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The Truth about Fidel Castro and Anti-Semitism

Nov. 29 2016

In 2010, the late Cuban dictator told an American Jewish journalist that he believed Israel has a right to exist, earning him praise from Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres. Citing the same interview, the American Jewish Committee stated more recently that, despite the Cuban regime’s firm commitment to anti-Zionism and refusal to recognize the Jewish state, “the Castro brothers have not engaged in anti-Semitism.” Seth Frantzman takes a hard look at these claims, which have typified conventional wisdom about Cuba and the Jews:

In 1994, . . . [Israel’s chief rabbi] Israel Meir Lau attempted to get Castro to allow kosher meat into Cuba. . . . The Cuban leader had initially rejected Lau’s request. “I told you that I am fighting against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in my country. . . . Do you want to make my people anti-Semitic?” Castro asked. “We have the practice of allocating 150 grams of bread a day, but the Jews in Cuba would have meat? [The people] will have a horrible hatred for them, envy them tremendously, and loot their homes if under such conditions you seek to import kosher meat for the Jews. You yourself create the anti-Semitism that I have been stopping.”

This is an example of supposedly stopping anti-Semitism: Castro threatened Jews that if they wanted to eat kosher meat they would “create” anti-Semitism. Castro was admitting that he had starved his country by putting it on bread rations, but surely Cubans eat some meat. So why would kosher meat “make” others anti-Semitic? One wonders whether “envy” for Muslims eating halal meat [which is in fact allowed into Cuba] would create the same excuse for Islamophobia. . . .

The real truth was that Castro wanted to sell himself as being the lone figure who could prevent anti-Semitism, much like many other leaders who claim they are “friends” of the Jewish minority by “preventing” anti-Semitism. But, [in a country where] there are only 1,500 Jews among 11 million people, why would there be any anti-Semitism? Can anyone imagine a leader claiming that if people of color ate meat, racism would therefore be acceptable? . . .

The reality in Cuba was that Jews were deeply suppressed, unable to practice their religion for decades, denied kosher meat, kept from emigrating, and impoverished.

Read more at Terra Incognita

More about: American Jewish Committee, Anti-Semitism, Caribbean Jewry, Cuba, Jewish World, Yisrael Meir Lau

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC