Upon recent discussions, a lot of my fellow American friends have been talking about how Lebanon and Israel have the hummus in common, and how music festivals could be a way of creating a bond between these two countries.
Considering the fact that Lebanon and Israel are at a state of a “paused war”, we got engaged in a conversation explaining why music and food are not important in our condition. The fact that Israel terrorizes our people, kills our children, and makes us leave our homes, is a much bigger matter than sharing a plate.
A lot of people get surprised by the level of hostility Lebanese people have towards Israel, and yet that is understood because you can’t feel the pain unless you are in the hurt’s shoes. Yet all these discussions, for some reason, kept bringing the same matter into my mind; Cuban cigars.
Cuban cigars are forbidden in the United States. In fact, there is a prohibition on the importing of most Cuban products, and that is due to an embargo that has been imposed since 1960. Now even though a lot of Americans consider that there are other kinds of cigars which are better, yet it remains the forbidden fruit, and for that, it is much desired. American tourists abroad are also not allowed to smoke this kind of cigar and are faced with fines and penalties that can sum up from 50,000$ to 250,000$. Corporations might also be fined with a penalty as high as one million dollars if were trading such a product.
When I learned all these restrictions, I was eager to dig deep into why this matter is this complicated. I realized that the embargo was imposed after Cuba nationalized the properties of American citizens. The ban was also imposed after Fidel Castro allowed “the Soviets to construct missile bases on the island capable of striking the United States.” The embargo process moved from prohibiting certain products and businesses to a total prohibition by 1999.
Here I must say, the conflict between Cuba and the United States is something I am not much familiar with, and I surely would not ask an American to be forgiving to a Cuban because I have not felt the conflict since I am not an American. And yet, I believe that Cuba did not oppress, offend, kill, terrorize, or even hurt Americans the way Israel did to Arabs and Lebanese specifically.
Even though Cuban cigar prohibition is an American law, I can still relate it to our laws that prevent us from visiting Israel (not that we would want to), and our laws that prohibit any sort of trade or business or communication with the Israeli State. Israel has killed our people and stolen our homes. It’s not a matter of smoking a forbidden cigar because Cuba once decided to take a political stand against my country; it’s a matter of dignity and respect.
It’s an entire land, homes, children, women, schools, mosques, churches and much more. It’s a matter of humanity. Food and music can never be compared to humanity. When Israel has terrorized every single bit of Palestine and some of the Arab world, then don’t expect for an Arab to want to share a plate of hummus with an Israeli, even though an American doesn’t mind smoking a Cuban cigar despite the banning law.
Americans made entire laws and policies to fight Fidel Castro because he is a dictator who does not respect human rights, yet they are much supportive of Israel who is not even familiar with the term “humanity”.
12 thoughts on “Cuban Cigars: “The Forbidden Fruit””
Nice piece lynn, i hope our American friends would understand our feeling towards everything related to Israel,and why we reject any kind of relation with them.
Lynn, I understand your hatred for Israel/Palestine, though it is NOT every Israeli who destroyed Arab’s and Lebanese’s “humanity,” just like it is not every Palestinian or Hezbollah member who shoots rockets and blows up busses and cars in Israel. I do admire the comparison between the U.S and not being able to enjoy a cuban cigar and us trying to understand the reality of life in the Middle East. I guess, both issues did arise from a diplomatic standpoint which is something they share in common. To me, humanity is something that encompasses everything related to life and how these events play on ones emotions. Food and music definitely play a role in shaping one’s life though it may not not help solve the Israel/Lebanon issue. The way many American’s see it, the Middle East conflict is a dog eat dog world. If one country doesn’t act, then they are annihilated. If they do act, the there is an all out war. Sadly, it is a lose lose situation over there and everyone just hopes that peace will rise up and overcome hatred.
Humanity is to feel. Killings and terrorizing people has nothing to do with humanity, and not even food and music, which could be passionate matters, can affect the fact that Israel is a war criminal and a state which imposed itself on a land that is not its own. and no, I do not feel any hatred towards Palestine, on the contrary, I wish that some day I would be able to visit Palestine, my problem is with the Israeli state and not the Palestinian, as I see no face of comparison between both, even if they were the same land.
