But Daremblum’s next point is certainly accurate. “Fidel is desperate,” he writes, “desperate to bolster his historical legacy, and desperate to secure much-needed financial aid for his cash-strapped government. Now 84 years old and in poor health, Castro knows the Cuban economy is in dire condition, and he knows that Washington could throw his Communist regime a lifeline if it were to eliminate the U.S. travel ban.” What he is doing is seeking only to “improve his global image” so that he can gain concessions for Cuba without making any real moves towards genuine reform.
The prisoner reforms are only limited, and are nothing but a PR stunt, meant to impress gullible Westerners who take the bite and unintentionally do Fidel’s bidding. Daremblum quotes one recently exiled political prisoner, Julio Cesar Galvez, who said: “Our departure [from Cuba] should not be seen as a gesture of goodwill but rather as a desperate measure by a regime urgently seeking to gain any kind of credit.”
Daremblum too raises the issue of the imprisoned Alan Gross, who was a USAID contractor who worked with Cuban civil society activists. The fact that he has not been released shows, Darenblum points out, that “Cuba wants to use him as diplomatic leverage.” But most U.S. lawmakers who call for a new policy ignore his plight, and call for lifting the embargo without even demanding Gross’ freedom first.
Finally, Daremblum argues that rather than condemning anti-Semitism, Castro’s remarks only appear “to be a harsh critique of anti-Semitism.” The problem is that they do appear to be just that. Castro 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 Jews] were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. … 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. … The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.
But Daremblum sees his remarks as “anti-Semitism in disguise.” I am tempted to say that as a Jew, I for one can live with such anti-Semitism. I only wish more anti-Semites saw things this way. But Daremblum thinks that Castro only said the above because he “was motivated to make those remarks by a conspiratorial belief that Jews are an all-powerful lobby in the United States.” His purpose was to warm up to the Jews he thinks control the U.S. government, and then the government will do his bidding to make the concessions he greatly desires, such as lifting the embargo without any conditions on Cuba’s part. Daremblum concludes: “Don’t be misled by his comments to Goldberg. In his clumsy attempt to ingratiate himself with American Jews, Fidel revealed the deeply ingrained anti-Semitism that continues to shape his worldview.”
Unless I’m missing something — and I don’t think I am — Daremblum is saying that Castro’s new attack on anti-Semitism and his erstwhile would-be ally Ahmadinejad is itself proof of his anti-Semitism. And this, candidly, makes no sense at all.
Finally, Jeffrey Goldberg responds forcefully to O’Grady. Calling her column “almost pathological in its disregard for reality,” Goldberg writes that not only is Cuba’s small Jewish population free to worship, they “often travel to Israel (young Cuban Jews even attend Birthright events).” I must say the latter is news to me, and I wonder if Goldberg can document how many Cuban Jews actually were allowed to go to Birthright Israel trips, and how often they are given the freedom to travel to Israel. How, in fact, could they even afford such a trip on their own? Somehow, the freedom to travel does not ring true.
But Goldberg is undoubtedly correct that since he and everyone else know that Cuba was for years a proclaimed enemy of Israel, Castro’s recent comments are “so newsworthy, in fact, that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu (not a man known to be soft on Communism) took approving note of them.” Netanyahu, in fact, said: “The remarks attributed to Castro demonstrate his deep understanding of the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” Clearly, Israel’s prime minister has quite a different response to Castro’s remarks than does Jamie Daremblum.
So I conclude that Goldberg did his job as a journalist. Aside from going on about their wonderful dolphin show — really a sidebar that means very little — Goldberg was hardly a useful idiot. His only failure, I think, was that of not bringing up publicly and aggressively the case of Alan Gross. In fact, he might have thought of pulling a Jesse Jackson– and using Castro’s friendship towards him by asking him to release Gross to him, and bring him back home on the same plane to Florida that Goldberg returned on. Now that would really have been a newsmaker.
Update: Sept.30, 2 pm, EST: To my readers who think I am an apologist for Castro, and like Goldberg, a useful idiot of the Cuban dictator. Those who know my writings are fully aware that for years, I have been an unrelenting critic of the Castro regime. I hold no illusions about it.
But the point here is that for whatever reason — and certainly political impact is in Castro’s mind — he has made new statements that repudiate his own past positions and that of his erstwhile allies, throwing them into a tizzy. He has not only condemned anti-Semitism and showed sympathy for Israel’s plight, he has acknowledged that his own Cuban model has failed. In other words, he has admitted that history will not absolve him!
Bibi realized this fully, when he welcomed Castro’s new remarks. Is he also a useful idiot? Again, Castro condemned for the record — and let Goldberg quote him directly — Iranian anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and endorsed Israel’s right to exist. The hard Left is going crazy, and Castro’s statements are now used by Israel and its allies against its major enemies. This is of importance, which is why Goldberg’s article is so essential. The Iranians have been put down by Castro, Hugo Chavez is confused and his hero’s statements will hurt him too in Venezuela, and this is therefore good for Israel, the Jewish people, and all enemies of tyranny.
So let us welcome and use Castro’s remarks for our purposes, and not try to portray them as false, or as Jamie Daremblum did, as proof of real anti-Semitism (which is, as I said, ridiculous).