Elie Wiesel presents himself as a humanitarian whose personal narrative gives him special license to sermonize about tolerance and non-violence. Wiesel: “Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.” More Wiesel: “Never again becomes more than a slogan: It’s a prayer, a promise, a vow. Never again jail and torture. Never again the suffering of innocent people, or the shooting of starving, frightened, terrified children.”
Yet Wiesel, the putative guardian of the weak and the innocent, is in conflict with Wiesel, the Zionist and shameless apologist for Israel’s on going ethnic cleansing campaign and serial butchery in Lebanon and Gaza. “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.” In the Middle East Wiesel has made his choice and it is to champion the powerful against their victims and to defend the occupier against the dispossessed.
In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech Wiesel claimed to be sensitive to the plight of the Palestinians “but whose methods I deplore when they lead to violence. Violence is not the answer. Terrorism is the most dangerous of answers.” Wiesel denounced Palestinian terrorism but conveniently ignored his own membership in a Jewish terrorist group, the Irgun, which he joined in Paris in 1947 as a translator, journalist and propagandist.
Obviously Wiesel knew the Irgun was a terrorist group when he became a member. Its European HQ fled Rome for Paris after an Irgun cell blew up the British embassy there. Furthermore by the time Wiesel joined the organization, it had established a reputation for bombing and shooting scores of innocent Arabs in Palestine. In the 1930s the Irgun planted deadly bombs in Arab marketplaces, most notably in Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They also blew up buses and trains. By the mid-1940s the Irgun put the British colonial government in its sights. In 1946 the terrorist group killed 91 people in a Christmas bombing of the King David Hotel. They also kidnapped, tortured and hanged two British Army sergeants. And in an outrage which occurred after Wiesel joined the Irgun, the group killed some 254 unarmed Palestinian civilians at Deir Yassin in order to terrorize Palestine’s Christian and Muslim population and encourage their flight.
Despite working for a terrorist organization that was instrumental in driving the Palestinians from their homes during Israel’s so called War of Independence, Wiesel quite dishonestly asserted in a New York Times op-ed that “Incited by their leaders, 600,000 Palestinians left the country convinced that, once Israel was vanquished, they would be able to return home.” Not only did Wiesel know the truth about the Palestinian Nakba from his work for the Irgun, but when his piece appeared in the Times in 2001 Israeli historians like Benny Morris had already entirely debunked the myth of voluntary Palestinian flight. Further, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s autobiography revealed David Ben-Gurion’s order to drive out the Palestinians:
“While the fighting was still in progress, we had to grapple with a troublesome problem…the fate of the civilian population of Lod and Ramle, numbering some 50,000…We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question: ‘What is to be done with the population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said, ‘Drive them out!’…The population of Lod did not leave willingly. There was no way of avoiding the use of force…”
Lying about Israeli ethnic cleansing was not enough. Wiesel, ever the propagandist, even tried to discredit the Palestinian struggle against Zionism by conflating indigenous Arab resistance with Nazism. Wiesel wrote in his autobiography, All Rivers Flow to the Sea, “gangs loyal to the grand mufti, the pro-Hitler Haj Amin el-Husseini, former ally and protégé of Himmler, attacked Jewish villages and convoys.” Of course Wiesel said nothing about Avraham Stern, leader of an Irgun splinter group, the Lehi, who actually sought an alliance with the Nazis against Great Britain during World War II.
Wiesel has said “Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil” and “When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant”. Nevertheless in the face of the Palestinian struggle to end years of Israeli occupation, land theft and brutality, Wiesel, when he isn’t blaming Zionism’s victims, is either silent or indifferent: “…whenever Israeli police or soldiers react excessively to violence from Palestinian soldiers or civilians. I rarely answer.” And concerning the IDF facilitated massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon: “I don’t think we should even comment…” What ever happened to Wiesel’s signature commonplace “I swore never to be silent…”?
During this past summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, Wiesel accused the Palestinians of using children as human shields, saying in a full page ad in the New York Times, “Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it’s Hamas’ turn.” Truth is, of course, the Israelis have not given up child sacrifice if it is Arab children doing the dying. And Israel’s exculpatory explanation that ‘the Arabs forced us to murder their kids’ has been used for a long time, for example to shield Israel from international criticism during bombing campaigns against Egypt in the early1970s and repeatedly in Lebanon.
As for Wiesel’s human shields accusation itself, western media reporting from inside Gaza during operation Protective Edge in August have pretty much discredited him. Were the four cousins playing soccer on the beach killed by Israeli naval gunfire human shields? What about the young children hit with a smart bomb while feeding the family ducks? Human shields too? And the 500 or so other dead children? Considering Israeli willingness to hit any target in Gaza from UN schools to water treatment plants to hospitals, why would Hamas bother to use kids as shields? The presence of civilians hasn’t deterred Israeli attacks in Gaza or elsewhere; good examples being the shelling of the UN compound at Qana in Lebanon and the bombing of Bahr el-Baqar primary school in Egypt
If Wiesel had a scintilla of humanity he would be honest enough to admit that Israel is killing children in Gaza because the Palestinians have chosen to resist Israeli ethnocide of which the long term siege of Gaza is an integral and essential part.
Wiesel has written repeatedly to defend Israeli government policy in Jerusalem. In 2001 Wiesel stated, “As for Jerusalem, would it not be better to resolve all other pending questions first and defer until a later time decisions about the fate of the holiest of cities?” More recently, in a 2010 letter to President Obama, Wiesel asking him not to “pressure” the Israelis to make concessions to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Wiesel’s intent is clear: To buy time for the Israelis to finish their campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. Wiesel, clearly a man not afraid to lie, even went so far as to claim,”… contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city” to which Jerusalem resident and former MK Yossi Sarid replied, “Not only may an Arab not build “anywhere,” but he may thank his god if he is not evicted from his home and thrown out onto the street with his family and property…”
Wiesel states that Jerusalem “belongs to the Jewish people.” He asserts an exclusive Jewish claim to the city saying Jerusalem “is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran,” as if this should somehow minimize Muslim veneration and attachment to the city. And he says nothing about the importance of Jerusalem to Christianity or that the place name appears 140 times in the New Testament. Wiesel may be right when he declared “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” But one may doubt he delivered the aphorism with self-criticism in mind.
Wiesel may also claim that “For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics,” but he knows better. The Israeli politicians who vastly expanded Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries after the 1967 war did so with politics and demographics in mind. And Wiesel himself is chairman of the advisory board of the settler run outfit Elad, whose current project is to drive Palestinians out of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan by fair means or foul.
Wiesel has been called a “contemptible poseur and windbag” and the “resident clown of the Holocaust circus.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to label him the personification of Nazi genocide in service of Zionism. And Zionism is the longest systematic violation of human rights in recent history. The ever so quotable Wiesel may proclaim “One person of integrity can make a difference,” but that person is not Elie Wiesel.