Friday, January 2, 2015

Will Cuba Ever Recognize Israel?

The Cold War

Sometimes enemies become friends, or at least no longer enemies. It has been astutely said that nations do not become friends, but form alliances. It can also be said that much depends on the relationship between leaders of nations; there is a greater chance of enemies becoming non-enemies if the leaders themselves are not hostile to the idea. Now that the United States and Cuba have decided to recognize each other diplomatically, Prof. George Jochnowitz raises the question of whether Cuba can do the same with Israel: “The country that might benefit the most if Cuba recognized Israel would be the United States. Among the reasons that so many leftists hate America is that they consider it a tool of Israel. If an admired leftist country like Cuba changed its policies and accepted Israel’s existence, the United States would be less isolated when it comes to supporting Israel.”

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by George Jochnowitz

Cuba and the United States have been enemies for a long time. Now they have recognized each other. Contractor Alan Gross has been freed. The Cold War is pretty much over, although North Korea remains America’s foe, as we are learning from the reaction to a film that SONY was planning to release.

In 1956, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR joined forces to undo the victory that Israel, with the aid of Great Britain and France, achieved along the Suez Canal. Things began to change when John Kennedy became president, and things improved further under Lyndon Johnson. During the Six-Day War in 1967, America was on Israel’s side. The Communist bloc had pretty much joined the world of Islam at the time of the Bandung Conference, which took place in Indonesia in 1955.

The USSR recognized Israel officially in 1991, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. China did so in 1992. On the other hand, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea remain totally opposed to Israel’s existence.

In September 2010, Fidel Castro made a remarkable statement in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.Castro said that Israel had the right to exist as a Jewish state. Despite the fact that Fidel Castro had ceded power to his brother Raul, he remained, and remains, one of the most honored leftist leaders in the world. Mysteriously, the interview never gained much attention. Cuba officially remained Israel’s enemy.

If the Cold War between Cuba and the U.S. has ended, isn’t it time for Cuba to recognize Israel? One would especially think this should be the case in light of the 2010 interview in The Atlantic. If Cuba did so, Venezuela might reconsider its hostility to Israel. Under Hugo Chavez, Venezuela was actively anti-Israel. Chavez and former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited each other frequently. Chavez expressed support for Iran’s nuclear program. Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, has not changed Venezuela’s policies concerning Iran, but has sounded less strident. What would happen if he recognized Israel?

The country that might benefit the most if Cuba recognized Israel would be the United States. Among the reasons that so many leftists hate America is that they consider it a tool of Israel. If an admired leftist country like Cuba changed its policies and accepted Israel’s existence, the United States would be less isolated when it comes to supporting Israel.

Would Iran change its policies? That is something of a possibility. President Rouhani is less strident than Ahmadinejad, his predecessor – though the true power lies in the hands of the Ayatollah. Iran has been suffering from sanctions that have been imposed because of its nuclear efforts. Maybe Rouhani could follow Cuba’s lead. Maybe.

The world would become a safer place if Cuba recognized Israel. Will it happen? I’m not holding my breath.

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2015. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This essay originally appeared in Arutz Sheva (December 19, 2014) and the algemeiner (December 25, 2014). It is republished here with the author's permission.

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