Freeing Alan Gross: First Do No Harm


templo beth shalom.jpg
Templo Beth-Shalom in Havana, Cuba (Photo credit: Anya Landau French)
This post originally appeared at The Havana Note. An earlier version, “In Cuba, a Hostage of International Brinksmanship,” appeared in today’s Jewish Daily Forward, the online home of the weekly Forward. Arturo Lopez-Levy is a lecturer and doctoral candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. Mr. Lopez-Levy worked as analyst for the Cuban government between 1993 and 1994 when he resigned from his post. Between 1999 and 2001, Lopez-Levy was secretary of the Bnai Brith in the Cuban Jewish Community.
Alan Gross, a Jew, an American, a U.S. AID contractor, has sat in a Cuban prison for more than eight months. Jews, whose entire history is bound together by stories of exile and return, captivity and freedom, mourn his confinement and long for his release. Cubans who have been weary bystanders for decades in the games of brinkmanship between their government and ours know a political pawn when they see one. Concerned policy makers in Washington have now taken a hostage of their own; some have made their votes on legislation to end America’s failed and feckless ban on travel to Cuba contingent on Gross’s release. None of this is likely to shorten his hard experience living under the “hospitality” of Cuba’s government.
Why is Gross in prison? While the U.S. has intervened in Cuba to control its government or shape its system for more than a century, this story has more recent roots. The Bush administration produced two reports in May 2004 and July 2006 about how to “liberate” Cuba. The reports recommended a package of irresponsible measures to move the moderate and independent activities of Cuban civil society toward the regime change strategy envisioned by Section 109 of the Helms-Burton law. The U.S Congress approved an annual budget of tens of millions to use U.S agency for International Development contracts for this purpose – an approach that has continued under the Obama Administration.

Most sympathies among Cubans on the island for Alan Gross are based on the idea that he is a victim of a policy promoted by hardliners in the exile community – which profit from hostility between the two countries. Gross was not arrested because he is Jewish, nor is it likely that he was detained because of his alleged activities in helping the Cuban Jewish community with technology, which already had a computer lab, e-mail and access to Internet before he arrived to Havana on his several visits. As a recipient of one of these U.S. AID contracts, Alan Gross was perceived by Cuba’s government as a participant in the asymmetric political war between the U.S and Cuba; a promoter of regime change caught in enemy territory.
On my recent trip to the island, in conversations with many of my brothers and sisters in the Jewish communities, including some of the leaders, they expressed a hope to see Gross released as soon as possible but did not refrain from rejecting the so-called “Democracy Programs.” These programs are not invigorating but jeopardizing the development of Cuban civil society by forcing a regime change agenda on religious groups without their consent.
Jews in Cuba- like other religious groups – congregate in their community centers to pray and study the Torah, and to enjoy the benefits of a community pharmacy, a sports center, an ORT computer lab, learn about their beloved state of Israel, etc. What they don’t do is gather in the synagogue to conspire with the political opposition, because that would jeopardize the cooperation with the government that is necessary for activities such as the emigration to Israel program, the Birth right project, by which young Cuban Jews travel to Israel every year, or to process humanitarian aid. To protect what matters most, they keep themselves as far as possible from misconceived U.S political interventions in Cuba’s internal affairs.
Secretary Clinton’s appeal to American Jewry to rally for the release of Alan Gross must be welcomed, but some clarifications are necessary. Gross went to Cuba not working for any Jewish organization but for the USAID. The last thing Alan Gross needs is to become another tool in the arsenal of those promoting the U.S policy that brought him to his captivity. A good help to Gross’s release would be to make a serious revision of the programs under which he was sent to Cuba and create clear regulations by which the informed consent of any Cuban civil society organization involved would be requested.
The cause of Gross’ release will be advanced not by more hostility but by reaffirming American Jews’ support for ending the travel ban, so that any American may freely travel to Cuba through the front door, rather than on a risky semi-covert government-funded mission. The travel ban is the cornerstone of an interventionist regime change strategy. Thus, any attempt by Congress to condition the end of the travel ban on Alan Gross’ release would only hurt both causes.
Ending the travel ban would make easier for Jews and other Americans to go to the island and mobilize a compassionate constituency there in favor of Gross’s release without carrying the stigma of any identification with the unpopular and counterproductive regime change strategy. Ending the travel ban would also liberate U.S soft power enabling Americans to flood Cuba with information and their good spirit, and offer a stark contrast to the restrictions which Cuba’s government places on its own citizens while exposing the futility of the U.S. regime change policy in Cuba.
A freedom-based policy would best serve the national interests and the democratic values of the United States. It will create a climate most conducive to Alan Gross’s release.
— Arturo Lopez-Levy


14 comments on “Freeing Alan Gross: First Do No Harm

  1. CJ Wright says:

    Please see and read attached link.


  2. M Fernandez says:

    To Samuel,
    In the following link you can find all the “Reflexions of Fidel” in English language, with some delay due to the traslation process.


  3. samuelburke says:

    “According to the article, Castro “devours” books and reads up to
    300 news articles a day.
    When asked why all this activity, he replied: “I don’t want to be
    absent in these days. The world is in its most interesting and
    dangerous phase of existence and I am committed to what is going
    to happen. I still have things to do.”
    Castro said he wants to form an anti-war movement to deter a
    nuclear standoff.”
    from a cnn article.


