Thursday, April 19, 2012

Condemning Nazi Comparisons and the Instant Israelification of Elie Wiesel

In an interview with the Israeli daily Globes, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel rejected the constant comparisons and conflations of Nazi Germany with Iran, calling such efforts to drawn analogies to the Holocaust "unacceptable and impossible," and also noted, "For example, there are the haredim (ultra-orthodox), who put yellow stars on their children in protests - and in Israel of all places. What have we come to?"

Wiesel is of the opinion that "Iran is a danger, but to claim that it is creating a second Auschwitz?  I compare nothing to the Holocaust."

When asked his thoughts on the tendency of German people to turn "remorse over the Holocaust into part of their identity," Wiesel responded, "I oppose declaring collective punishment. Only the perpetrators of the crime are guilty."

Remember, this is coming from a man who wrote, in the wake of the 2010 Mavi Marmara massacre, that while "the death of nine pro-Palestinian peace activists" was "unfortunate," the fallout resulting in "political attacks on Israel" were "surely hasty and exaggerated." He claims the Israeli commandos who boarded the flotilla - which he says was "chartered by pro-Hamas groups, the initiative coming from the most militant wing of Hamas" - were "immediately surrounded by visibly trained men who set savagely upon them." Wiesel further describes his version of what happened that night:
The men on the deck of the largest vessel, the Mavi Marmara, had been waiting for the commandos - and they acted as a well-organized lynch mob. It was a setup, a trap. We know that now. They were force-oriented militants, not pacifists. They were armed, not with guns but with knives and iron rods.
In his op-ed in the New York Daily News, Wiesel wrote that "Gaza, under Hamas, is after all a war zone. Its thousands of rockets constitute a permanent threat to Israel's citizens," claiming that while Israel's blockade "block[s] arms shipments" to Hamas, it "does allow shipments of medical aid and of food." He also repeated the lie that flotilla passengers told the Israeli Navy to “go back to Auschwitz," despite the fact that this piece of propaganda has already been roundly debunked by Max Blumenthal.

Wiesel's awareness of the deliberately-imposed humanitarian crisis and collective punishment in Gaza seems to be obscured by his blind insistence on Israeli benevolence and self-defense. It is unsurprising that Wiesel - who uses his role as a "moral authority"  to routinely spout hasbara and apologia to Zionist audiences like John Hagee's Christians United for Israel - has repeatedly refused to visit Gaza to see with his own eyes the truth of collective punishment, even when asked by a fellow Holocaust survivor.  No wonder he called the Goldstone Report "a crime against the Jewish people.”

In 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert effectively offered the Israeli Presidency to Wiesel. Wiesel demurred.  When questioned about why he turned down the offer, Wiesel reasonably explained:
I refused because I am not Israeli and I don’t live in Israel. He said, 'I'll make you an Israeli in five minutes.' There was pressure on me to accept the offer. In Israel, when you say no, the pressure is only increased. But I said that it wouldn’t happen, because I'm not suited for the job and that my wife would divorce me. Six weeks after the offer, I made a visit to Israel and I was welcomed like never before.
That Wiesel declined the post is not the issue; he should have and did.  What is striking is that, apparently, not being Israeli is clearly not an problem for the President of Israel.  As far as Olmert was concerned, if the indigenous people of the land can be forcibly displaced and dispossessed in explicit contravention of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, continually for six and a half decades, why shouldn't a famous author who doesn't even live in Israel, be "ma[de] an Israeli in five minutes" and granted a ceremonial, figurehead political position of a nuclear-armed, ethnocratic, colonial-settler state?  Perhaps it is reasonable to assume that, since it took David Ben-Gurion a mere sixteen minutes to read the 979 words proclaiming the "independence" of a brand new state, established upon the ruins and soon-to-be more ruins of Palestine, making someone Israeli in five minutes isn't a big deal.

Similarly, when Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Abba Eban (on behalf of Ben-Gurion) offered Albert Einstein the same position after the death of Chaim Weizmann in 1952, Einstein declined the post as well. Yet, his reasoning was surely different. He knew that what Israeli leaders wanted from Einstein, in their scramble to fill the popularity void left by Weizmann's death, was "my name, not my person."  In his response to Eban's offer, Einstein wrote "I have never in my life undertaken a task that I could not fulfill to the satisfaction of my own conscience."  Writing to his stepdaughter Margot about his decision, Einstein explained, "I would have to say to the Israeli people things they would not like to hear."

