No Business with Evil

A nice column by Myriam Marquez of the Miami Herald (yes, THAT Herald) published last Sunday reminding us that evil can’t be negotiated with:

Two wise men who stood up to evil brought their seedlings of hope and peace and planted them firmly on Miami soil. Stand your ground, don’t give up, keep pushing for what’s right, keep talking — and listening, but only when there is mutual respect.

They wowed their respective audiences last week, these sages — one a writer who survived the Holocaust and went on to earn a Nobel Peace Prize; the other a brash union organizer who stood up to the Soviets and literally changed the world.

Speaking to the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s annual fundraiser for its charitable work in this community and throughout the world, Elie Wiesel was blunt Thursday night with his characteristic wit. History has taught us, Wiesel told the crowd of 1,300, to trust the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends.

And as Israel continues to be a beacon of democracy in the imploding Middle East, his words resonate for many in South Florida, not just Jews but those of us who came from somewhere else seeking freedom.

For all the promise of peace between Arab and Jew that Wiesel’s own Foundation for Humanity seeks, how can one negotiate with the likes of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who questions the very existence of the worst tragedy in modern history, the killing of millions of Jews in concentration camps? How can “democratic” leaders give Ahmadinejad an audience, when his own people have been beaten, jailed and killed for protesting a cooked election?

Running in the company of Cuba’s Fidel and Raúl Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Ahmadinejad threatens Israel with nuclear annihilation, and world leaders barely blink.

And so, Wiesel warns us, beseeches us, to vocally and directly confront evil wherever it may be.

As did former Polish President Lech Walesa, who was the first leader to visit Israel in 1991 and apologize for his country’s role in the Holocaust, noting the special 1,000-year history of Jewish life in his country, and opening relations between the two nations.

At Miami’s Freedom Tower, the Solidarity labor leader gave hope to his predominantly Cuban-American audience searching for a peaceful formula for 11 million people’s freedom after 51 years of dictatorship.

Before his speech, hosted by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, he spoke to The Herald’s editorial board about the Walesa foundation’s human rights work in Cuba and what lessons Cubans can learn from Solidarity’s success.

I asked him, who are Cuba’s emerging democratic leaders? He joked, through a translator, “I was so surprised to meet so many here in Miami.”

He’s confident that a new generation will lead in a free Cuba, the bloggers among them. The Ladies in White, whose husbands, sons or brothers are imprisoned for speaking out against the regime, are among them.

Cuba’s Catholic Church leadership, not so much — certainly not in the outspoken way that the Polish church, led by a young priest who would become Pope, poked the Kremlin.

But perhaps his most illuminating advice — well, more like a two-step in timing — was about the effectiveness of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

“The thing is, I lived through Poland under an embargo. Some of those methods give results. . . . At first I was for the embargo, then I asked to lift it. Each brought effect. It’s basically a struggle.”

A struggle for the world to open its eyes and see the truth, to stretch a hand to people seeking justice.