Alan Gross deserves solidarity
Alan Gross deserves solidarity
BY ROLAND J. BEHAR
In 1973 Natan Sharansky chose to emigrate from the Soviet Union to
Israel. Prior to that, he was a run-of-the-mill Soviet, without all that
much comprehension or interest in human rights. His exit permit was
rejected, and thus Sharansky went on to become one of the most important
champions in the struggle for human rights of the past century. As a
result, in 1977 he was convicted and sent to Siberia for 13 years of
forced labor; indicted for espionage on behalf of the United States of
After eight years of hardship in the communist dungeons, owing to the
tenacious efforts of his wife Avital; the outspoken participation of
Ronald Reagan, who pressured Moscow; the collective work of N.Y.
Congressman Benjamin Gilman, Rabbi Ronald Greenwald, and especially the
Jewish community, which mobilized itself to alert public opinion of his
plight, Natan Sharansky was given his liberty. He was granted safe
passage to Israel, where his participation in various social and
governmental functions has been a benefit to the people and the Jewish
Today, 34 years later, another Jew, this time a U.S. citizen whose
passion has been to help the most needy in any part of the planet, is
held hostage by a different communist dictatorship, one almost as
entrenched and more ferocious than the Soviet: that of Cuba. Alan Gross
has been sentenced to serve 15 years in a maximum security facility for
the supposed felony of providing high speed Internet satellite equipment
as per Cuba's law number 88 (the so-called Reaffirmation of Cuban
dignity and Sovereignty law). In any segment of the globe, an effort in
this field would be considered as a gesture of solidarity that
contributes to development and access to information on the Internet.
But not in Cuba, where access to information is verboten, except for
that which has first been filtered, analyzed and scrutinized, as though
it were a chemical purification meant to protect the people who receive
it from being contaminated by thoughts and desires for liberty and
self-determination expressed by people anywhere — from Tunisia to Los
For Cuba, the rule of law does not exist. Judicial powers are completely
controlled and subordinated to the executive consisting of the Castro
family, head of a military dictatorship that has lasted more than five
During the trial and sentencing of Alan Gross, his assigned defense
attorney was Nuris Pinero Sierra, who is none other than the general
director of Collective Law Offices in Cuba — an appointed position
designated through the highest echelons of the government and likewise
subject to complete and total censure by dictate of said governance.
That attorney, coincidentally, was also the designated defense attorney
for the five spies who faced trial and were convicted in the United
States. One of those spies was also implicated in the 1996 assassination
in the air of three U.S. citizens and one legal U.S. resident, members
of Brothers to the Rescue.
The international campaign for the release of Alan Gross has commenced.
His wife, Judy Gross, and his lawyer Peter Kahn have enlisted the
efforts of Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the Jewish Federation of America,
the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, the Jewish Community Affairs
Council of Greater Washington, and the Community Relations Council of
the Jewish Federation of Tidewater. It will be necessary for each Jewish
community in America and throughout the world to echo the call to free
an innocent man.
The Gross family, along with their friends, has started a vigil every
Monday at noon on the site of the Cuba Interests Section in Washington.
It is vital that we support them, not only Jews but everyone who
supports individual liberty, those who see the right to information
simply as one more human right and those who are or were crushed under
the boot of the Castro dictatorship.
These voices must be heard in front of each Cuban consulate and embassy.
It doesn't matter if they number 10 or 100 at first. We must be
indefatigable in working to save that innocent 62-year-old diabetic with
various medical issues who has already lost 100 pounds since he was
arrested. Now is the moment for Alan Gross.
Roland J. Behar is a political analyst focusing on Cuba, the Middle East