Skip to main content

Search the Special Collections and Archives Portal

Congressional Record, Volume 131, Number 79, June 13, 1985



Digital ID


United States of America Congressional Record PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 99 th CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION Vol. 131 WASHINGTON, THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 1985 No. 79 EXTENSIONS OF REMARKS HON. MARIO BIAGGI OF NEW YORK in the house of representatives Thursday, June 13, 19S5 ? Mr. BIAGGI. Mr. Speaker, yesterday the House wisely voted to provide $27 million in humanitarian aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. I supported this proposal for a variety of reasons but mainly because it will maintain pressure on the Sandinistas to work for a peaceful and diplomatic solution. There are many shortcomings which can be attributed to the Sandinistas. Certainly their most grievous shortcoming is their strong and growing link with the Soviet Union. It is a link that is visible and is continually being reinforced through such manifestations as President Ortega's seven visits to the U.S.S.R. over the past 5 years. However one of the most disturbing of all elements of the Sandinistas was discussed in a recent op ed article in the New York Post written by the distinguished Senator from Nevada, Chic Hecht. It was entitled "Grim Record of Sandinista Anti-Semitism." In the article Senator Hecht charges that there is a campaign underway by the Sandinistas to 'Tid Nicaragua of its Jewish population." One finds credence in this disturbing statement when one considers the established link between the Sandinistas and the PLO, an organization whose main premise is to destroy Israel. In fact Senator Hecht says "Today the Sandinistas are among the PLO's foremost supporters outside the Arab world." As I see it, we cannot and should not allow a double standard to be employed in our foreign policy when we are fighting evils such as anti-Semitism. We must never be in a position of supporting those nations where anti-Semitism is practiced. We must be especially vigorous in our opposition to those nations and governments who align themselves with other governments and organizations who practice anti-Semitism. Ortega's Sandinistas have lined themselves up with two of the foremost proponents of anti-Semitism, the PLO and the Soviet Union. If we are opposed to the Soviet Union for their brutal treatment of Soviet Jews then we must be opposed to Ortega for his alignment with that same Soviet Union. If we oppose the terrorism of the PLO then we must also oppose Ortega's Nicaragua which openly embraces the philosophy of the PLO. The vote we took yesterday was a repudiation of many things including the Sandinistas coziness with the Soviets as well as their active and growing anti-Semitism. Let us remain vigilant in our opposition and work to end this evil before it is allowed to spread. I now wish to insert Senator Hecht's article into the Record at this point. Grim Record of Sandinista Anti-Semitism During the many recent ceremonies that commemorated the Allied victory over Nazism during World War II, we were reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust and of the suffering inflicted on millions of Jews by the totalitarian state that was Hitler's Third Reich. As we remembered the liberation of Dachau and Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Treblinka, we renewed our vow as Jews that we would fight tyranny, injustice and anti-Semitism wherever they occur so that never again will there be another Holocaust. My desire to prevent the spread of anti-Semitism leads me to write about a government that so persecuted its Jewish population that the entire community was forced to flee the country it once called home. I speak not of Spain under the Inquisition, nor of Russia under the czars, nor yet of Germany under the Nazis. I speak, rather, of Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. Most Americans?and even most Jews-remain unaware of the campaign of anti-Semitism that preceded the exodus of Nicaragua's Jewish community from that country. But from my position as a member of the Select Intelligence Committee of the U.S. Senate I have had a unique opportunity to learn of their experiences. And as an American and a Jew, I have a duty to do all in my power to tell their story so that what happened to Jews in Nicaragua will not happen to the thousands of other Jews who live elsewhere in Central America. One of the first attacks on the Jewish community occurred even before the Sandinistas came to power. One Friday evening in 1978, while members of Managua's Jewish community were gathered for services in the city's synagogue, a fire bomb was thrown at the building. As the congregants tried to 2 escape, they found their way barred by masked gunmen who identified themselves as members of the FSLN?the Sandinista National Liberation Front. The gunmen's attempt to burn Jews alive was foiled only by the arrival of the fire department who chased the gunmen off. Upon taking power, the Sandinistas adopted more systematic and "sophisticated" means of anti-Semitic persecution. The 70-year-old leader of the Jewish community, Abraham Gorn, was arrested and convicted on false charges, and was forced to sweep the streets for the duration of his prison sentence. Sandinista agents visited Jewish homes each day to search and loot while the occupants were held at gunpoint and often beaten. Meanwhile, laws were enacted that enabled the government to confiscate Jewish property on the spurious grounds that the owners had either abandoned it or were unable to manage it. Osear Kellerman, a member of Nicaragua's former Jewish community, tells of the effects of the new laws. "They told us to get out, and then they confiscated our property when we left. But when you are told that you either lose your property or your life; there is really no choice.:' The sudden outbreak of violent anti-Se-mitic activity that accompanied the Sandinista revolution shocked the small Jewish community which had previously enjoyed harmonious relations with its gentile neighbors. Many Nicaraguan Jews who found refuge in the U.S. believe that the Sandinista campaign to rid Nicaragua of its Jewish population was staged in order to repay a longstanding debt of gratitude owed by the Sandinistas to the PLO. The Sandinistas have maintained close ties with the PLO since the mid-1960s when members of the FSLN received training and other assistance from the PLO. The alliance between the PLO and the FSLN was so close that Tom as Borge, the Sandinista Commandante, made the following statement in a speech marking the first anniversary of the Sandinista revolution: "We say to our brother Arafat that Nicaragua is his land and the PLO cause is the cause of the Sandinistas." Today, the Sandinistas are among the PLOs foremost supporters outside the Arab world. Granted diplomatic recognition by the Sandinista government, the PLO maintains a fully-accredited embassy in Managua. The Sandinistas have also provided the PLO with support in the United Nations, joining an Arab-led effort to oust Israel from that body while accusing Israel of "mass genocide" in Lebanon of the sort "not seen since Hitler." The Sandinistas' support for the PLO is consistent with the assistance they provide to many other terrorist organizations from around the world. Terrorists from western Europe and Latin America, many of them fugitives from justice, receive refuge and often training and financial backing from the Sandinistas, who have helped to make Nicaragua a center for international terrorism. And just as these terrorists were once able to travel freely using Lebanese papers, they can now do so by carrying passports issued by the Nicaraguan government. All Americans, but especially American Jews, should be concerned by events in Nicaragua. Until now, the debate over U.S. policy towards the Sandinista government has largely ignored the events I have described above. Above all we have a responsibility to protect the Jewish communities living elsewhere in Central America. The Sandinistas are attempting to undermine the security of its neighbors by sponsoring insurrection in those countries. Furthermore, the Sandinistas have expanded Nicaragua's Soviet-equipped army from fewer than 10,000 in 1978 to over 125.000 today. These developments have raised concern in El Salvador, Costa Rica and Honduras that the Sandinistas are preparing what Commandante Tomas Borge has described as a revolution without borders." The concern of Jews was expressed by Dr. Jaime Daremblum, a member of the Costa Rican Jewish community and a leading journalist in San Jose. In an appeal quoted in a statement issued by the National Jewish Coalition. Dr. Daremblum called on the U.S. "to fulfill its duty as the most important member of the democratic community that we would all like to see survive in this hemisphere." It is time for American Jewry to speak out on behalf of the Jews of Central America who today are threatened by the expansionist policies of the Nicaraguan communists. By supporting the administration's request for aid to the rebels fighting the Sandinistas, American Jews can promote the cause of democracy in Central America. In this way they can help ensure that Jew and gentile alike can enjoy freedom and human rights, safe from a government that seeks to spread its policies of violence and anti-Semitism throughout the region.?