Einstein's decision is perhaps unsurprising considering his own views on the Zionist project in Palestine. In fact, Einstein, who abhorred nationalism and colonialism, declared during a speech in New York on April 17, 1938, "I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from practical consideration, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the ideas of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power no matter how modest." Eight years later, in a statement to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, Einstein said, "The state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad."

Einstein, along with other Jewish luminaries, condemned Zionist terrorism and the Deir Yassin massacre and, in a letter to Chaim Weizmann himself, wrote, "If we do not succeed in finding the path of honest cooperation and coming to terms with the Arabs, we will not have learned anything from our two-thousand-year ordeal and will deserve the fate which will beset us."

Just months before his death, in a January 4, 1955 letter to Israeli founding father Zvi Lurie, Einstein wrote, "The most important aspect of our policy must be our ever-present, manifest desire to institute complete equality for the Arab citizens living in our midst...The attitude we adopt toward the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people."

Evidently, Elie Wiesel has no such hang-ups.



April 23, 2012 - Just days after condemning Holocaust analogies with regard to Iran, in his introduction of President Barack Obama at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. today, Wiesel declared: 
Have we learned anything from it [the Holocaust]? If so, how is it that Assad is still in power? How is it that the Holocaust's number one denier Ahmadinejad is still a president? He who threatens to use nuclear weapons — to use nuclear weapons — to destroy the Jewish state.

We must know that when evil has power, it is almost too late.
Not only did Wiesel literally do exactly that which he just spoke out against - making Holocaust connections to the alleged threat Iran poses to Israel (a threat which, mind you, doesn't exist in any physical, existential way, but only in a potential challenge to American and Zionist hegemony over the Middle East), but he also makes one of the stupider claims of all time.

It really shouldn't need pointing out, but Iran has never "threaten[ed] to use nuclear weapons to destroy Israel."  Never.  Ever.  Not even once.  Not ever.

Wiesel is lying.

Iran has spent the past three decades explicitly denying any intention of building nuclear weapons and all intelligence agencies from the United States to Israel agree that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.  A Reuters Special Report on March 23, 2012, based upon "extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran," summarized their conclusions this way:
The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Reuters was quick to point out that these assessments "contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities."

In fact, Wiesel's absurd remark recalls a nearly identical one made in March 2008 by George W. Bush. Bush, while speaking to the Farsi-language U.S. government propaganda radio station, Radio Farda, declared, "They've [the Iranian government] declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East. And that's unacceptable to the United States, and it's unacceptable to the world."

This statement was so devoid of truth that even former State Department Iran specialist Suzanne Maloney was moved to speak out. Maloney, who was at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center (not a progressive organization by any stretch) at the time, noted, "The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon," adding that "it's troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country."

Wiesel has also used the "number one denier" line before about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In September 2009, at a Zionist rally protesting the Iranian leader's appearance at the United Nations, Wiesel insisted that "Ahmadinejad is the Number One Holocaust denier in the world," and called on other world leaders to shun him. "He's unworthy of your attention; he's unworthy of being your colleague. He's in fact an enemy of humanity."

Wiesel repeated this claim on Israeli Army Radio in February 2010.  "Ahmadinejad is a danger to the world and pathologically sick, " he said during an interview, "He is dangerous because he openly wants to destroy Israel, meaning, to destroy another six million Jews."  Wiesel continued to accuse Ahmadinejad of being "an open anti-Semite and the world's biggest Holocaust denier" who "intends to destroy Israel and bring disaster to the entire world."  He called upon governments to "stop Ahmadinejad and put him on trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on charges of open incitement for genocide."

Unsurprisingly, Wiesel doesn't demand similar treatment for actual war criminals Ariel Sharon, Dick Cheney, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Donald Rumsfeld, Ehud Olmert, George W. Bush, Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama.

In a 2006 interview with the Washington Post, Ahmadinejad said of the Nazi Holocaust, "We know this was a historical event that has happened," but wondered "why is it that people who question it, even in the smallest sense, are persecuted and attacked?"  Two years later, speaking to NPR's Steve Inskeep, Ahmadinejad admitted that he does "raise a couple of questions about the Holocaust."  He continued, "The first question is, is the Holocaust a historical event or not? It is a historical event. And, having said that, there are numerous historical events. So the next question is, why is it that this specific event has become so prominent?"

