country’s 90 million people. The Copts have been tortured and killed and individuals continue to be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for “contempt” or “defamation” of religion (Islam).

Somebody should start boycotting Egyptian products…

In Iran, religious freedom for minorities has deteriorated over the last year, a bad year for the Baha’is, Christians, and Sufi Muslims. The Report details that, “physical attacks, harassment, detention, arrests, and imprisonment” intensified.

Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, and Zoroastrians have faced harassment, intimidation, discrimination, arrests, and imprisonment. Anyone who has dissented against the government, a theocratic republic, including Majority Shi’i and minority Sunni Muslims, have been intimidated, harassed, and detained. Several dissidents and human rights defenders have been sentenced to death and executed for “waging war against God.”

Human sacrifice, that must be their god’s favorite pastime.

Yori Yanover

US State Dep’t: Alan Gross Begins Fourth Year of Unjust Imprisonment

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, released the following statement on Monday:

“Tomorrow Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. He was arrested on December 3, 2009 and later given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply facilitating communications between Cuba’s Jewish community and the rest of the world.

“Mr. Gross is a 63-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to underserved communities in more than 50 countries.

“Since his arrest, Mr. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and suffers from severe degenerative arthritis that affects his mobility, and other health problems. His family is anxious to evaluate whether he is receiving appropriate medical treatment, something that can best be determined by having a doctor of his own choosing examine him.

“We continue to ask the Cuban Government to grant Alan Gross’s request to travel to the United States to visit his 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, who is gravely ill. This is a humanitarian issue.

“The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Wiesenthal Center Officials Ask Ecuador to Intercede for Alan Gross

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center met with Ecuadorian authorities to seek their support in asking Cuba to release American prisoner Alan Gross.

The meetings came on the sidelines of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Latin American gathering of Jewish communities in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Sergio Widder, the Wiesenthal Center’s Latin American director, and Dr. Shimon Samuels, its director of international relations, in separate meetings with Ecuador’s deputy justice minister, Carmen Simone Lasso, and the Justice Ministry’s legal adviser, Marco Prado, requested “the humanitarian intervention of Ecuador — in view of its close bilateral relations — to urge the Cuban authorities for an early release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross.”

Widder told JTA that Lasso did not comment on future steps regarding the Gross case. Lasso expressed her support for Holocaust education in Ecuador, he said.

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the state.” He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community while working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency on International Development.

“We believe that President Rafael Correa Delgado is best-placed to convince Havana to make a humanitarian gesture,” Samuels and Widder told Ecuadorian officials.

On Sunday, more than 500 rabbis urged the release of Alan Gross, citing the possibility that he has a cancerous growth, based on a recent assessment of his medical records by a U.S. radiologist.

Also, the Wiesenthal Center expressed its concern at the growing influence of Iran in Ecuador and its anti-American, ALBA bloc partners of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

“This represents a potential danger of Iranian-supported Hezbollah terrorist networks abusing Ecuador’s hospitality as a springboard for expansion throughout South America,” Samuels said.

JTA

Three US Jews Still Held Hostage Overseas

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

“There are, I think, almost 3,000 Americans in foreign jails. Almost all of them are in there for doing something.”

That is the assessment given to JNS.org by U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY), a leading advocate for the freedom of 53-year-old Brooklyn flooring contractor Jacob Ostreicher – who, according to his supporters, is wrongly imprisoned in Bolivia and therefore falls outside the “almost 3,000 Americans” cited by Turner.

Ostreicher’s situation is one of three high-profile cases of American Jews overseas who remain either controversially imprisoned or held hostage.

In early October, lawyers for 63-year-old Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for trying to bring that country’s Jewish community Internet access, announced that a doctor who reviewed Gross’s medical records found a tumor in his right shoulder that may be cancerous. The tumor is a “potentially life-threatening medical problem that has not been adequately evaluated to modern medical standards” by Cuban doctors, according to Dr. Alan A. Cohen.

Alan Gross in Jerusalem with wife Judy.

