The Truth about Fidel Castro and Anti-Semitism

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict