Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Exposure of Jewish and Cuban American Intolerance
By Lawrence Davidson
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 23, 2012
Intolerance in the USA’s “sunshine state” of Florida
Lawrence Davidson analyses the chronic intolerance inherent in the US
State of Florida, at the core of which lie the Cuban American and Jewish
communities, which “form around repugnant ideological cores that then come
to characterize their very identity”.
Wealth and ideology
In the early 1500s the Spanish
Conquistadors came to the shores of what is now known as Florida (“Flowery
Land” in Spanish). At that time the area was populated by groups of Paleo-Indians
whose lives were about to change drastically for the worse. The
Conquistadores were out for gold and other riches to which purpose the
natives were often enslaved. Along with them came Spanish priests whose goal
was strictly ideological: the conversion of the natives to Catholicism.
About this the natives would also have no choice. From that time onward the
sunny and flowery land of Florida proved a place both of wealth and
Even when the Spanish lost control of the
territory, first to the British and then to the United States, this duality
persisted. In the 19th century, for instance, what stood in the way of
Florida’s ideological purity was the perseverance of those pesky Indians.
Andrew Jackson, a rigid minded fellow if there ever was one, thought he had
the answer to this problem when he waged war against the Seminole Indians
who had the audacity to both resist white settlement and harbour runaway
black slaves. Eventually he was proved correct. Well-armed racism won the
day and from the1830s into the 1850s the process of forced
eviction-cum-slaughter of the natives proceeded. By 1845, when Florida
became the 27th state of the union, things were relatively in hand and most
of the remaining Seminoles pushed back into the Everglades.
years the gold that the conquistadors sought transformed itself into citrus
fruit and tourism. Today the tourist business brings in over 77 million
people a year to Florida and is worth over 57 billion dollars annually to
the state’s economy. Three quarters of US oranges are from Florida, as is 40
per cent of the world’s orange juice. Yet, overlaying all this wealth, just
like an unhealthy tan, is the persistence of Florida’s ideological
obsessions. In contemporary terms, there are two that stand out and we will
begin by looking at the one most recently in the news.
Florida has a very high percentage
of Cuban Americans. One third of the population of Miami has Cuban roots and
in at least 18 other cities and large towns in the state the percentage
approaches half. A high number of these people are staunchly anti-Castro.
Among the older generation this attitude borders on fanaticism. One can see
this reflected in the behaviour of the state’s political representatives in
Congress who fight tooth and nail against any moderation of US sanctions
against the Cuban nation, despite the fact that those sanctions help to
impoverish the country’s people, a state of being Cuban Americans then blame
on the Castro government.
For this point of view to be maintained
right-wing Cuban Americans have had to approach history in a highly
selective way. When Castro took over in Cuba in 1959 the country was an
economic and social wreck. It was ruled by the dictator
Fulgenacio Batista who had established ties with US mafia families.
Gambling and prostitution were major growth industries under this regime.
Poverty deepened, illiteracy was widespread, crime was rampant but
nonetheless Batista was seen as an ally of Washington. That is because he
ran an anti-communist secret police, trained and armed by the US, which
acted as the regime’s Gestapo and SS combined.
"Back in the 1980s, when the Cuban American community
leaders decided to set up their lobby ... they went to the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee... That
relationship has continued ever since."
When Castro took over in 1959 these conditions changed. But to do this he
had to nationalize resources and this step was opposed by a small upper
class and a portion of the middle class. It was this group who initially
fled to the US. Subsequently, they have chosen to forget most of Cuban
history prior to Castro’s revolution. They also have a deadly resentment of
those who take a different attitude and regularly attempt to ruin anyone who
has the audacity to publicly disagree with them. That is how fanatics
Take the recent case of Ozzie Guillen, the outspoken manager
of the Miami Marlins baseball team. Guillen made the mistake of saying that
he respected Fidel
Castro in a recent interview with Time magazine. The result was
a "political firestorm" in Miami. Within hours the politicos of south
Florida (sounding like the priests of the conquistadors) were calling for
his head. The team suspended him for five games and Guillen himself publicly
apologized for "betraying
the Latin community" and begged forgiveness in a most grovelling way.
Nonetheless, elements of the area’s Cuban-American community entered into an
orgy of hate and threatened to boycott (and therefore economically destroy)
Miami’s baseball team unless Guillen was fired.
Florida, and particularly the southern part of the
state, has the
second highest Jewish population in the US (the first is in New York).
Notably, most of them are elderly retirees of passionate Zionist persuasion.
One of Miami’s main streets is Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard. Next to the issue of
Israel is what commands their interest. That is why all the Republican
primary candidates (except Ron Paul) who visited the state fell over
backwards in their support for Israel.
No prominent Florida Jewish
resident has yet been silly enough, or brave enough, to go public with
anti-Zionist declarations, or statements of admiration for Yasir Arafat. And
after an example has been made of Ozzie Guillen, the probability of anyone
doing so has to have diminished. This is because the right-wing elements of
these two communities are allied and feed off of each other.
the 1980s, when the Cuban American community leaders decided to set up their
lobby, originally known as the Cuban American National Foundation, they went
to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, otherwise know as AIPAC,
for advice and guidance. That relationship has continued ever since. (For
more information on this, see my book
Foreign Policy Inc: Privatizing America’s National Interest,
published by Kentucky University Press, 2009.)
representation of this on-going alliance is
Ros-Lehtinen, US Representative for Florida’s 18th Congressional
District and currently the longest serving woman in Congress. That status
has also made her chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Ros-Lehtinen describes herself as a "strong supporter of Israel", including
its illegal settlements, and has worked hard to cut funds for any United
Nations agency that recognizes Palestinian statehood. Of course, she also
hates Fidel Castro.
Over-exposure to the "sunshine state" can
obviously get you a bad burn, particularly if you are of an open mind and
value the principle of free speech. But that is the way it goes when
communities form around repugnant ideological cores that then come to
characterize their very identity. For many of the Cuban Americans in
Florida, to have something good to say about the Castro regime, even if it
can be historically substantiated, is the same as betraying their community.
For many Jewish Americans in the same state, having something critical to
say about Israel and Zionism, even if it is fact-based, is the same as
declaring yourself an anti-Semite or perhaps a "self-hating Jew".
What is particularly scary about all of this is that the entire prejudicial
mind-set is carried forth unquestionably and in lock step by millions of
people. Americans often would point fingers at the Soviet Union, the Chinese
communists, and now the "Muslim world" for this sort of totalitarian
thinking. And all the while, it was right here in our own sunny backyard.