Fidel Castro: Something wonderful?

Gal Gadot

On Tuesday we discussed Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s plans to make a movie about the romance between ABC correspondent Lisa Howard and Cuban chieftain Fidel Castro. As we noted, they met for the first time in a Havana nightclub in 1963. A few months later, they met in a hotel room in the same city. The boy kissed the girl. They went to bed together. But Fidel chose not to go all the way.

And of course that restraint was what did it. She was in love. Head over heels, the ABC correspondent sent the dictator a schoolgirlish letter in which she assured him that while some people viewed him as a “tyrant,” she could see that although he had indeed “destroyed thousands” of Cubans, he had not really “meant to hurt” anybody. Indeed, she had recognized that he possessed a “spark of divine fire,” a “humanity,” a “compassion,” a “deep knowledge and sense of justice,” a “genuine concern for the poor,” and that his “sacred duty” is to make all those deeply seated attributes “a reality for your people.”

In other words, she was sort of an Anna Leonowens to his King Mongkut in The King and I. She disapproved of the brutality of his one-man rule, but at the same time she felt that she saw certain “qualities” in him that she found immensely appealing. Of course, many women feel this way about the men they fall in love with, and these feelings are generally the product not of objective intellectual observation but of hormones. One is reminded of the verse of “Something Wonderful,” the tune sung in The King and I by the senior wife, Lady Thiang, as a way of explaining her own love for the bloodthirsty absolute monarch:

This is a man who thinks with his heart,

His heart is not always wise.

This is a man who stumbles and falls,

But this is a man who tries.

This is a man you’ll forgive and forgive

And help and protect, as long as you live…..

Lisa Howard and Fidel Castro

Gal Gadot, in explaining her decision to make a movie about the Lisa Howard-Fidel Castro romance, pronounced herself “entranced” by Peter Kornbluh’s “thrilling account of a complicated, fascinating woman…in the midst of a high-stakes, real-life drama.” As Humberto Fontova noted in reporting this story, Gadot appears either to be ignorant of, or to have decided to overlook, “Fidel Castro’s habitual references to Israel as ‘Fascist!’ ‘Nazi!’ and ‘Genocidal!’” Worse than that, Castro “sen[t] tanks and troops to Syria during the Yom Kippur War” in an effort to help “erase Israel.” Castro’s government also sponsored the UN resolution that equated Zionism with racism and that led to the departure of 90 percent of Cuba’s Jews. Fidel, observed Fontova, “drove out a higher percentage of Jews from Cuba than Czar Nicholas drove from Russian and even Hafez Assad drove out of Syria. Yet ‘Miss Israel’ seems as charmed by him as was Lisa Howard.”

Che Guevara

One question that will have to be answered when the script for Gadot’s film is written is whether to include her infatuation for Castro’s sidekick Che Guevara. Would that detract from the main love story, or would it make for an engaging subplot and also contribute tension and suspense? One consideration here would be that the gala reception Lisa Howard threw for Che at her glamorous Manhattan apartment while Che was in New York to address the UN would make for a great set piece, like the big party in The Great Gatsby. Imagine the production values! The fact that Che, during that trip, “was also plotting with the Black Liberation Front to blow up the Statue of Liberty” would also add drama.

We began on Tuesday by talking about the Genesis Prize Foundation, which had made the mistake of choosing actress Natalie Portman for what is basically a “friend of Israel” award, only to be kicked in the teeth by Portman because she dislikes Benjamin Netanyahu. After one observer suggested that the accolade should have been presented instead to actress Gal Gadot, she turned out to be capable of envisioning Fidel Castro as the hero of a Hollywood love story. Perhaps the Foundation should shut down entirely and give up on handing out these prizes. Or at least it should stop giving them to Hollywood people. There are, it seems, too many “friends of Israel” in La-La Land whose friendship is woefully conditional and whose attitude toward some of Israel’s worst enemies is altogether unconscionable.


Another week, another nonsensical missive from the morally reprehensible alternate reality inhabited by the dopey editors of The Nation.

havana_street_pictureIn a cheeryannouncementthat went up online a couple of days ago, the American left’s flagship magazine invited readers to, and we quote:

Join The Nation for a week of educational and cultural exchange in Havana, Cuba!

Here’s the pitch: from September 26 to October 3, 2015, a few lucky Nation readers will be able to go to Havana “for a unique trip specially curated for fellow Nation travelers.” Meaning what? Will participants be granted an audience with Fidel himself, and be able to kneel before him and kiss his ring?

Roof top view of HavanaWell, close enough. There’ll be “private seminars and concerts featuring prominent Cuban professors, government officials, urban planners, journalists, musicians, artists, dancers, and community activists.” “Specially curated” indeed: could anyone but a Nation subscriber stand a full week of wall-to-wall Communist propaganda by Cuban “professors, government officials,” etc., without constantly throwing up?

To judge by the prospectus, by the way, The Nation‘s guests won’t be meeting any dissident writers or political prisoners. They won’t be taken to view the places where gay people were locked up and tortured, the psychiatric hospitals to which critics of Communism were committed as mental patients, the walls against which counter-revolutionaries were lined up and shot, or the coastal locations from which a million or so people escaped from the island prison on flimsy rafts and boats. But we didn’t expect that from The Nation anyway, did we?

Of course, this tour of one of Communism’s last remaining redoubts – led by Peter Kornbluh, The Nation‘s Cuba correspondent, and Charles Bittner, its “Academic Liaison, representing the magazine and organizing panels at academic conferences throughout the country” – comes with an evil capitalist price tag:

havana3The all-inclusive cost of this weeklong tour is $5,550 to $5,950 per person (double/single occupancy) and includes round-trip chartered airfare between Tampa and Havana, seven nights at the Hotel NH Capri La Habana, one night in a private guesthouse in Pinar del Río Province, all transportation within Cuba, tours, seminars, lectures, concerts, most of your meals, and many other captivating events.

Reading through this solicitation, our first thought was that, for a lover of freedom, there could hardly be any form of punishment more cruel and unusual than having to spend a week slumming in Cuba with a gang of starry-eyed Nation staffers and drooling Nation groupies while they “[d]iscuss Cuban foreign policy and the coming changes with Carlos Alzugaray, former Cuban diplomat and expert on US-Cuba relations.”

havana4On second thought, however, we found ourselves wishing we could be there just to hear these bozos making unctuous small talk with the “Cuban family hosts” on their “bucolic private farm” in “the beautiful Viñales Valley” and to witness their earnest conversations with the “professors” and “community activists” and “urban planners.”

Our own question to the urban planners would be this: what exactly does an “urban planner” do in a country where every city is a pile of rubble?