Elie Wiesel blames the victims

Elie Wiesel—yet again—seems to find himself on the wrong side, this time in a full-page ad he took out in US newspapers (PDF), problematicallly entitled: "Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it's Hamas' turn." Offering no evidence for the accusation, he writes: "I call upon President Obama and the leaders of the world to condemn Hamas' use of children as human shields." This formula of course gives Israel a blank check to kill Palestinian children, while blaming Hamas for using them as "shields." And while the statement invokes co-existence and a shared Abrahamic heritage with the Palestinians, it does so in utterly hypocritical terms. In his penultimate paragraph, Wiesel writes: "And I enjoin the American public to stand firmly with the people of Israel who are in yet another struggle for survival, and with the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace." Note the subtlety of the propaganda. We are admonished to stand with "the people of Israel" (presumably, all of them), who are engaged in a "struggle for survival." Whereas, we are told to stand with "the suffering people of Gaza who reject terror and embrace peace"—this after a lecture about the Gazans using their children as "shields." So presumably, we are only to "stand with" those Gazans who reject their own leaders. No such conditions are placed on the Israeli side—on the contrary, the Israeli war is legitimized as a "struggle for survival." There is no acknowledgement of a "struggle for survival" in Gaza—with over 1,500 dead, 200,000 displaced, whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble, and thousands without water or electricity.

We hate to say it, but this guy is part of the problem.

  1. Survivors respond to Elie Wiesel

    327 Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide have signed this letter written in response to Elie Wiesel's manipulation of the Nazi Genocide to attempt to justify the attacks on Gaza. The statement is online at the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:

    As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

    We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

    Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel's abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

    We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. "Never again" must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!

    1. Jewish press hits back at survivors’ response to Elie Wiesel

      Alvin H. Rosenfeld, director of Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University, hits back in The Forward at the Holocaust survivors' statement criticizing Elie Wiesel. Much of it is predictably obnoxious, e.g:

      Hedy Epstein, who has also signed on to the…statement, likes garnering public attention as a "survivor," although whether she is one is debatable. Like Meyer, she was born in Germany in 1924, but she left the country in 1939 on a Kindertransport and spent the war years in Great Britain. Since coming to America in 1948, she has thrown herself into political activism, often on behalf of such celebrated Palestinian causes as the 2008 "freedom flotillas" that were meant to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the "Gaza Freedom March" in Cairo in 2009, and various anti-Israel activities on the West Bank and elsewhere sponsored by the radical International Solidarity Movement.

      Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who inevitably show up at high-profile rallies organized by others, Hedy Epstein "marched" in St. Louis in mid-August, 2014 to demonstrate her solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. When stories broke headlining "Holocaust Survivor Arrested in Ferguson Protests," it was a foregone conclusion that it was Hedy Epstein. She seems to thrive on flashing her dubious credentials as a "survivor" and, even at age 90, will step forward to join protests, especially if they are against Israel.

      The relentless use of scare quotes is particularly vile, especially around "survivor." Hedy Epstein may not have been in the death camps herself, but she lost most of her family in Auschwitz, and lived six years of her childhood under the Nazis. (The scare quotes around "marched" are more mysterious; what does Rosenfeld think she was doing in Ferguson if not marching?) 

      Rosenfeld accuses the signatories of "lend[ing] their endorsement to causes that prove harmful for most other Jews." This is a dubious charge at best; we have long maintained that breaking ranks with Zionism and making common cause with the oppressed is in the enlightened self-interest of Jews. However, it has to be said that the statement gave easy ammo to Rosenfeld with the line "ongoing genocide of Palestinians." It allows him to gripe:

      The endorsement of the most reckless charges against Israel — e.g., Israelis are like Nazis and are carrying out a genocide against Palestinians — by members of a people who themselves were victims of the twentieth century’s most determined attempt at genocide is unprecedented and can be hugely harmful unless it is seen for what it is: an unseemly exercise in the spread of propagandistic lies.

      As we've said before, oppression doesn't have to rise to the level of genocide before we have a responsibility to oppose it. The IJAN statement would have been on safe ground if it had said "ongoing oppression of the Palestinians," or "expropriation," or "disfranchisement," or "colonization." The word "genocide" is both loaded and dubious, especially when offered with no arguments in its defense. And especially when "progressives" went through logical somersaults to deny the far more clear-cut genocide in Darfur (just for instance)…