The “Palestinian cause” was close to Fidel Castro’s heart throughout his political life, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday, in a lengthy account of the Cuban dictator’s anti-Israel and pro-Arab policies. According to the Arab channel, the diplomatic ties between Cuba and Arab refugees began as soon as Castro had become Prime Minister in 1959, following the Cuban revolution, when Raul Castro and Che Guevera visited the Gaza Strip, which at the time was under Egyptian occupation.
Incidentally, in 1959 Israel opened its first consulate in Havana, headed by Yoel Bar-Romi, who later described his excitement at the Castro revolution, which reminded him of Israel’s war of independence.
Al Jazeera claims that Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro developed close diplomatic and personal ties, and Castro invited Arafat to Cuba “at least eight times,” each time welcoming the PLO terrorist “like he was a head of state.”
Cuba condemned Israel at the United Nations for the first time after the 1967 Six-Day War. Cuba also began to provide military support to the Fatah movement, and eventually extended its support to both the Palestinian popular and democratic fronts. In 1973, Castro, who was eager to become president of the organization of non-aligned nations, severed diplomatic relations with Israel. A little earlier, Cuba and Nicaragua were the only Latin American countries who granted the PLO full diplomatic status.
Castro was a co-sponsor of the 1975 UN resolution 3379 declaring that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The resolution was repealed in 1991.
The Obama State Dept. on Saturday issued an announcement saying, “We extend our condolences to the Cuban people today as they mourn the passing of Fidel Castro. Over more than half a century, he played an outsized role in their lives, and he influenced the direction of regional, even global affairs.”
“As our two countries continue to move forward on the process of normalization – restoring the economic, diplomatic and cultural ties severed by a troubled past,” the announcement went on, “we do so in a spirit of friendship and with an earnest desire not to ignore history but to write a new and better future for our two peoples. The United States reaffirms its support for deepening our engagement with the Cuban people now and in coming years.”
Meanwhile, according to the NY Times, Miami’s Cuban-American community took to the streets of Little Havana in the middle of the night to celebrate. They banged pots and pans, sang the Cuban national anthem and waved the Cuban flag. “They danced and hugged, laughed and cried, shouted and rejoiced.”
“Him dying represents the end of something awful that happened to us,” one Cuban woman told the Times. “It’s actually him — not anybody else — who caused this. It’s because of him that we lost our opportunity to have a life in our country.”
President-elect Donald Trump described Castro as a “brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” and expressed his hope that Castro’s death would result in freedom for Cubans.