Since that revelation, Cuba has been “surprisingly quiet in response, and I say surprisingly because typically they tend to be very aggressive at responding to claims about Alan’s situation, and I think the detailed nature of Dr. Cohen’s assessment has flummoxed them and they’re not quite sure how they can respond,” said Gross lawyer Jared Genser.

Gross, who lived in Potomac, Md., received a 15-year prison sentence even though he was working with “peaceful, non-dissident, Jewish groups” in Cuba, according to the U.S. Cuba convicted him of “crimes against the state.”

In August, Gross’s lawyers filed a petition asking the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to conclude that Cuba had violated Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – a treaty that guarantees freedom of expression and the rights to receive and disseminate information freely through any media of choice – by imprisoning Gross.

Cuba “didn’t point to anything [Gross] did beyond provide publicly available computer equipment to Jewish communities down in Cuba, and that falls squarely within the protections for article 19 of the ICCPR,” Genser said, making his ongoing detention “a flagrant violation of Cuba’s obligations of international law.”

Cuba has 60 days to respond to the UN petition. Gross’s team is expecting the UN arbitrary detention working group to hear the case in mid-November and to issue an opinion in mid-December. The group’s opinions are not binding under international law and there is no enforcement provision that could compel Cuba to comply, but Genser said a ruling in Gross’s favor could still be a significant step.

On Capitol Hill, the push for Gross’s freedom received broad bipartisan support in September, with 44 U.S. senators signing a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro asking for Gross’s release.

Ultimately, said Genser, it needs to be “the president and the secretary of state who are going to resolve this case, and my hope is that regardless of who wins the election on Nov. 6, that either President Obama or a president-elect Romney will be in position to make a new set of moves toward the government of Cuba after the election is over.”

* * *

Jacob Ostreicher traveled to Bolivia in December 2010 to oversee rice production and was arrested in June 2011 on suspicion of money laundering and criminal organization. No formal charges have ever been brought against him.

On Aug. 31 this year, Ostreicher was denied bail. Congressman Turner, who represents the section of Brooklyn where Ostreicher lived, explained in a phone interview that according to Bolivian law, “you have to be charged within an 18-month period.”

Turner and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) are among the consistent advocates for Ostreicher’s cause. The problem, according to Turner, lies within the U.S. State Department, whose involvement, he said, was limited by virtue of being “bound by their own rules.”

Despite the “preponderance of evidence” showing Ostreicher’s innocence, Turner said that State Department officials have “their own bureaucratic procedures” and “don’t want to get out of their comfort zone.”

“They respect Bolivian law even when the Bolivians are not following it,” Turner said. “I think this is a time for outrage and not following bureaucratic procedures. It’s as simple as that.”

Jacob Kamaras and Sean Savage

Jewish Contractor in Cuban Jail May Have Tumor

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Jailed Jewish-American contractor Alan Gross may have a cancerous tumor that needs to be treated, his lawyer said.

Gross has an unidentified mass behind his right shoulder, according to reports. Cuban doctors declared the mass to be a hematoma that would reabsorb over time.

CT and ultrasound scans of the mass conducted by the Cuban doctors were sent to Gross’ lawyers in the United States.

“Gross has a potentially life-threatening medical problem that has not been adequately evaluated to modern medical standards,” U.S. radiologist Dr. Alan Cohen said in a statement released by Gross’ attorney Jared Genser.

Cohen said in his statement that Gross should be treated at a U.S. hospital and that the mass should be biopsied. A “soft tissue mass in an adult who has lost considerable weight must be assumed to represent a malignant tumor unless proven to be benign,” the doctor said, according to Reuters.

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the state.” He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community while working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency on International Development.

Last month, a Cuban Foreign Ministry official rejected claims by Gross’ wife, Judy, that Gross was in ill health, and also said Cuba was willing to negotiate his release with U.S. officials, reportedly in exchange for five Cuban spies, four of whom remain in jail in the U.S.

Gross reportedly has lost more than 100 pounds since his arrest and his family says he is suffering from degenerative arthritis. His mother is dying and one of his daughters has cancer.

JTA

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-contractor-in-cuban-jail-may-have-tumor/2012/10/03/

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