Wiesel is simply “a terrible fraud.”
— Noam Chomsky
Every now and then Israel’s enablers in the US embark on a public campaign to apply as much political pressure on US policymakers as they can possibly get away with. Elie Wiesel , a Holocaust survivor and 1986 Nobel laureate, is one of those apologists that Israel employs when it is in trouble.
Wiesel ’s disgraceful history of dismissing the suffering of some in favor of others is well documented. The late historian Howard Zinn called Wiesel’s refusal to include the suffering of non-Jews at the hands of the Nazis at the Holocaust Museum, along with exhibits documenting Jewish suffering, one of the most “shameful moments” in recent memory. In that episode, Wiesel described the inclusion of the terrible affliction of non-Jews by the Nazis in the Museum as an attempt to “falsify reality” and that such calls were tantamount to “stealing the Holocaust from us.”
Two months ago, Wiesel’s name was on a full-page ad in the New York Times, urging atrocious and lethal actions against Iran because of its nuclear energy program. On April 18, a Wiesel-endorsed ad ran in several prominent U.S. dailies, including the NYT and the Washington Post, tackling the issue of Jerusalem because of the public spat between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.
Since one can hardly think that Wiesel is ignorant of the facts, the number of deliberate lies and misleading information included in the ad was astounding. He asserted that Jerusalem “belongs to the Jewish people,” while dismissing its Islamic and Christian dimensions. His rationale was that Jerusalem was mentioned in the Torah “more than six hundred times,” while “not a single time in the Qur’an.” Such an ignorant statement demonstrates not only a total lack of knowledge regarding Islamic scriptures but also a distortion of history.
Even so, resorting to citing the sheer volume of scriptural references reveals the hollowness of Wiesel ‘s argument. Is it pertinent to the place of Mecca in the Islamic conscience that the holiest city in Islam is mentioned by name only once in the Qur’an? Moreover, the historical figures of the Bible such as Moses, Aaron, Mary and Jesus are mentioned in the Qur’an 136, 20, 34, and 25 times respectively, while Muhammad is only mentioned five times by name. What does that prove? Yet, Wiesel conveniently ignores the significance in Islamic doctrine of the Muslim prophet’s seminal journey to Jerusalem, in which he prayed in the Aqsa mosque, an event that is not only mentioned vividly in the Islamic scripture, but has been celebrated every year by Muslims around the world for over 1400 years.
Not only does Wiesel ignore history and disregard international law, but he also perpetuates the lie that Israel was attacked in 1967 to justify its occupation of Jerusalem and other Arab lands. Describing Israel’s aggression in June 1967, UN Security Council resolution 242 declared the “inadmissibility of acquisition of land by force,” calling for the total withdrawal by Israel from its recent occupation of Arab lands. In May 1968, the UN Security Council passed resolution 252 that “deplore[d] the failure of Israel to comply” with international law, and “considered[d] that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including the expropriation of land and properties, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status.”
Oblivious to reality, Wiesel falsely asserted that “for the first time in history, Jews, Christian and Muslims may freely worship at their shrines.” But the reality of Palestinian daily life is that Israel does not allow any man under 50 years old to pray at al-Aqsa mosque or at the Dome of the Rock. This discriminatory policy has been in force for years, facilitated by over 500 Israeli military check points, planted across the West Bank, in an apartheid-like control of all aspects of Palestinian civil life. Recently, the historian, Professor Walid Khalidi, presented a remarkable speech about Jerusalem’s history before the United Nations, chronicling its long-established Islamic and Christian roots and exposing the brutal Zionist policies of discrimination and exclusion.
In his address Khalidi stated that, “Israeli colonization in and around east Jerusalem aims at geostrategic control, demographic domination, psychological browbeating, economic and social disruption, doctrinal affirmation, religious fulfillment, and territorial expansion.” Hence, the real objective of Wiesel’s ad was to alleviate the pressure by the Obama administration and the international community over Israel allowing it the time needed to complete its colonization plans.
Israel’s continued attempts to create facts on the ground in Jerusalem by depopulating its Arab residents (both Muslim and Christian) in favor of Jewish settlers and colonialists are well documented. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports that the Israeli government’s primary goal in Jerusalem has been to “create a demographic and geographic situation that will thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the city.” It lists the various methods utilized to achieve this goal, including policies of institutionalized discrimination, expropriation and harassment. Rabbi Brant Rosen of Evanston, IL, also presents a compelling Israeli-produced video that documents the systematic discriminatory and brutal policies of the Israeli government. So much for Wiesel ’s false declaration of Palestinians’ ability “to build their homes anywhere in the city.”
Furthermore, according to Ziad Hammouri, the director of the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, more than 30,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem lost their residency rights in the past twenty years. In addition, around 165,000 people are living east of the separation wall that separates Jerusalem from the West Bank. In early April of this year, the Israeli military authority in the West Bank announced that in the near future it will deport over 70,000 Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem because “they have no residency rights.”
Wiesel’s history of justifying Israel’s aggressive policies is long and extensive. From as far back as 1947-1949, Wiesel worked as a journalist for the Zionist terrorist group (as designated by the British), the Irgun. He knows the details of the infamous 1948 Deir Yasin massacre of innocent Palestinians (as well as others) perpetrated by his organization, which at the time was led by Menahem Begin and Yitzak Shamir.
Yet, he still argues that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left their homes in 1948 voluntarily, ignoring the overwhelming evidence that exists, not only in dozens of UN- sponsored reports and live testimonials of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, but also in evidence unearthed by Israeli “new historians” such as Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris. Wiesel persists in demanding public apologies for crimes committed against Jews but never expresses any sympathy or a whimper for atrocities committed against the Palestinians. Wiesel once publicly stated, “I support Israel—period. I identify with Israel—period. I never attack, I never criticize Israel.”
The hypocrisy abounds. Wiesel stood before the world during his Nobel peace prize address in 1986 and said, “The world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.”
He certainly took sides, choosing to praise the oppressor and condemn the victim, not even remaining silent, but enabling brutality, and justifying exclusion despite daily Palestinian suffering and humiliation.
ESAM AL-AMIN can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org