19 September 2010

Cuba: Castro and the Jews

NPR has a transcript of a September 14 program lending some insight on Fidel Castro's views of Jewish history.

Numerous scholars have written about Castro's likely Jewish heritage. The name is a documented Sephardic surname. His remarks, according to this transcript, are interesting.

In August, the former Cuban leader invited Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg to Havana to discuss an article he wrote. Goldberg invited Julia Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow, to join him. She shares details on the talk with Castro on the NPR program.

In one section she mentions that Castro's talk with Iranian president Ahmed Ahmadinejad.

Ms. SWEIG: ...was Fidel's insistence that Ahmadinejad respect Jewish history, respect the Holocaust, respect the state of Israel, and that that clarity with which Fidel communicated that to Goldberg for Ahmadinejad and Iran to hear was really quite important given the stakes and given the concern in the Middle East. And given, I would say, the standing that Fidel Castro has in the non-aligned movement and for, potentially - I hope at least - those listening in Iran.

CONAN: And it was interesting that he was pointing out to the Iranian president that, yes, Muslims have had it hard being disrespected by the West, but Jews have had it harder.

Ms. SWEIG: Yes, it was very interesting. I mean, you know, he was - there was no pause when Fidel was expressing his view of Jewish history and also his interest in the Inquisition which, of course, Bibi Netanyahu's father is a great scholar of, as Jeff Goldberg's article explains, it was very clear that there was great sort of sympatico for Jewish history, for the state of Israel from Fidel. And he made a point of talking about, as Jeff writes, the kind of environment and the Catholic education he received of anti-Semitism in Cuba when he was a small boy. And he expressed a kind of outrage at the ignorance that that reflected of his own society.
Read the entire transcript at the link above.

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