CubaBrief: Castro regime coerces Cuban workers and students to march for Hamas. Havana’s six decade campaign against Israel

Cuban students marched with posters with the face of Hamas spokesperson Abu Obaida through the streets of Havana on November 23rd in a forced march organized by the dictatorship.

International media reports that 100,000 people “participated” in this pro-Hamas rally in Cuba. “Free Palestine” as shown in posters mass produced by the Cuban dictatorship means the state of Israel replaced by the state of Palestine.

Upon reviewing press accounts, found that no one mentioned how a totalitarian dictatorship obtained such a large turnout by using coercive means against the population. Cuban workers and students were forced to attend or suffer the consequences. A audio of what sounds to be a university lecturer explaining to her pupils why they must attend the march has gone viral on social media. It’s a master class in intimidation and deception.

“I hope you are well. As you see there are changes. Regarding tomorrow’s activity, go to Línea y F (bus stop) at one in the afternoon. Everyone must attend. The students know that this is their grade, that is, it is important because it will have an impact on their grade for the national security class but also on the comprehensive evaluation.” … “Those who are still out of context and do not realize that they are at the Enrique Jose Varona University of Pedagogical Sciences, which responds to the Ministry of Higher Education of Cuba, should go and inform themselves, search, clarify, review accordingly. Try to do the things that correspond to you as students. If you do not agree, then simply leave, informing them that they are not going to do it because of this, or this and that. And then you will have your consequences. This is not a threat. This is not extortion. This is not a negative thing to make you feel bad. Or that this is done in a bad way because I’m tired too. I just came out of a diploma defense exhibition, a professional defense exercises and I would also have preferred to be resting at home. But I have to do it because it is what is appropriate and what is indicated. OK? They evaluate me as a professor, they pay me as a professor, and they evaluate you as students. OK? So let’s all think and position ourselves with tranquility, peace, and harmony so that things go well.”

Attending state-mandated demonstrations and marches is a required action that is factored into the evaluation of an employee at their work place or as a student at their educational institution. The dictatorship’s engagement in the present conflict between Israel and Hamas, however, extends beyond pro-Hamas marches and anti-Israel propaganda.

Ambassador Otto J. Reich’s article published in the Jewish Policy Center on November 16, 2023 titled “Jihad: Cuba’s Role” briefly explored the current relationship between Havana and Middle Eastern terrorist groups and states.

For more than one year, Iran secretly provided the weapons and training that Hamas needed for planning the October 7th attack against Israel. In the meantime, senior representatives of Iran and Hamas fostered an international diplomatic offensive with their allies.  Communist Cuba, another US-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism, was a key Iran-Hamas ally in this effort. Some planning meetings took place this year with senior Cuban officials, both in the Middle East and in Cuba.  In one, Iran’s Foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, visited Cuba and met with President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Feb. 5th.  They discussed “issues of mutual interest and international topics,” according to a statement from the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Then, on Feb. 25th, a Hamas delegation publicly visited Jorge León Cruz, the Cuban Ambassador in Lebanon. In that meeting, Ambassador León Cruz recognized “the legitimate right of the Palestinians to defend their land,” adding that the Palestinians “are fighting for a just cause.”  Raising the Iranian profile, a few months later, on June 15th, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi publicly met with his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Diaz-Canel, in Havana. Those three high-level meetings showed the close relations that exists between Hamas, its chief patron, Iran, and Cuba’s communist regime. Cuba’s dictatorship has a long history of both antisemitism and support of extremist terrorist organizations in the Middle East, where it has operated terrorist training camps in secret locations, as well as on the Caribbean island. Moreover, Cuba has allowed the terrorist organization Hezbollah, also backed by Iran, to establish “an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attack throughout Latin America,” according to emails leaked from then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. According to US reports, Cuba has provided key intelligence to Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, to conduct terrorist attacks.

This hostility towards Israel by the Castro regime began in the early 1960s with Havana providing training and support to Middle East terrorist groups, and the dictatorship in Havana echoing the Soviet active-measures campaign Operation SIG designed to sow worldwide disapproval for the U.S. and Israel.

SIG is the Russian acronym for Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, or “Jewish (or Zionist) Government.” This involved Soviet propaganda and military support on behalf of terrorist groups declaring Israel their enemy.

Soviet flag flies at Pro-Hamas rally in Havana on 11/23/23 with a sign that reads “It is not a war it is a genocide”

This included increasing anti-Israel sentiment by disseminating anti-Zionist propaganda and using anti-Semitic tropes from Western culture. CFC executive director John Suarez’s article “Cuba’s dictatorship has a serious problem with Jews” published in The Hill on October 25, 2023 reviews part of this history.

