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Can we all agree that there are better places to spend your vacation dollars? I hear Eilat and the Dead Sea are lovely this time of year.

For Canadians, it’s that time of year again.  Install the winter tires, dig out the cardigans from the back of your closet, buy a cord of wood for the fireplace, and most importantly, plan your southern beach getaway so winter doesn’t seem quite as long (a mid-winter holiday can make those 10 months of winter just fly by).

But before you visit trivago.com, may I humbly suggest to my fellow Jews and to non-Jews favourably disposed towards Israel that they erase one potential destination from their list : Cuba.

Even before Fidel Castro seized power, Cuba was no friend of Israel.  Cuba was actually one of the few countries to vote against the U.N. partition plan creating the State of Israel and the Castro era began with the government seizing the homes and assets of the 12,000 Cuban Jews (not that Jews were alone in being victimized in this manner) living on the island.  Castro was also happy to see Jews leave Cuba which is why there are only a few hundred Jews remaining.

The Cuban government hostility to Jews and Israel accelerated in the early 1960s when Castro accused Israel of “Gaza genocide”.  He encouraged frequent pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel street demonstrations and sent medical supplies and staff to Gaza and Lebanon to assist Palestinian terrorists.  Castro’s reaction to Israel’s triumph in the Six Day War?  He condemned Israel’s “… armed aggression … in the Nazi manner.”

In the 70s, Cuba continued to arm and train terrorists in Gaza and Syria and Cuban troops fought alongside the Syrians in the Yom Kippur War.  When Israel managed to prevail in that conflict, Cuba’s response was to sever relations with Israel.

In 1976, when Israeli commandos freed Jewish and Israeli hostages in Entebbe, Cuba called the Israeli operation a “criminal violation of Uganda’s sovereignty.”

Cuba was also one of the loudest voices at the U.N. behind the abominable declaration that “Zionism is Racism.”

It is a different Cuba today than was the case 40 years ago, but the hostility to Israel remains every bit as prevalent if perhaps a bit more muted.  Cuba is still one of Israel’s most intractable foes in the United Nations and it continues to support terrorists in the Middle East (not to mention Venezuela and other hot spots).

For these reasons alone, any Jew who cares even a miniscule amount about Israel should be boycotting Cuba.  But there is another equally important reason why any sane, freedom-loving person should avoid Cuba and that is the complete absence of freedom and human rights in that country.  Thousands have been imprisoned and tortured for daring to speak out against the Castros and their thugs, there are restrictions on expression, most websites are blocked, workers have no right to voice any displeasure with their abysmal working conditions and Cubans are not free to travel outside the island.

And as much as visitors blinded by the Cuban government’s propaganda want to believe it, the Cuban people do not enjoy the finest health system in the world.  It is a remarkably efficient system for foreigners who pay in hard currency and it also functions well for the Cuban elite (politicians, military officers, preferred artists, etc.) but the average Cuban has to deal with an infrastructure that is crumbling and lacking even the most basic supplies (Cubans have to bring their own bedding, towels and soap when they are hospitalized).

So, can we all agree that there are better places to spend your vacation dollars? I hear Eilat and the Dead Sea are lovely this time of year.

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Article by Henry Roth

Henry Roth was born in Haifa and immigrated to Canada in the early 1950s. The son of Romanian Holocaust survivors, he has been married to Brenda for 43 years, is the father of two sons, Marc and David, the happy grandfather of Nicolas and a proud and loud Zionist.