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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2007 / 24 Mar-Cheshvan 5768

A hero in Castro's gulag

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | At a White House ceremony today President Bush will honor eight distinguished men and women with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award. Among the recipients will be the longtime civil rights activist Benjamin Hooks; Harper Lee, author of the much-loved novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird"; Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president of an African nation; and C-SPAN's founder and president, Brian Lamb.


One of the honorees, however, will not be there. Instead of joining the president amid the pomp and finery of the White House, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet will spend the day locked in a fetid cell in the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, where he is serving a 25-year prison sentence for speaking out against Fidel Castro's dictatorship.


Peter Kirsanow, a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, has written that the conditions of Biscet's incarceration are like something out of Victor Hugo: "windowless and suffocating, with wretched sanitary conditions. The stench seeping from the pit in the ground that serves as a toilet is intensified by being compressed into an unventilated cell only as wide as a broom closet. . . . Biscet reportedly suffers from osteoarthritis, ulcers, and hypertension. His teeth, those that haven't fallen out, are rotted and infected."


A replica of the solitary cell similar to the one Oscar Elias Biscet is kept in.


A pro-life Christian physician, Biscet first ran afoul of the Castro regime in the 1990s, when he investigated Cuban abortion techniques — Cuba has by far the highest abortion rates in the Western Hemisphere — and revealed that numerous infants had been killed after being delivered alive. In 1997, he began the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, which seeks "to establish in Cuba a state based on the rule of law" and "sustained upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Between June 1998 and November 1999 he was arrested 26 times; in 1999, he was sentenced to three years in prison for "disrespecting patriotic symbols." To protest the regime's repression, he had hung a Cuban flag upside down.


For decades, various American journalists and celebrities have rhapsodized about Castro's supposed island paradise, resolutely ignoring the mountains of evidence that it is in reality a tropical dungeon. Intent on seeing Castro as a revolutionary hero and Cuba as Shangri-la, they avert their gaze from the island's genuine heroes — the prisoners of conscience like Biscet, who pay a fearful price for their insistence on telling the truth.


The US detention center in Guantanamo Bay is sometimes spoken of as if it were a Caribbean concentration camp, but the only facilities that deserve such a label are hellholes like Combinado del Este, in which Biscet and so many other Cuban dissidents have been brutally abused — or worse. Over the years, life in Castro's gulag has been well-chronicled. The classic narrative is Armando Valladares's Against All Hope, a stark and searing memoir, first published in 1985, of the author's 22 years in Cuba's horrific prisons.


The newest account of life as a Cuban political prisoner is Fighting Castro: A Love Story, Kay Abella's affecting and inspiring saga of one Cuban couple's love for each other and for their homeland, and the cruelties, large and petty, inflicted on those who challenge the regime.


For Lino Fernandez, a young physician who pays for his democratic resistance with 17 years behind bars, those cruelties are sadistic and often bloody. Abella describes, for example, what it was like to experience a requisa — a search by armed prison guards — in the notorious round fortress on Isla de Pinos:


"The roar of the invading horde . . . viciously beating men unarmed and weak from malnutrition and confinement. A screaming mass of soldiers swarming over the circular, stabbing with bayonets, crushing limbs with truncheons and rubber-wrapped chains. The panic of no place to hide, knowing you'll be beaten harder for trying to protect yourself, stomped on for clinging to a pillar or rail, thrown down the stairs for daring to hesitate. . . . The indignity of men whining, begging, whimpering before a skull is cracked, a shoulder yanked from its socket, genitals smashed with the gun butt."


For the families of political prisoners, the cruelties come in other forms, such as the humiliating strip-searches on the rare occasions when a prison visit is permitted, or the pressure put on children to demonstrate loyalty to the Communist Party that has imprisoned their father. And there is economic privation: Oscar Biscet's wife, Elsa Morejon, is a trained nurse, but she has been barred from holding a professional job in Cuba since 1998.


The conscience and courage of these dissidents are nothing short of extraordinary. "During these years here in prison," Biscet wrote to Elsa in a letter smuggled out of prison earlier this year, "I have seen shameful things that I am unable to describe to you in words because of their perversity and their attack on . . . civilized society. Despite this difficult situation I am not intimidated nor do I take any step backwards in my mind. . . . I will carry out this unjust sentence until the most high G-d puts an end to it."

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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