CubaBrief: Terrorists continue to gather in Cuba, some advocating the end of Israel, but not under the provocative name of the Tricontinental

Cuban spy Gerardo Hernandez and Watam Jamil Alabed of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

This picture of Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo and Watam Jamil Alabed taken in May 2022 is evidence of the failure of U.S. policy, and its war against terrorism. Cuba’s communist dictatorship has been waging a war for over six decades against democracies, that too many in Washington, Europe, and Latin America have ignored at their own peril, it includes as a strategic component the use of terrorism.

It is important to revisit who is Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo.

President Obama freed three Cuban spies on December 17, 2014, including Gerardo Hernandez, then serving two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to murder four Brothers to the Rescue members in return for aid worker Alan Gross, who was abducted by Havana in 2009, and an unidentified Cuban double agent.

Hernandez led a Cuban spy network in South Florida that gathered personal information on American military personnel, “compiling the names, home addresses, and medical files of the top officers of the United States Southern Command as well as hundreds of officers stationed at Boca Chica Naval Station in Key West.” The spies had received orders from Havana to burn down an airport hangar, sabotage planes, to first terrorize with warnings that he was “nearing execution,” and then send a mail bomb to murder a CIA operative identified as Jesus Cruza Flor who lived in Bal Harbour. Hernandez provided information to Havana that facilitated the act of state terrorism that destroyed two Brothers to the Rescue planes on February 24, 1996, killing four civilians.

More about the young man accompanying Mr. Hernandez Nordelo further down, but first some historical context.

The Castro regime welcomed the founding of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and made first contacts with the Palestinian FATAH in 1965 in Algiers and Damascus. Palestinians were present at the first gathering of the Tricontinental. The communist dictatorship in Cuba continues to host events where Middle Eastern terrorists appear. Unlike the first Tricontinental Conference held in Havana from January 3rd to January 16,1966, which was attended by revolutionary leaders from around the world with a focus on Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas, today they have less provocative titles.

ADN Cuba broke the story on February 14, 2024 while the meeting was still underway in Havana.

Under the name of “II International Meeting of Theoretical Publications of Left Parties and Movements,” representatives of parties and movements of the radical left from 35 nations met in Havana between February 12th through February 14, 2024, after the call of the Cuban dictatorship, with the purpose of “ articulate the nuclei of resistance in a common, counter-hegemonic cultural and communication front,” according to Granma, the regime’s main propaganda organ. … Among the attendees was Watam Jamil Alabed, whom Granma identifies as a “young Palestinian doctor,” but who actually studied in Cuba and is a representative in Gaza of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an organization considered terrorist by the United States State Department since 1997 and is responsible for plane hijackings and assassinations, such as that of Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Rehavam Zeevi.

Although Watam Jamil Alabed is portrayed by Havana as a young Palestinian doctor  who studied in Cuba, his own statement made on May 2, 2022 in Havana at the the “International Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba” offers a better understanding of the education the Cuban dictatorship is providing youth who study in Cuba.

“Thanks to Cuba we learn to not just be doctors; but to give this doctor a surname to follow Che’s example in his revolutionary, warrior and internationalist character. … Today we reiterate our position with just causes, with Cuba, with Venezuela, with Nicaragua, Sahara, our right to resistance with all permitted methods and by all means and that we learned from the commander in chief Fidel Castro, guerrilla struggle and armed resistance will continue until the Zionist prisons are emptied of Palestinian prisoners, and all of Palestine down to the last grain of sand is liberated to have a democratic and socialist Palestine.”

This is not an over statement, Havana under the Castro regime, has trained and provided logistical support to Palestinian guerrillas and terrorists beginning in the early 1960s, and continues to do so to the present day.

Watam Jamil Alabed with arms raised in May 2022 under a portrait of the Castro brothers and Diaz-Canel

In addition to the Anti-Zionism behind the call to eliminate Israel, thousands of Cuban troops invading Israel in 1973 in an effort to destroy the Jewish State and replace it with a communist Palestine, the Castro regime has also engaged in anti-Semitism against Cuban Jews, and is promoting anti-Semitic tropes globally.

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.

On November 23, 2023 the Cuban dictatorship organized a coerced march for Palestine with a map replacing Israel with a Palestinian flag.

The Hill, October 25, 2023

Cuba’s dictatorship has a serious problem with Jews

by John Suarez

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.