Elie Wiesel is a recipient of the Nobel Prize. He is often presented by media as the embodiment of Jewish ethical conscience. The following letter by the Director of the Deir Yassin Remembered organisation throws a different light on the ethical stand of Elie Wiesel.
Deir Yassin Remembered
A Program Service of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society, Inc.
4078 Scandling Center ▪ Geneva ▪ New York 14456
Phone: (315) 781-3418 ▪ Fax: (315) 781-3422 ▪ E-mail: McGowan@hws.edu
February 26, 2005
Pastor James Gerling
32 North Brook Street
Geneva, NY 14456
Dear Pastor Gerling:
In the March issue of The Geneva Presbyterian it was stated that the adult Sunday school class will be shown a film narrated by Elie Wiesel, a "great humanitarian."
Might I caution your readers not to be fooled by the mystical charm of Elie Wiesel, who is the icon of what Norman Finkelstein (in his book by the same title) calls The Holocaust Industry. Far from being a great humanitarian, Wiesel, as Noam Chomsky contends, is simply "a terrible fraud."
Wiesel is often quoted as saying that “the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference.” He has devoted his life to carefully crafting articles and speeches about oppression, genocide, and man’s inhumanity to man. Yet when asked about the oppression and dehumanization of Palestinians by Israel, he “abstains” and dismisses the subject claiming “I cannot say bad things about Jews,” or “Such comparisons are unworthy.”
His eloquent, unwavering support of Zionism has caused him to condemn Palestinians, who are the victims of the colonial expansionism epitomized by the illegal settlement of over 420,000 Jews in the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He degrades Palestinians with racist remarks, such as claiming they use their children as shields for adults throwing stones and worse.
In a 2001 editorial Wiesel dehumanized Palestinians and Muslims far more than his usual “indifference.” He argued that only Jews should have sovereignty in Jerusalem because the name Jerusalem appears more than 600 times in the Bible while it does not appear at all in the Koran. If this is not convincing enough, Wiesel will tell you that Jerusalem is the most holy city for Jews while it is only the third holiest city for Muslims, and therefore Israel should exclusively control it as an eternal part of the Jewish state. Of course, as a loyal Zionist, Wiesel is never troubled by the fact that over half of the people within the borders controlled by Israel are not Jews, so that it is impossible to have “the Jewish state” and a democracy at the same time.
But it is the quest by Palestinians for their “right of return” that causes Wiesel to move from “indifference? to outright lies. In the same editorial he wrote, “In 1948 David Ben-Gurion reached out to what was to be the Palestinian state,” but the Arabs rejected peace and invaded Israel. Wiesel knows that this is patently false. He knows that widespread ethnic cleansing of Arabs took place before the declaration of the state of Israel and the opposition by Arab armies.
He knows from personal experience that on April 9, 1948 Arab civilians, including women and children, were murdered in cold blood in the village of Deir Yassin on the west side of Jerusalem by Jewish terrorists known as the Irgun and the Stern Gang. Wiesel worked for the Irgun, not as a fighter, but as a journalist and knows the details of this infamous (but not the only nor the largest) massacre of Arabs by Jews. And while he piously demands public apologies for atrocities committed against Jews (for example in 1946 at Kielce, Poland), he has never been able to apologize for the atrocities committed by his own employer.
Wiesel pontificates that Auschwitz "represents a grave theological challenge to Christianity." The implication is that Christians created the Holocaust and should apologize to Jews repeatedly and never criticize Israel. That is the essence of his ecumenical deal: we Jews may some day forgive what you Christians did to us (and only to us) in the Holocaust (spelled with a capital H) if you promise to ignore what we have been and continue to do to the Palestinians in our Zionist quest to build a Jewish state. Questioning any aspect of the Holocaust discourse is to be considered "Holocaust denial" and therefore evil. So is mentioning the concentration camps built by Israel to incarcerate Palestinians (e.g., Ketziot in the Negev Desert); so is mentioning the relentless persecution, dispossession, and murder of Palestinians in the name of Zionism for over 100 years.
Wiesel supports "the right of return" for Jews, but only for Jews. An American Jew, who can trace his ancestors back to the Revolutionary War, has the right to return to Israel, obtain dual citizenship, obtain subsidized housing on land expropriated from Palestinians, and drive to settlements on roads “for Jews only.” Palestinians who can trace their ancestors to the same land for centuries and who have a title and key to property from which they were driven in 1948 have no right to return. Why not? Because, Wiesel explains, it is “unthinkable; young Palestinians faces are twisted with hate; it would be suicide for the Jewish state." This is incredible hypocrisy especially from a professor of humanities and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
Perhaps it is not feasible for all Palestinians to return to their homes lost in 1948. But Wiesel cannot even bring himself to tell the truth about what caused their diaspora. He continues to spread one of the most insidious myths in Zionist discourse saying, “Incited by their leaders, 600,000 Palestinians left the country convinced that, once Israel was vanquished, they would be able to return home."
Wiesel knows Arab leaders did not tell their people to leave; that lie was thoroughly disproved by historians years ago. Second, he knows that the best estimates are that 750,000 Palestinians fled in 1948. (Note the outrage by Wiesel and others whenever anyone dares to question the number of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.) And third, these original Palestinian refugees did not just leave; they were driven out, often by the very terrorists for whom Wiesel proudly worked. The massacre at Deir Yassin was emblematic of this.
For years Wiesel has remained silent regarding the suffering and injustices committed against the Palestinian people by Zionists, including Christian Zionists like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham. Many students and scholars found his silence to be hypocritical, especially after his trilogy entitled Against Silence wherein he passionately and piously encouraged readers to fight oppression in all of its forms. But it is this very indifference towards the Palestinians that takes away any "moral high ground" that might otherwise be attributed to him.
Even when Wiesel goes to Jerusalem and stays at the King David Hotel, he cannot help but see Palestinian faces. (One wonders what he thinks when he is alone in the famous hotel that was bombed by his employer, The Irgun, killing scores of Englishmen and 15 innocent Jews.) He can go to the Jewish quarter of the Old City and pray at the Wailing Wall. But on top of that wall are those same goyim praying to his God whom they call Allah. And when he goes to the most famous Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem one wonders if he is refreshed to be in “Jewish Jerusalem? or is he haunted by the thought that the museum is built on the Arab lands of Ein Karem. When he walks through the new tunnel at Yad Vashem to emerge in the sunlight and face the Jewish settlement of Har Nof, is he at all troubled by the fact that he is also looking at the homes of Deir Yassin? Can he see the Palestinian faces of those who were piled up and burned in the quarry on the hill directly across from the museum? And when he goes to the settlement called Gilo, does he speak with Moshe Ben Eitan who ordered the wounded Arab women and children at Deir Yassin to be shot so they would not tell what his and Wiesel’s employer did there?
The answer to these questions is "No, no, and no again." And the answer to the question, "Is Elie Wiesel a great humanitarian?" is also a resounding "No."
Daniel A. McGowan