NEW YORK (Press Release)– The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has requested a meeting with the Cuban Ambassador to the UN Pedro Nunez Mosquera to discuss the plight of Alan P. Gross, who has been held in a Cuban jail since December 3, 2009. The Conference also addressed this issue in a letter to President Barack Obama.
“It is outrageous that Mr. Gross, who was clearly not engaged in espionage or inappropriate activities would be imprisoned for more than seven months with no charge. He was in Cuba as a US Agency for International Development subcontractor working on a U.S. government program to help the local Jewish community stay in contact with each other and with similar groups abroad. We have been approaching intermediaries to urge Mr. Gross’ immediate release. We hope Ambassador Nunez Mosquera will meet with us and convey our concerns about Mr. Gross’ improper imprisonment and his failing health to the Cuban government,” said Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly called upon Cuba to release Gross, stating that his continued detention is harming U.S.-Cuba relations. Solow and Hoenlein voiced appreciation for the work of the Administration and the State Department to secure Mr. Gross’ release and expressed hope that Cuba will recognize that “Mr. Gross is not a man who is motivated by politics, nor by any agenda other than providing humanitarian support to people in need.”
Preceding provided by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
(WJC)–US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has urged Jewish groups to join the campaign for the release of Alan P. Gross, an American government contractor who has been detained in Cuba for several months without charges. Clinton told representatives of the American Jewish community that they should add their voices to calls for the Cuban government to release Gross, a contractor for the US Agency for International Development who was reportedly helping members of Cuba’s small Jewish community use the internet to stay in contact with each other.
“Alan was providing information and technology that would assist this community to be better connected,” Clinton said at a State Department reception in honor of Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Gross’ wife, Judy, attended the event. “Our government works every single day through every channel for his release and safe return home,” Clinton said. “But I am really making an appeal to the active Jewish community here in our country to join this cause … because this family deserves to be reunited and each and every one of us should do everything we can to make it clear to the Cuban government that Alan Gross needs to come home.”
Gross, 60, was working in Cuba for a firm contracted by USAID when he was arrested as a suspected spy in Havana in December 2009. He has been held without charge in the capital’s high-security Villa Marista prison since. Washington says Gross has committed no crime and has repeatedly appealed for his release on humanitarian grounds. In May, the head of Cuba’s High Court said prosecutors had yet to open a legal case against him. Formal charges cannot be filed in Cuba without a judicial accusation and the opening of a case, so it appears unlikely charges against Gross are imminent.
Clinton’s appeal to the US Jewish community followed the release on Tuesday of seven jailed Cuban dissidents who were sent to Spain, the first of 52 political prisoners to be freed under an agreement worked out between Cuban authorities and the Catholic Church.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following is the transcript of remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a reception for Hannah Rosenthal, the special envoy to combat worldwide anti-Semitism.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think I need to say a word. (Laughter.) It is such a great pleasure for me to welcome all of you here to the eighth floor of the State Department, to the Ben Franklin Room, for this wonderful occasion to really honor our special envoy, a friend, a longtime public servant, a prominent activist, someone who has everywhere she’s gone and everything she’s done not only been extremely effective but have left people smiling and happier than before she arrived. And that’s not always easy, but that is one of Hannah’s great gifts.
I want to welcome each and every one of you, and I particularly thank the members of Congress who are here. I thank you, Eliot Engel and Jan Schakowsky and there may be others here as well, but I am so grateful for your stalwart support on this mission to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. I welcome, of course, Hanna’s daughters Shira and Francie, and her entire family. I know how much you have meant to her over the years as well.
But I did want to echo what Hannah said about one member in particular who is not here, her father, the late Rabbi Frank Rosenthal. And Frank Rosenthal is here in spirit and very proud of what Hannah is doing.
I also wanted to acknowledge Judy Gross and her family. Is Judy here? Did Judy make it? Judy? Judy? Judy, thank you. Judy’s husband, Alan Gross, has been held in a Cuban jail for the last seven months without being charged with any crime – because he did not commit any crime. He was in Cuba as a humanitarian and development worker and, in fact, was assisting the small Jewish community in Havana that feels very cut off from the world, and Alan was providing information and technology that would assist this community to be better connected. Our government works every single day through every channel for his release and safe return home. But I am really making an appeal to the active Jewish community here in our country to join this cause, and I hope you will have a chance to meet Judy and her sister Gwen and offer them your support, because this family deserves to be reunited and each and every one of us should do everything we can to make it clear to the Cuban Government that Alan Gross needs to come home.