Ahmadinejad's point, albeit heavy-handed and certainly dismissive of Western sensibilities and collective guilt, is obvious.  One look at Wiesel's and Obama's speeches at the Holocaust Museum yesterday make it clear that the unspeakable tragedy of the Holocaust is consistently used and abused as a bludgeon against critics of Zionism and Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

If that makes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the world's leading Holocaust denier, as Wiesel claims, then Holocaust denial ain't what it used to be. 

But getting back to Wiesel's more outlandish claim, Ahmadinejad - in a 2006 comment seemingly designed to make Wiesel look foolish six years later - stated clearly, "Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country...We are not a threat to anybody; even our solution to the Zionist regime is a referendum."

Ahmadinejad has not only never threatened to attack Israel militarily (with nuclear or conventional weapons), he has specifically spoken out against such a possibility.  In August 2006, Ahmadinejad said, "Iran is not a threat to any country, and is not in any way a people of intimidation and aggression."

In September 2007, Ahmadinejad was asked by the Associated Press whether Iran "would ever make a first strike against Israel." He replied, "Iran will not attack any country," and insisted Iran has "always maintained a defensive policy, not an offensive one" and has no interest in territorial expansion, something Israel could never seriously claim.

At a news conference during the 2008 D8 Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Ahmadinejad told reporters that because he believes the Zionist enterprise of ethnic cleansing and colonization is "inherently doomed" to failure, "there is no need for Iranians to take action" to hasten the inevitable political outcome in Palestine.  He also assured the press, "You should not be concerned about a new war."

During an October 2011 interview, Ahmadinejad told Al Jazeera that Iran "will never enter any war against the U.S. or against any other country. This is our policy...We have never attacked anybody. Why should we do that? Why should we start a war?"

It's a shame Mr. Wiesel has long resorted to exploiting his renowned status as one of the world's most famous and accomplished Holocaust survivors to spread lies and propaganda.  If anyone should know the value of truth and the danger of fear-mongering, it should be him.



April 24, 2012 - Not sure how I missed this initially, but the ever-pathetic, New Jersey-born Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and hasbarist extraordinaire, addressed a gathering of government officials, Jewish leaders, and World War II veterans on Capitol Hill on Holocaust Remembrance Day last Thursday, April 19, 2012.

While Oren, just like Wiesel, decried the trivialization of the Holocaust, he also, just like Wiesel, did just that by making the same old Iran-now-is-Nazi-Germany-then analogy.

Oren told the crowd,
We must not allow the memory of the six million to be trivialized. Human history is rife with atrocities, massacres, and wars, but nothing that can be equated with the enormity of the Holocaust. It is profoundly, unbearably, unique.
He followed that up with this:
At the same time, we must also acknowledge that evil did not appear suddenly in the 1930s and depart in 1945, never to return again. We must admit that the genocidal hatred of Jews that burned during those years remains a fierce and re-combustible scourge. We cannot ignore the similarities between the conditions that fostered the Holocaust and those we now witness daily.
Ha'aretz reported that Oren was explicit:
Mentioning Iran directly, Oren said, "It denies the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis while pledging to murder another six million—in Israel."

Oren spoke about possible responses to the Iranian threat. "We now have the opportunity—indeed, the duty—to confront Iranian leaders with the unambiguous choice never posed to the Nazis," said Oren.

"The Iranian regime can either abandon its military nuclear program or face truly crippling sanctions and a credible military threat," he continued.
As discussed above, Oren - just like Wiesel - is lying.

Also, it remains a mystery how Iran is expected to "abandon its military nuclear program" when - according to the United States, the IAEA, and even Israel - it doesn't have one.


1 comment:

Bill the Butcher said...

Wiesel (whom a Jewish friend of mine prefers to call Weasel) built his reputation on the alleged autobiography of his, Night. When I read the book, many years ago, I (at that time a teenager) was instantly struck by how it read like a made-for-the-movies script. Everything about it seemed somehow, fictionalised and designed to include each and every Holocaust experience you can think of. I wasn't all that surprised later to see that the version of the book I'd read was actually the second, and that in an earlier version, after the liberation of the camps, vengeful inmates went out to find German women to rape. Such delightful pieces of information were deleted from the later version, which was cleaned up for the international market.

Also, it's not that surprising to me that Wiesel has been accused of plagiarising the experience of other inmates; in fact, it's difficult, reading the book, to see how he did not.