From 1959 through 1973, Havana maintained diplomatic relations with Israel while supporting terrorism against Israelis. Castro hailed the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1965 and established ties with the Palestinian Fatah in Algiers and Damascus. Castro introduced PLO members at the Tri-Continental Conference in Havana in January 1966. This conference backed revolutionary and terrorist organizations across Europe, the Americas, and Asia with the objective of changing the world order in an authoritarian direction.

In 1973, Havana escalated its anti-Israel campaign, sending thousands of troops to the Middle East in an attempt to eliminate the world’s sole Jewish state.

“Castro severed diplomatic ties with Israel on September 10, 1973, just days before the Yom Kippur War began. During that war, 3,000 Cuban soldiers participated in the attack on Israel, alongside forces from Egypt and Syria, and expeditionary forces from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco, and North Korea. The publication Noticias de Israel provided an in-depth description of the role played by Cuba in this war. Havana conducted a secret operation to send military support to Syria. A tank brigade, helicopter pilots, communications agents, and intelligence and counterintelligence officers took part. The brigade was under General Leopoldo Cintra Frías’s command.  Soldiers left Cuba bound for Syria, dressed in civilian clothes, with forged passports identifying them as university students. Soviet military equipment, including T-62 tanks and SAM rocket artillery, were provided to them. In all, 3,000 Cubans took part in the war. Cuban tank crews fought alongside Syrian troops in their war of aggression. According to Foreign Report, 180 Cubans were killed and 250 were injured in that conflict. The surprise factor resulted in significant losses for Israel, both in lives and military equipment. Civilian areas were also hit, with 2,800 Israelis killed and 8,800 wounded.” 

The tactics utilized by Havana in 1973, of dressing soldiers in civilian clothing and using fraudulent passports to pass them off as civilians, appear to be duplicated today in Ukraine with Moscow’s vast recruitment of “Cuban mercenaries” to fight in their illegal war.

The Times of Israel, November 24, 2023

Cuban president leads pro-Palestinian march in front of US embassy in Havana

Some 100,000 people said to participate in anti-Israel rally, including Palestinian medical students studying in Latin American nation

By Agencies and ToI Staff 24 November 2023, 8:51 am

Thousands of people led by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel marched along Havana’s iconic boardwalk Thursday in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people and demanding an end to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Wearing a black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh, Díaz-Canel was accompanied by Cuba’s main leaders, including Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.

The marchers walked for two kilometers (1.2 miles), passing in front of the US Embassy. As they passed the embassy on the seaside avenue, some yelled “fascist Yankees, you are terrorists.”

Palestinian medical students who were in Cuba as part of a cooperation program joined the rally.

“Today we are supporting the Palestinian people, supporting all those people who feel the pain of having lost a family member, a loved one due to this massacre,” said Yanquiel Cardoso, a physical culture specialist who participated. “We are asking for a ceasefire… and for Palestine to be free.”

Many young people had posters with the phrase “Free Palestine” with crude photographs of children injured by bombs or flags identifying both Cubans and Palestinians.

Others picked up chants of “free, free Palestine, Israel is genocide” and “up with Palestinian freedom,” Reuters reported.

“This march means a lot to us,” said Sami Sabala, a 26-year-old Palestinian medical student in Havana. “It raises feelings … And it makes people feel that Palestine is not alone.”

The Interior Ministry said on X, formerly Twitter, that 100,000 people took part in the hour-long march, convened by associations of youth groups in the communist-run nation.

Israel’s war with the ruling Gaza terror group began on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the border with Israel, unleashing the deadliest attack in the country’s history.

At least 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel, most of them civilians, and some 240 were taken hostage. Entire families were slaughtered in their homes, and over 360 people were mowed down at an outdoor music festival.

In response, Israel vowed to topple Hamas’s 15-year rule in Gaza and return the hostages, and launched an aerial offensive and subsequent ground campaign to meet those goals.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that more than 14,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of war. However, the death toll cannot be independently verified.

This is the second time that Cuba’s top leaders have participated in solidarity rallies since the war began. Last week, the Palestinian flag was projected on the monument to José Martí, the most iconic in the Caribbean capital.

The rare march was the first of its kind in about a decade, as the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro was known to stage similar demonstrations to protest the US before his death in 2016.

Communist-run Cuba has been a longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause and hasn’t had diplomatic ties with Israel since 1973.

Prior to the war, Cuba was one of just two Latin American nations without ties to Israel, Venezuela being the other after it ended its relationship in 2009.