Now, I have known Hannah for more than 20 years and we have worked over those 20 years on issues that are near and dear to both of us. And I can say from firsthand experience, even as well as she talks – and you just heard that – she does more than talk the talk. This is a woman who walks the walk. She is as good as her word. Whether she’s working on behalf of women’s rights or health care or promoting respect and tolerance for all people, she is truly a force for positive change and progress and is a wonderful partner.
Now, I should add that we have many things in common, Hannah and I, but this summer we are MOTBs – Mother of the Brides – together. (Laughter.) And I wish Shira the very best and congratulations and best wishes to all of you. If you can survive being an MOTB, being the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism seems like a relief. (Laughter.)
But when we think about how Hannah ended up doing this really important service, not only for the American Government and not even just for the American Jewish community, but really for the world, to make this mission important in places that may never have thought about it or who, frankly, don’t want to think about it. And there is a direct line from Hanna’s father, because Rabbi Rosenthal was one of tens of thousands of German Jews arrested, imprisoned at Buchenwald for almost a year –the only member of his family to survive – coming to the United States, as so many Holocaust survivors and victims did, to seek a new life for himself, and then to build that life for his daughter and his granddaughters.
So for Hannah, working to end anti-Semitism is not an item on her resume or a good project. This is personal. It is literally in the DNA of this woman and it is grounded in the reality of the Holocaust. It is built on persistent faith, passed on from her father, and it is rooted in the conviction that the world can be a better place, that we all are to be repairers of the breach and we never get the job done, but it is incumbent upon each of us to do our part.
Now, in the nearly seven months that Hannah has been our special envoy, she has traveled the world devising new strategies and engaging governments and people to confront anti-Semitism and to promote tolerance and non-discrimination. In fact, a few weeks ago, she was in Kazakhstan with Farah Pandith, our Special Envoy to Muslim Communities. Together they launched the Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance Initiative to promote inter-faith and inter-ethnic understanding. And then Hannah and I, just about 10 days ago, were at the Community of Democracies Forum in Krakow and we also did tour the Schindler Factory Museum, which I highly recommend to you. Now, she will soon be heading back to Poland with a group of American imams under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Center for Interreligious Understanding.
Now, this level of dedication is not new. She has worked for years to build bridges between faiths and to bring people of different experiences together to take a stand against hatred and intolerance. The battle against hate never ends. It must go on. And as Hannah very eloquently pointed out, the forms of anti-Semitism continue to evolve. So you think you’ve got one in a box, and another, unfortunately, appears.
And in today’s world, there are too many places where we see fear of the other promoting gender-based violence, ethnic cleansing, religious extremism. And it requires us to be vigilant and proactive and to always be addressing the disturbing indications that anti-Semitism is on rise again.
President Obama and I are determined to curb anti-Semitism and to work to prevent the isolation of Israel internationally. So we are sending Hannah all over the world. (Laughter.) She’s available for bar and bat mitzvahs. (Laughter.) But seriously, she is pressing our case everywhere where two or more gather, it seems. And she needs your help. I look around. I see many friends here. I see people who have been active in Jewish organizations and civic organizations who understand the importance of this mission. I need your help, Hannah needs your help, because we constantly are looking for good new ideas to support, organizations that deserve the American Government’s backing. And we will continue to speak out against anti-Semitism, as we’ve done in the Human Rights Report and elsewhere, because we don’t want this to be a special effort, we want it to be integrated and rooted in everything we do so that it is part of the woof and warp of the work of the United States State Department and the United States Government.
