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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1994, Page 45

People Watch

Pollard Mentor Rafael Eitan Turns Up in Castro's Cuba

Rafael Eitan, a Mossad official who was forced to step down after the U.S. accused him of approving the recruitment of U.S. Navy counter-intelligence specialist Jonathan Pollard to spy on the U.S. for Israel, now heads a major Israeli citrus project in Cuba. Part of an influx of Israelis who are helping the government of Fidel Castro find its economic footing after the loss of Soviet aid and despite the U.S.-led economic embargo of Cuba, Eitan runs a project of the Tel Aviv-based BM Corporation. It includes a packing house and a 5,000-acre citrus plantation, the largest in the world under single management. Although the BM project, which employs 20 Israelis and thousands of Cubans in Matanzas Province 80 miles east of Havana, is a joint venture with the Cuban government, Cuban government spokesmen refuse to acknowledge its existence. According to the Orlando Sentinel, this is to avoid offending such major past and present Cuban-sugar-importing nations as Iran, Iraq, and Algeria. Ironically, when the U.N. General Assembly voted 88 to 4 to condemn the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, Israel was one of the three countries that sided with the United States. A further irony is that under Castro's rule, Cuba's pre-revolution Jewish community of 18,000 has dwindled to 1,300 people.

Among those said to be seeking to succeed Edward Djereffianas U.S. ambassador to Israel are Stuart Eizenstat, presently U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Morton Abramowitz, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Djerejian, a career foreign service officer and former ambassador to Syria, retired after less than six months in Israel to head a Houston foundation established by former Secretary of State James Baker, who is contemplating a campaign for the Republican nomination for president in 1996. Eizenstat, White House domestic political adviser during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, has been prominent in the national capital pro-Israel establishment for many years.

Nasser AI-Kidwa, Palestine Liberation Organization senior observer at the United Nations, and representatives of Egypt, Morocco and Israel spoke at an April conference of 50 representatives of Zionist groups at the United Nations sponsored by the American Zionist Movement. Kidwa predicted that there will be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and that it would have some relationship with Jordan. "What kind of a relationship, I don't know," he said. "It's hard to see unity between a monarchy and a democracy." Kidwa said he was confident that the PLO police will be "very determined" in apprehending Palestinians who commit acts of terror, and predicted that "the main problem will be the armed (Jewish) settlers." Asked by AZM president Seymour Reich about religious Jews who are peaceful, Kidwa replied: "I have nothing against the religious, as I have nothing against religious Muslims. The problem is when they use religion as a political tool to achieve political goals."

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who spokeout during the dedication ceremony for the Holocaust Museum last year to call President Bill Clinton's attention to the genocide in Bosnia, told a Queens College audience in April that he has become obsessed with the subject after a visit to Sarajevo. "When I first heard the term 'ethnic cleansing' I felt wounded," he said. "Who would have thought this word would come back into our vocabulary?" Noting that some critics asked why a leading Jewish spokesman was defending Muslims, the Holocaust survivor said: "I defended them because they were human beings and they suffered and need the defense. I had to speak up." Asked to comment upon the attack in which Jewish religious settler Baruch Goldstein murdered at least 29 men and boys at prayer in Hebron, Wiesel said, "Hate is irrational ... It blinds the person ... A fanatic is a danger to everybody." Author of a number of books based upon his personal experience of the Holocaust, Wiesel said he writes to sensitize. The worst sin, he said, is indifference.

The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to void a federal appeals court ruling that prosecutors from the Department's Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations defrauded the court by withholding evidence that would have cleared retired Cleveland auto worker John Demjanjukof charges that he had been a sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. The Israeli High Court cleared Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, who had been extradited to Israel and sentenced to death, of that charge after he spent seven years in solitary confinement in Israel. Now, however, the U.S. Justice Department is seeking to clear its own special prosecutors of the fraud charges, and thus pave the way for deportation of Demjanjuk on charges he lied about his activities during World War II at the time he was admitted to the U.S.

