By GIL SHEFLER
Israel and the Jewish people found an unlikely defender in Fidel Castro, the retired dictator of Cuba, on Tuesday, when he came out strongly against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and supported Israel's right to exist.
In a rare interview with Jewish-American reporter Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the ailing 84-year-old leader said he sympathized with the Jews who have suffered from repeated persecution over the course of history.
"The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours," Castro said. "There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust."
He added: "Well, I didn't know what a Jew was. I knew of a bird that was a called a 'Jew,' and so for me the Jews were those birds. These birds had big noses. I don't even know why they were called that. That's what I remember. This is how ignorant the entire population was."
Havana — Fifty years after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro has admitted the country’s economic model no longer works.
The former Cuban president also said he was wrong to urge the Soviet Union to launch nuclear weapons against the United States during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
“After I’ve seen what I’ve seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn’t worth it all,” he told Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly magazine during a wide-ranging interview.
On his blog for the Atlantic, Mr. Goldberg reveals how he was phoned while on vacation a few weeks ago by the head of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington who said Mr. Castro wanted to discuss with him a recent article he had written on Iran and Israel. After flying to Cuba he was met by a “frail and aged Fidel ... wearing a red shirt, sweatpants and black New Balance sneakers.”
During the course of their first five-hour discussion, Mr. Castro warned the United States and Iran that they were heading for nuclear confrontation and urged Israel to give up nuclear weapons.
“The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated,” he said. “Men think they can control themselves, but [U.S. President Barack] Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war.”
He also criticized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and said the Iranian leader’s anti-Semitism did not help the cause for peace.
“I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything,” he said.
This U2 photo shows the location of Soviet nuclear armed missiles, which posed more then a hypothetical threat to the destruction of many American cities. In fact one missile was destined to hit Ottawa, Canada.
Castro knew that such an event would elicit a massive response, so severer that all of Cuba would be vaporized. Yet this is what he wanted and when Krushev wisely decided to remove the threat, Castro erupted into a massive display of temper and anger. This is what he wanted, this is what he prepared for, this is what he was led to believe would happen.