Yes, humanity is to feel, as in the emotions felt by both sides when individual’s learn of the unfortunate and untimely deaths of their friends and family.How can you only blame the Israelis for disregarding humanity? Hezbollah and the palestinian authority have both committed unhumane acts, yet you don’t speak of these? I understand that Israel has done some unjust crimes in the past and do take cautionary measures to prevent further violence today, but for BOTH sides to continue a path of noncooperation will not help anyone in the Middle Eastern or world achieve a humane society.
It is not that I do not speak of Palestinians or what they have done, but perhaps i call it self-defense. They are trying to take back what is theirs. and here, in response to the blog post in particular, do I need to remind you of the crimes that the US has done and the killings it has caused, and yet it fights Cuba for the reason that they believe Cuba is not following human standards or respecting their right? The Lebanese resistance defended Lebanon when Israel was bombing our infrastructure, and Palestinians are trying to take back their rights to proper jobs and water, to even proper living! The state of Israel built and forced itself on the Palestinian land, thus, it is of Palestinian right to defend themselves.I don’t see Palestinians bombing random Israeli neighborhoods which have citizens living in them! Whereas, all what israel has been doing is bombing random places that have normal people and children, and claiming to only be fighting the rebels. I see no rebel in a 5 year-old walking down to his school and still he gets shot by an Israeli soldier.
The embargo on Cuba started long before anyone in my generation was born. It dates back to the Cold War period, a time when America’s number 1 fear was communism. Many agree that the American government acted irrationally during this period, siding with brutal totalitarian dictator because they claimed to be against communism. While I do understand that, at the time, Cuba’s alliance with Russia was a real physical threat to our country, the fact that the embargo still remain is… silly. I honestly think it is a protectionist, economy choice.
The travel embargo was lifted when Obama took office for people who have family and friends in Cuba. I believe the embargo would be over entirely if it wasn’t for the fact that an American, Allan Gross is imprisoned there for trafficking internet equipment and Cuba didn’t continue to refuse his release.
I do not feel like this conflict is a fair comparison to the tumultuous relationship between Lebanon and Israel. We did/ do not suffer the loss or the continual threat that remains between the two countries. I think that we understand there is not quick fix to the hostility but people like to remain optimistic that someday the violence and the hatred will end. It’s gone on too long.
I think it is entirely not fair for the comparison, because as you said, the embargo is for different reasons and the conflict is not as big as it is between Israel and Lebanon. Yet, the embargo is still there, and this is why I compared it to how we feel towards Israel. Our conflicts with Israel are much bigger and for that it is just unacceptable for us to share music and food and forget about the tragedies Israel has caused in our countries.
I totally understand. But someday someone is going to have to stand up. I’m sure their are people on both sides who just want peace. I think the only way toned this is if those people were to have the chance to come together. That may never happen though and that is sad.
Nice piece lynn,
As an outsider, it has been enlightening to watch the dialogue and exchange of views between LIU and GLC students. Lynn, I greatly value and respect the perspective you display in this blog post but for Lebanon and Israel, can relations ever improve without first engaging in dialogue?
Perhaps there are things about America/Americans that you didn’t know before working with the GLC and traveling to Athens. Do you think it’s possible the same holds true for Israel and Israelis?
Before I traveled to Athens, my only thought about Americans was that they have all stereotyped us Arabs as somehow uncivilized or coming from an entirely other planet, I was right to some extent because a lot of the American students thought we come from the desert, and are not even well acquainted with the world, Some of them were surprised of how open minded and out going we were. Yet there is no face of comparison, because I cannot look at Americans the way I look at Israelis. My problem is not with the people, some Israelis themselves do not agree with the crimes of the Israeli state and government, Yet Americans did not impose themselves on a land that is not their own, and did not steal homes and dreams of people who were taken advantage of and had to leave their homes and lands, and cannot manage to live one peaceful day without a bomb going out in some neighborhood. Perhaps I might disagree with some American policies, yet I cannot compare what I thought of it to what I know of Israel when all it does is terrorize people and kill little children.
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