But since October 7, several other Latin American countries have joined Cuba, severing or downgrading their diplomatic ties with Israel.

On November 14, the Central American country of Belize announced that it would be suspending diplomatic ties with Israel, citing “unceasing indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza as its reason for doing so.

Two weeks prior, on November 1, Bolivia broke off relations with Israel after restoring them just three years earlier and accused the country of “carrying out crimes against humanity.”

At the same time, Chile, Colombia and Honduras have all recalled their ambassadors.

In contrast, Argentinian president-elect Javier Milei is a vocal backer of Israel and has vociferously condemned Hamas’s October 7 terror attack. In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, he cited an Argentine rabbi as his spiritual guide and said he’d move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/cuban-president-leads-pro-palestinian-march-in-front-of-us-embassy-in-havana/

Jewish Policy Center, November 16, 2023

Jihad: Cuba’s Role

Ambassador Otto Reich • November 16, 2023

For more than one year, Iran secretly provided the weapons and training that Hamas needed for planning the October 7th attack against Israel. In the meantime, senior representatives of Iran and Hamas fostered an international diplomatic offensive with their allies.  Communist Cuba, another US-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism, was a key Iran-Hamas ally in this effort.

Some planning meetings took place this year with senior Cuban officials, both in the Middle East and in Cuba.  In one, Iran’s Foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, visited Cuba and met with President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Feb. 5th.  They discussed “issues of mutual interest and international topics,” according to a statement from the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Then, on Feb. 25th, a Hamas delegation publicly visited Jorge León Cruz, the Cuban Ambassador in Lebanon. In that meeting, Ambassador León Cruz recognized “the legitimate right of the Palestinians to defend their land,” adding that the Palestinians “are fighting for a just cause.”  Raising the Iranian profile, a few months later, on June 15th, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi publicly met with his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Diaz-Canel, in Havana.

Those three high-level meetings showed the close relations that exists between Hamas, its chief patron, Iran, and Cuba’s communist regime. Cuba’s dictatorship has a long history of both antisemitism and support of extremist terrorist organizations in the Middle East, where it has operated terrorist training camps in secret locations, as well as on the Caribbean island.

Moreover, Cuba has allowed the terrorist organization Hezbollah, also backed by Iran, to establish “an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attack throughout Latin America,” according to emails leaked from then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

According to US reports, Cuba has provided key intelligence to Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, to conduct terrorist attacks.

Not surprisingly, in 1982, during the Reagan administration, the US put Cuba on the Department of State’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) for its ties to international terrorism and for supporting the Colombian guerrilla group M-19 and its drug trafficking operation to finance political violence in the Western hemisphere. The Castro regime protected leaders of another Colombian terrorist organization, the ELN, that was responsible for the 2019 bombing of a Bogotá police academy that killed 22 persons and injured 87 others. Havana repeatedly refused to extradite the ELN leaders back to Colombia, as requested by Bogota.

President Barack Obama took Cuba off the State Department’s list in 2015 as part of his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. But even while it was off the list, Havana never stopped supporting terrorist groups. As a result, the Trump administration put Cuba back on the SSOT because of its continued support of terrorism worldwide.

The Castro regime has actively promoted antisemitic propaganda and demonized Israel. The Díaz-Canel government rejects Israel’s efforts to defend itself from Hamas terrorism. To date, Havana refuses to condemn the deadly Hamas attacks of October 7th that resulted in more than 1,400 deaths in Israel, and over 200 individuals kidnapped.

Instead, Cuba describes the massacre as “a consequence of Israel’s 75 years of permanent violation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.” A classic example of blaming the victims for the atrocities visited upon them.

Cuba continues demonizing Israel and protecting its ally Hamas, an entity that is considered by the U.S. as one of the most violent and dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.

Otto J. Reich is a former US Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, US Ambassador to Venezuela, and currently President of the Center for a Free Cuba. 

https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2023/11/16/jihad-cubas-role

The Hill, October 25, 2023

Cuba’s dictatorship has a serious problem with Jews

by John Suarez

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, left, and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi walk past the honor guard during a state visit in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, June 15, 2023.

On Oct. 7 Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,300 Israelis, wounding over 3,360, and launching over 6,300 rockets. Hamas raiders entered Israel, murdering, raping, and kidnapping civilians.

In a formal statement released that same day, the Cuban Foreign Ministry blamed Israel and its “accomplice,” the U.S., for the violence. In so doing, it continues to spread a false narrative that originates in Soviet-era anti-Israel propaganda.

