When Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Nobel Committee called him a “messenger to mankind.” The Romanian-born, American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, and Holocaust survivor dedicated his life to speaking in defense of victims of oppression reminding us that: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
These lessons were lost in the way the Obama administration consistently advanced a foreign policy of moral equivalence refusing to draw attention to the totalitarian nature of regimes such as Iran and Cuba. These regimes systematically violate civil rights, brutally suppress political opposition, and conspire against the interest of the United States and the Jewish nation.
The Cuban regime remains an anti-American ally of Iran. For the past three decades, the Castro brothers have supported the Ayatollahs’ foreign policy in the Middle East and throughout the world, but particularly against Israel.
A policy of moral equivalence suggests that no moral difference exists between the actions or tactics of all sides in a conflict. For example, apologists for terrorist groups in the Middle East suggest a moral equivalence between terrorists and the Israeli military. The logic of moral equivalence is that no party in a conflict is worse than the other. This view of moral equivalence underlined the foreign policy doctrine of the Obama administration, demonstrably in its dealings with Cuba and Iran.
In Cuba, the Obama administration’s U.S-Cuba policy embraced the oppressive regime of General Raul Castro with only perfunctory comments regarding human rights violations in Cuba or the Castro brothers support for Iran’s anti-Israeli policies. With Iran, in its eagerness to conclude a deal, the administration seems to have disregarded the legitimate security concerns of Israel, our military and political ally.
For an encore, in its last days in office, the Obama administration refused to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. This resolution, seemingly about Israel’s settlement policy, patently endorses the Palestinian politico-legal narrative about the disputed territories.
Following the vote, Secretary of State John Kerry, defending the United States abstention, delivered a laboriously one-sided speech denouncing Israel for its settlements policy and ignoring the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Secretary Kerry’s speech also overlooked that Israel is the only liberal democracy in the region and discounted Palestinian support for anti-Israeli terrorism.
To support Israel against its enemies is perfectly consistent with American liberal values. Failing to oppose a United Nations Resolution that weakens Israel is a damaging foreign policy ambiguity. The doctrine of moral equivalence is often disguised as a doctrine of neutrality or fairness. Yet, it is neither fair nor neutral. Moreover, when oppressors and oppressed are treated with moral equivalence the stage is set for unexpected consequences that may turn catastrophic.
Because it was claimed that all sides in the Bosnian War (1992-1995) committed war crimes, supporters of moral equivalence argued that one party in a conflict is not worse than the other. But, according to a Bosnia War report by the United Nations, the Serbian forces were responsible for ninety percent of the war crimes. Croatian forces were responsible for six percent, and Bosniak forces for four percent; hardly a case of moral equivalence.
Treating oppressive regimes like Cuba and Iran as morally equivalent with the freedom loving people of Israel or Cuba suggests the United States has abandoned the core American principle of being the voice of liberty for oppressed people. Elie Wiesel would reproach this moral equivalence: “Indifference is the epitome of evil.”
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This article was originally published in English in the PanAm Post and in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald.
José Azel, Ph.D.
José Azel left Cuba in 1961 as a 13 year-old political exile in what has been dubbed Operation Pedro Pan - the largest unaccompanied child refugee movement in the history of the Western Hemisphere.
He is currently dedicated to the in-depth analyses of Cuba's economic, social and political state, with a keen interest in post-Castro-Cuba strategies as a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami and has published extensively on Cuba related topics.
In 2012 and 2015, Dr. Azel testified in the U.S. Congress on U.S.-Cuba Policy, and U.S. National Security. He is a frequent speaker and commentator on these and related topics on local, national and international media. He holds undergraduate and masters degrees in business administration and a Ph.D. in International Affairs from the University of Miami.
José along with his wife Lily are avid skiers and adventure travelers. In recent years they have climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming, trekked Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Machu Pichu in Peru. They have also hiked in Tibet and in the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp.
They cycled St. James Way (El Camino de Santiago de Compostela) and cycled alongside the Danube from Germany to Hungary. They have scuba dived in the Bay Islands off the Honduran coast.
Their adventurers are normally dedicated to raise funds for causes that are dear to them.
In Reflections on Freedom, José Azel brings together a collection of his columns published in prestigious newspapers. Each article reveals his heartfelt and personal awareness of the importance of freedom in our lives. They are his reflections after nearly sixty years of living and learning as a Cuban outside Cuba. In what has become his stylistic trademark, Professor Azel brilliantly introduces complex topics in brief journalistic articles. Buy Now
En Reflexiones sobre la libertad José Azel reúne una colección de sus columnas publicadas en prestigiosos periódicos. Cada artículo revela su percepción sincera y personal de la importancia de la libertad en nuestras vidas. Son sus reflexiones después de casi sesenta años viviendo y aprendiendo como cubano fuera de Cuba. En lo que ha resultado ser característica distintiva de sus artículos, el Profesor Azel introduce con brillantez complejos temas en breves artículos de carácter periodístico. Compre Aqui
Mañana in Cuba is a comprehensive analysis of contemporary Cuba with an incisive perspective of the Cuban frame of mind and its relevancy for Cuba's future. Buy now
Pedazos y Vacíos is a collection of poems written in by Dr. Azel in his youth. Poems are in Spanish. Buy now
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