By now most PJM readers have heard about or looked at Atlantic magazine correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg’s scoop of the year — his invitation to travel to Cuba and have an exclusive meeting with Fidel Castro. The dictator, it seemed, read Goldberg’s Atlantic cover story about Iran and Israel, and requested that Goldberg travel to Cuba so he could talk about the issue with him.
Of course, what Castro wanted to really accomplish was to use Goldberg as a conduit for his ideas — to let the world know his most recent thoughts and also to send a message to those considered his long-standing allies, Ahmadinejad in Iran and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. What Castro told them is that a nuclear war between Iran and Israel must be averted and that Ahmadinejad should “stop slandering the Jews.”
Was this Castro’s message to Jews on the eve of the Jewish New Year? Has the man who for years backed and trained PLO terrorists during Yasser Arafat’s heyday, and who supported the USSR’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel policies, actually reevaluated and moved towards a new Cuban policy?
The truth is we don’t know. Whatever his motives, to have Fidel Castro announce that essentially Ahmadinejad is both wrong and probably crazy is some kind of unexpected breakthrough. Goldberg writes:
Castro’s message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, was not so abstract, however. Over the course of this first, five-hour discussion, Castro repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism. He criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the “unique” history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.
I am as opposed as the next person is to the Castro dictatorship, but this is, one has to admit, the most unexpected announcement by Castro one might have ever expected to hear. Will Chavez get the message as well, and suddenly change course and sabotage his great ally in Iran? Somehow, I doubt it. But think of how he must feel having heard this from his hero.
And then this:
He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. “This went on for maybe two thousand years,” he said. “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 Iranian government should understand that the Jews “were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. In my judgment here’s what happened to them: Reverse selection. What’s reverse selection? Over 2,000 years they were subjected to terrible persecution and then to the pogroms. One might have assumed that they would have disappeared; I think their culture and religion kept them together as a nation.” He continued: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. “I am saying this so you can communicate it,” he answered.
And next Castro admitted that during the Cuban nuclear crisis in 1962, when he urged the Soviets to consider a nuclear strike against the USA, “it wasn’t worth it all.” This may be the first time the Cuban leader said he was wrong about anything.