Global, Politics

Palante! Siempre Palante!

Herty Lewites, a Nicaraguan-born Sandanista leader, was born to an Ashkenazi candy manufacturer from New York. Sadly, Mr. Lewites died of a heart attack Sunday in Managua. He was 66. He spent six months in a US federal prison for smuggling weapons from California to Nicaragua and later became the Sandanista government’s minister of tourism and the mayor of Managua.
The NYTimes Obituary

10 thoughts on “Palante! Siempre Palante!

  1. Sadly, but predictably, the Sandinistas flirted with anti-Semitism before and after taking power. For example, the Sandinista newspaper “Nuevo Diario” often published anti-Semitic articles, stating that “the world’s money, banking and finance are in the hands of descendants of Jews, eternal protectors of Zionism” and making frequent references to “synagogues of Satan.” The Sandinistas established close ties with the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1977. The Sandinistas defaced Managua’s synagogue with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel slogans and the same synagogue was firebombed the subsequent year. Anti-Semitic rhetoric increased during Israel’s war in Lebanon. A few more examples from “Buevo Diario” should suffice:
    “Zionists, from Wall Street, the U.S. Congress, and other powerful sectors of the establishment install and depose Presidents [and] determine fundamental aspects of foreign and domestic policy.”
    “In accordance with the Bible, Israel has committed a capital crime for which she has not yet repented, that is condemning to death and killing the Lord Jesus Christ….Christian revolutionaries are called upon to redouble their efforts against the theology of death.”
    “For many years the Jews, who crucified Christ,…..have used the myth of being God’s chosen people to justify massacres of the Palestinian people.”
    “The world’s money, banking, and finance are in the hands of descendants of Jews, eternal protectors of Zionism.”
    Anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic?
    After the Sandinistas seized power, Nicaraguan Jews had their property confiscated and were subject to arbitrary arrest and physically harassment. Jews who had been residing temporarily outside Nicaragua were not permitted to return. Managua’s synagogue was expropriated and turned into a social club for the children of the Party elite.
    While many on the left rationalized this by claiming that most Jews sided with Somoza and that the Sandinistas were merely engaging in anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic rhetoric, the truth is anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism were intertwined as they are today.

  2. WEVS1,
    So, is there any way you can fit Lewites into your characterization of Lewites? This is a problem that confronts a lot of historians. How do we place left-wing Jewish leaders in dialogue with the parties that many characterize as hostile to the Jewish community. It happened in the Soviet Bloc, in Palestine, etc…If you can’t fit Lewites into your history, then there is something missing from it; perhaps a writ large explanation of how this era of socialism treated communities it viewed as entirely religious. Check the recent things in Belarus as an example..
    – Eli

  3. Eli, I don’ t think it is that difficult to, in your words,
    “fit Lewites into your characterization of Lewites?”
    Lewites sounds like a committed Jewish authoritarian socialist. And, yes, there have been more than a few committed Jewish authoritarian socialists over they years. Why that has been the case is subject to interpretation and debate. Some focus on individual or group psychology others give structural or materialist factors more consideration in their approach. As in most cases, I think a combination of these factors: individual, collective, material, and ideological are at work.
    But that wasn’t my point. My point was that the Sandinistas published anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propoganda and engaged in anti-Semitic activities just as the Soviet communists did. I do not consider either political party –Sandinista or Bolshevik– to be a model for democratic leftists or Jews to follow. In fact, for both groups–democratic leftists and Jews–these movements proved disatrous. No?

  4. According to
    “Though his mother was not Jewish and he never sought links with the country’s tiny Jewish population, Sandinista supporters backhandedly referred to Lewites as “the Jew” and spread false rumors he was a practicing Jew with “Zionist tendencies” after he launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista party chair and presidential candidate.”

  5. It is absolutely true that Lewites had little connection to Judaism, but it is also quite untrue that the Sandinistas were antisemitic or necessarily anti-Zionist. I went to the country back in 1984 to investigate such charges and what we found was a lack of Jews (there were 7 in the country at the time, if I remember correctly – two, including Herty, were in the government). It is absolutely true that many of the few Jews who had been in the country left Nicaragua after the revolution, as did other wealthy Nicaraguans. It is also true that the government confiscated property of those who left. What we couldn’t find was any hint of different behavior based on whether the person fleeing had been Jewish or not.
    It is shameful that the American Jewish community jumped on the charge of antisemitism, as put forth by the Reagan administration as part of the justification for the creation and financing, by the American government, of the Contras. It is shameful that we continue to jump on all rumors of anti-Zionism as proof that the Sandinistas were corrupt. (I’m pretty convinced that the party started off relatively honest, and were still committed to their ideals when we there in 1984; I’m not convinced that they stayed that way in the face of the American war against them, and in the face of their own power and privilege.)
    We have let our hysteria lend strength to lashon ha-ra.
    As for Herty? He was a neat middle-aged man when I knew him and a mensh. He had no interest in Jewish community or ritual, but he was very out about being Jewish – I don’t remember if both Jews in the Sandinista government wore stars of david around their necks, or just the woman, whose name I have forgotten over time, but both made a point of emphasizing their ethnic origins and their pride in same.
    More than that, I do not know. Rest in Peace, compañero.

  6. Ari, I’ll let the headlines and statements from “Nuevo Diaro” speak for themselves. If you don’t find those comments anti-Semitic I don’t know what to tell you.

  7. i will be going to nicaragua soon–i am jewish–is there a jewish community or any jewish person to be in touch with –thanks shabbat shalom

  8. I am trying to locate missing relatives in Managua. They are of Jewish descent. Is there a JEWISH COMMUNITY that I can contact through email that speaks english? I just read an article where, Arturo Vaughan, said that he knew EVERYBODY Jewish alive or dead in Managua. I would love to contact him, but having trouble locating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.