Uri Savir, former Israeli consul general in New York, told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that Israel's government and army will do "everything to protect' Jewish settlers in the former occupied areas. "We have invested enormous resources so that we won't move the settlers," he said at an April gathering in New York. If that sounded like bad news for the peace negotiators, some of Savir's other remarks were more conciliatory. "Israel and Jews don't have a monopoly on suffering," Savir said. "There are deep emotional wounds in both societies. If we want peace, we have to heal the wounds." He predicted that although PLO leader Yasser Arafat is "not too keen" on elections in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians will force them. Of Arafat's decision to sign an agreement with the Israeli government, Savir said, "don't think it's easy for him to shake hands. It takes courage to make decisions." Savir expressed sadness that Jews who disagree with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin label him a traitor. "We have to find a way to dialogue in a calculated and cultured way," he said. Calling upon American Jews to unite behind Israeli peace efforts, he explained, "This is an historic voyage we are going on. We want you to be on that voyage with us."

Judge José A. Cabranes, whose credentials as a highly respected Hispanic-American jurist had made him an early favorite for nomination to the Supreme Court seat vacated by William Brennan, was under attack in the weekly Jewish press at the time his name suddenly dropped from those under consideration. A lengthy article in the Washington Jewish Week of March 21 described controversies involving Dr. Richard Fuisz, a former employee of Baxter International, the world's largest hospital supply firm, who charged the Illinois firm with violating U.S. laws by cooperating with the Arab boycott of Israel. As a result of Fuisz's documentation and testimony, Baxter pled guilty in March 1993 to violation of U.S. anti-boycott laws and was fined $6.5 million. Fuisz began a campaign in April 1993 asking Cabranes to vote to remove Baxter chairman Vernon R. Loucks, Jr., from the Yale University board of trustees, on which both Cabranes and Loucks served. Cabranes took no action on that request, although Loucks subsequently resigned. However, in May 1993, when Fuisz then asked him to recuse himself from a civil suit over which he was presiding and which involved Loucks and a Fuisz associate Loucks had fired from Baxter, Cabranes recused himself. Baxter International had been charged with informing members of the Syrian government about its business dealings with Israel, in contravention of Commerce Department anti-boycott laws. In the words of Washington Jewish Week writer Sam Skolnik, Baxter "became a bete noir to the Jewish community" because in 1988 it ) it sold a plant in Israel, was removed in the same year from the Arab League boycott list, and then started planning to build a plant in Syria. Seeking to explain why the opposition to Loucks now also embraces Cabranes, Yale junior Ben Gordonsaid that when he presented a petition with more than 1,000 signatures urging that the Yale board remove Loucks, Cabranes proved "moderately condescending" and "fairly dismissive of the issue."

Samir Geagea, 42, who headed the largely Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces militia until all private militias except Hezbollah were ordered disarmed by the present Syrian-backed Lebanese government, is under arrest in connection with the Feb. 27 bomb blast that killed 11 worshippers and wounded more than 50 others during services in a Christian church in Jounieh. An indictment naming eight Lebanese Forces members, of whom Geagea and two others are in custody, also charges him with the 1990 assassination of Maronite leader Dany Chamoun, and Chamoun's wife and two sons. Radio Damascus has charged that Geagea's followers planted a bomb in the church at the instigation of Israeli agents, who expected the blast would be attributed to Lebanese Muslims seeking to avenge the earlier slaying of 29 Muslim men and boys at prayer in Hebron by Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein. The June 13 Lebanese indictment says "many of the accused trained in Israel and had links with Israel's intelligence service." Lebanese authorities who arrested Geagea and his top aides also seized caches of arms they allegedly had buried rather than turn over to the government.

Palestinian Youssef Shahan, 29, a member of Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council, astonished a Beirut court where he was on trial for the Jan. 29 assassination of Jordanian diplomat Naeb Imran Maaytah by claiming "I personally blew up" the Pan Am Flight 103 plane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, killing 270 people. Initial reactions to the June 12 claim were skeptical. Since Abu Nidal is believed to be headquartered in Libya, it seemed likely that Shaban, facing a severe sentence in any case, had been asked to confess to the crime to reduce pressure on Libya to surrender two Libyans, Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, charged by the British and U.S. governments with committing the crime.