“I think that a new, repugnant form of fascism is emerging with notable strength…The Nazi genocide of Jews outraged all the earth’s peoples. Why does this (Israeli) government believe that the world will be insensitive to the macabre genocide which today is being perpetuated against the Palestinian people?” (Fidel Castro, August, 5, 2014)
“Who cares, what that senile ZOMBIE Castro says!” strikes me as a reasonable retort from many readers.
“Unfortunately,” I’m forced to answer. “Many otherwise reasonable care very much what Fidel Castro says.” Take Israeli Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu:
“The remarks attributed to Castro demonstrate his deep understanding of the history of the Jewish people and the state of Israel.” (Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu, Sept. 24, 2010.)
Take former Israeli President Shimon Peres: “I thank you (Fidel Castro) from the bottom of my heart. I must confess that your remarks were, in my opinion, unexpected and rife with unique intellectual depth. Your words presented a surprising bridge between a harsh reality and a new horizon. You tried to sail to bigger seas, to show that a small geographical size doesn’t have to reflect human smallness.” (Israeli President Shimon Peres, Sept. 24, 2010.)
At the time Fidel Castro had granted The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg an exclusive interview and the smitten Israeli leaders were reacting to the following remarks by the Stalinist dictator:
"I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews….I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything….The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust….Yes, without a doubt (Israel has a right to exist as modern state.)"
Cuba-watchers rolled their eyes and groaned at that latest of Castro’s frequent scams, but the media (naturally) ate it up, savoring every syllable. Astoundingly so did normally shrewd Israeli leaders. Wishful thinking often fogs the brain. And who can blame friendless Israel for wishing she had a new friend –and one carrying enormous cachet among her traditional enemies?
So why did Fidel Castro—who from 7000 miles away sent troops to try an “erase” Israel during the Yom Kippur war, who co-sponsored the infamous 1975 UN resolution branding “Zionism as Racism,” and who’s media cartoons once shamed Julius Streicher’s -- suddenly go Likudnik?
Furthermore: why did Fidel Castro—who drove out a much higher percentage of Cuba’s Jews than Czar Nicholas did of Russia’s Jews and who copped his most famous line (“History Will Absolve Me”) straight from his childhood hero Adolph Hitler—suddenly don a figurative yarmulke?
"For now we use a lot of sleight of hand and smiles with everybody. There will be plenty of time later to crush all the cockroaches together." This admonition from Fidel Castro to a revolutionary colleague in 1954 gives a clue to his style of diplomacy. Cuba-watchers also know that Castro plumbs the workings of the U.S. legislature better than most home-grown lobbyists and well knows the main power brokers. Indeed Cuban intelligence defectors report that promptly upon publication in 1979, David Halberstam's book "The Powers That Be" detailing the inner workings and identities of Washington D.C’s power brokers, became Castro’s favorite book.
In September 2010 it was time to use that sleight-of-hand on Israel-backers. Jeffrey Goldberg’s visit with Castro, you see, just happened to coincide with a pending vote by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations (HCFR) on further opening U.S. tourist travel to Cuba. Goldberg’s visit to Cuba, just happened to be arranged by The Council on Foreign Relations Julia Sweig, identified as a “Cuban agent of influence” by America’s top Cuban spycatcher Lieut. Col. Chris Simmons, recently retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Cuba’s tourist industry is majority-owned by Castro’s military and secret police. As used to be common knowledge during the Cold War, secret police and military (the only outfits with guns in such nations) maintain Communist regimes in power.
So the HCFR vote could open the floodgates of American tourist dollars to the Stalinist regime’s most zealous (and heavily armed) guardians--and at a time when the financial lifeline to Cuba from Hugo Chavez’ looked shaky. Most importantly, steadfast Israel-backer Howard Berman chaired this House Committee at the time, and steadfast Israel-backer and committee member Senator Gary Ackerman seemed to hold the vital deciding vote…..Do you see where I’m going with this, amigos?
Alas, even with Rep. Ackerman taking Castro’s bait, at the last minute Chairman Rep. Berman took a rough count and recognized that the bill would not squeak by. So he postponed it. A furious Castro instantly yanked off his yarmulke and reached for his handy Keffiyeh. Short weeks later Castro’s roaming ambassador, Aleida Guevara (Che’s daughter,) was in Lebanon posing next to Hezbollah missiles aimed at Israel.
The Cuban-born (and steadfast Israel-backer) Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was among those bemused with Netanyahu and Peres at the time. “Look, this guy has been an enemy of Israel,” wrote Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen to Netanyahu. “Just because he said something that a normal person would say — after 50 years of anti-Israel incitement, its one phrase from an old guy who doesn’t even know where he’s standing.”
“When countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and the like, who do not know the concept of human rights, point an accusing finger towards us, it is a sign that we are doing the right things." Here Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was reacting to Cuba sponsorship of the United Nations Human Rights Commission resolution to investigate Israeli “War Crimes,” upon last month’s launch of Operation Protective Edge.
Well that’s more like it, Israeli leaders. Hopefully you learned your lesson regarding Fidel Castro’s public pronouncements. This lesson came at catastrophic cost to U.S. policymakers and millions of Cuba over half a century ago. Among the Castro pronouncements these now older and much wiser people took at face value:
"You can be sure we have no animosity toward the United States and the American people….we are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to the dictatorship.” (New York Times Feb. 24, 1957.)
“We are not communists. And communists will never have influence in my country… Political power does interest me in the least. I will never assume such power.” (Fidel Castro, April 1959.)
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.