Cuban officials have been meeting over the last year with high-ranking officials from Iran and Hamas. Iran’s Foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian visited Cuba and met with Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel on Feb. 5 “for talks on issues of mutual interest and international topics,” according to a statement from the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Feb. 25, Middle East Monitor reported that a Hamas delegation publicly visited the Cuban Ambassador in Lebanon. In that meeting, Ambassador Jorge Leon Cruz recognized “the legitimate right of the Palestinians to defend their land….The Palestinians are fighting for a just cause.”

On June 15, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi publicly met with his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Diaz-Canel, in Havana.

In short, both the terrorist group Hamas and its chief patron, Iran, have close relations with Cuba’s communist regime. The Cuban dictatorship aids terrorists in the Middle East, allows Hezbollah to maintain a base in Cuba, and provides intelligence to Hamas

The Cuban dictatorship also has a history of domestic antisemitism. Cuban officials in 2019 barred Jewish children from wearing kippahs in school. Fidel Castro in 1994 prohibited the importation of kosher meat into Cuba, despite allowing Halal food, which complies with Islamic dietary laws. Castro supported the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism and opposed its repeal in 1991.  

From 1959 through 1973, Havana maintained diplomatic relations with Israel while supporting terrorism against Israelis. Castro hailed the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1965 and established ties with the Palestinian Fatah in Algiers and Damascus. Castro introduced PLO members at the Tri-Continental Conference in Havana in January 1966. This conference backed revolutionary and terrorist organizations across Europe, the Americas, and Asia with the objective of changing the world order in an authoritarian direction.

The Soviet Union assisted the Arab states in the run-up to the Six Days War in 1967. In the aftermath of their defeat, the Soviets initiated an active-measures campaign that proved effective in creating a false narrative harmful to Israel and the U.S. Eli Cohen and Elizabeth Boyd explained one part of this campaign in a must-read 2019 paper, titled “The KGB and anti-Israel propaganda operations.”

Operation SIG was a KGB active measure designed to sow worldwide disapproval for the U.S. and Israel. SIG is the Russian acronym for Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, or “Jewish (or Zionist) Government.” This involved Soviet propaganda and military support on behalf of terrorist groups declaring Israel their enemy. This included increasing anti-Israel sentiment by disseminating anti-Zionist propaganda and using anti-Semitic tropes from Western culture.

This narrative is the one that the dictatorship in Havana continues to repeat right up to the present day.

Fidel Castro, for example, compared Israel to Nazi Germany on October 15, 1979. “From the bottom of our heart, we repudiated the merciless persecution and genocide that the Nazis once visited on the Jews,” he said. “But there is nothing in recent history that parallels it more than the dispossession, persecution and genocide that imperialism and Zionism are currently practicing against the Palestinian people.”

In 2014, Castro called Israeli efforts to defend themselves from Hamas terrorism “a repugnant new form of fascism,” and a “macabre genocide against the Palestinian people.” 

The Cuban dictatorship’s hostility to Israel was not limited to rhetoric and its assistance to terrorists. Cuba also involved itself in direct military action.

Castro severed diplomatic ties with Israel on September 10, 1973, just days before the Yom Kippur War began. During that war, 3,000 Cuban soldiers participated in the attack on Israel, alongside forces from Egypt and Syria, and expeditionary forces from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco, and North Korea.

The publication Noticias de Israel provided an in-depth description of the role played by Cuba in this war. Havana conducted a secret operation to send military support to Syria. A tank brigade, helicopter pilots, communications agents, and intelligence and counterintelligence officers took part. The brigade was under General Leopoldo Cintra Frías’s command. 

Soldiers left Cuba bound for Syria, dressed in civilian clothes, with forged passports identifying them as university students. Soviet military equipment, including T-62 tanks and SAM rocket artillery, were provided to them. In all, 3,000 Cubans took part in the war. Cuban tank crews fought alongside Syrian troops in their war of aggression.

According to Foreign Report, 180 Cubans were killed and 250 were injured in that conflict. The surprise factor resulted in significant losses for Israel, both in lives and military equipment. Civilian areas were also hit, with 2,800 Israelis killed and 8,800 wounded. 

In short, the Castro regime has spent decades seeking the destruction of Israel, in both its rhetoric and its actions. Cuban officials have also discriminated against Cuban Jews, and spread anti-semitic tropes.

Havana has had and continues to have a problem with Jewish people.

John Suarez is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, and a human rights activist.

https://thehill.com/opinion/international/4270996-cubas-dictatorship-has-a-serious-problem-with-jews/