I have been very struck by how much fear there is in the world today and Hannah rightly pointed to that: economic fear that often causes people to say and do things that are not in keeping with our values; fear that the modern world is going to disrupt the kind of family culture and experience that people have traditionally held onto. So we know we have a big challenge ahead of us, but I was thrilled when Hannah agreed to take this position because she is someone who is indefatigable. If you have hints on jet lag, share them with her – (laughter) – because she is on the move all the time. But she’s bringing a lot of creativity as well as commitment to this effort, and I could not be more grateful. So I’m hoping you will have a chance to see her, visit with her, encourage her, come up with ideas and suggestions for her, and know that we are constantly looking to do better at what we do every day. I see my friend Ben Cardin back there. I acknowledged members of the – anybody else before I – oh, Shelley Berkley.
PARTICIPANT: Jerry Nadler.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Jerry. Where’s Jerry?
PARTICIPANT: Right here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Jerry, my New York friend. He and I walked a lot of miles together. Who else? Thank you for coming, congressmen. Thank you very much. Thank you all. But we need your help. This is not just to salute and thank Hannah for taking on this important task, but to stand with her, stand behind her, provide some guidance about what we can do and how we can do it better.
So let me end where I started, by thanking you all for being here and for thanking – and thanking Hannah for taking on this awesome responsibility at a time in our history and the world’s history when her voice is desperately needed. So join yours with her. Don’t forget Alan Gross. Please meet the Grosses because they need your help too. And let’s go out and recommit ourselves to ending anti-Semitism and bringing people into a better world together. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
If you would, Hannah’s going to go down and stand here. Please come by and say hello to her. And she probably knows every one of you, plus your husband, your wife, your brother, your sister. But in the event she doesn’t, come and introduce yourself as well.
Preceding provided by U.S. State Department
(WJC)–The presidents of Venezuela and Syria, Hugo Chávez and Bashar al-Assad, have accused Israel of terrorism. “Terrorism for us in the Middle East is one word which has a single synonym; that is Israel particularly,” a joint statement said. Assad met with Chávez in Caracas to discuss economic cooperation and developments in the Middle East.
Both leaders said they were not interested in war in the Middle East, but when diplomacy failed “resistance is the alternative solution and our duty is to support it.”
Chávez singled out Damascus for taking a leadership role in the region, saying Assad was to be commended for his ability to stand up to Western allies. “Imperialism is desperate,” the Venezuelan president said. “It is now threatening the use of force as it has been doing for years.” Chávez called Israel’s government “genocidal” and also condemned the last round of UN sanctions against Iran. Assad said all nations, including Iran, had a “right to develop nuclear energy.”
US Congressman Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, swiftly condemned Chávez’ remarks: “Setting aside the falsehoods of his latest diatribe and the presence of the Syrian strongman, Bashar Assad, standing next to him, it’s not difficult to understand why President Chavez would try to distract from his problems at home.”
“If my country had the one of the highest murder rates in the world, the highest inflation rate in Latin America, and an economy which is expected to shrink by more than 6 percent this year, I, too, would be talking about anything but what’s going on at home. I guess that’s why Mr. Chávez is attacking the Israelis and why Foreign Policy Magazine just ranked him the 17th worst dictator in the world. And, I guess that’s why he’s hanging around Bashar Assad,” Engel said in a statement.
After his visit to Venezuela, Assad met with Cuban leader Raul Castro and later traveled to Brazil, where he met with President Lula da Silva. Assad also plans a visit to Argentina. Both Cuba and Syria are on a list of nations the US considers state sponsors of terrorism.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called upon Cuba to release USAID contractor Alan Gross from captivity.
Here is her statement:
“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet today with family members of development worker and USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, and to express my concern over his continued incarceration in Cuba.
“More than six months have passed since Mr. Gross was arrested in Cuba. He is a husband, a father, and a dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to underserved communities in dozens of countries. We are deeply concerned about his welfare and poor health, and we have used every available channel to push for his release.
“As I told the family today, we will continue to do so. A delegation from the United States will meet tomorrow with Cuban officials to discuss our Migration Accords, consistent with the Obama Administration’s commitment to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States, and we will underscore that the continued detention of Alan Gross is harming U.S.-Cuba relations.
“The United States would view favorably the release of Alan Gross so that he can return to his family. ”
For background on Alan Gross, we refer you to this article by Bonnie Goldstein in Politics Daily.