  4. samuelburke says:

    i tried to get the translation but found none.
    it seems that Fidels guess is that Iran will not allow the u.s nor
    their tail to inspect their ships on the high seas without taking
    “Agosto 28:


  5. samuelburke says:

    Hell even Fidel Castro is weighing in on Iran and what Pres Obama
    can do. He seems to have come out of retirement jus to do this.
    who is trying to steer Pres Obama into attacking Iran?
    what entity precisely?
    maybe FIdel can tell us.
    stay tuned as the battle lines are drawn.


  6. samuelburke says:

    “In the old days, journalists were bought off to ignore them.
    They now do it willingly and reflexively, knowing the
    consequences otherwise, the Israeli Lobby’s power to remove
    unfriendly voices – from Congress, academia and the media.
    Demanded is that Israel be portrayed as peaceful, never
    aggressive, surrounded, beleaguered, and victimized, acting
    solely in self-defense. In contrast, Palestinians are called militant
    terrorist threats to Israeli security, its propaganda machine
    relentless in pounding that message, the Senate’s investigation
    failing to expose and halt it.
    As a result, it’s more virulent and pervasive than ever, what no
    congressional committee will touch, what no major media report
    will reveal. Israel’s power in America suppresses everything
    unfavorable, willing fourth estate stooges going along, or else.”
    The Israeli Lobby: Declassified Documents Expose Its Influence


  7. samuelburke says:

    phil giraldi tells the tale of our friends in the middle east.
    Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi discusses recent Mossad
    intelligence operations in America based out of the Israel mission to
    the U.N. in New York , the one-way street intelligence sharing
    between the CIA and Israel, why FBI and DOJ espionage
    investigations never go anywhere and the evidence that Israeli
    agents in America had foreknowledge of 9/11.


  8. Cee says:

    I second what Samuel said.
    I hope new visitors don’t carry pests with them
    In the spring and summer of 1981, Cuba experienced a severe hemorrhagic dengue fever epidemic. Between May and October 1981, the island nation had 158 dengue-related deaths with about 75,000 reported infection cases. Prior to this outbreak, Cuba had reported only a very small number of cases in 1944 and 1977. At the height of the epidemic, over 10,000 people per day were found infected and 116,150 were hospitalized. At the same time as the 1981 outbreak, covert biological warfare attacks on Cuba


  9. Carroll says:

    Posted by samuelburke, Aug 26 2010, 7:25PM – Link
    Probably so many hydras they don’t even all know each other.


  10. samuelburke says:

    nice job carroll.
    is the u.s a multi headed hydra?


  11. Carroll says:

    Levey says….
    “Gross went to Cuba not working for any Jewish organization but for the USAID.”
    Let’s look at the actual story and see if we can figure this out.
    First, Gross was arrested for “falsifying” his visa application to get a tourist visa” to Cuba and didn’t register as an employee or agent of a US agency. And because he brought in or either picked up Satellite phones in Cuba and then passed them out to Jews in Cuba.
    The questions are:
    1)Did he secure a tourist visa on his own as Jewish activist or on behalf of some jewish org on a mission to deliver Satellite phones to Cuban Jews?
    2)Or did the US or AID send him to Cuba to deliver satellite phones to Jews only in Cuba? And if this is the case why would a US agency send him “undercover” to deliver the phones to ‘only’ Jews?
    3) Or was Gross on a undercover mission for AID and ‘took it upon himself’ to add giving satellite phones to Jews to his activities? It seems unlikely he did that on his own since I doubt he would have been able to afford satelilite phones at $2000 to $5000 each by himself or smuggle them thru Cuban customs x ray.
    So,if Gross was acting as a Jewish activist toss it over to the Jew’s own organizations to negotiate and leave the US out of it. If he was on a real “US” mission then it is really a US headache but still leaves the question of whether giving satellite phones to Jews only was or was not part of his official US mission.
    Also according to what I read Cuba does not allow satellite phones for a variety of security reasons, one being they by pass other phone signals and can be used to call in coordinates for air strikes.
    But bottom line is, the US has 5 Cubans in prison right now for failing to register as employees of the Cuban government on their US visa applications. And these Cubans hadn’t even yet done anything, like pass out contraband phones when they were arrested.
    I would advise Cuba to hold onto Gross until they get the US to release those 5 Cubans from our own prisons.
    And if, as Levy suggested might be in the wind, Schumer and the other congressional zionist want to screw up any changing of US policy on Cuba over Gross, well then just chalk up another example of ‘a vote against Bolton is a vote against Israel.”


  12. samuelburke says:

    maybe he was in cuba preparing for an election in the future where
    twitts on twitter with their usaid provided phones would tweet out
    heroic versions of rebellion on the streets of habana.


  13. JohnH says:

    Funny that Lopez-Levy’s article makes no mention of the Cuban Five, Cubans who were in the US to prevent terrorism in Cuba. They were detained and have spent more than a decade in jail, even though “the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions declared that the deprivation of liberty of the five men was arbitrary and urged the U.S. government to take steps to remedy the situation.”
    Maybe American Jewry, instead of simply looking out for their own, should look out for the human rights of all those illegally detained.


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