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Israel Is Not Only Acted Upon. It Acts Upon Others

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Peter Beinart’s article bemoaning what has become of Elie Wiesel and his blind defense of right-wing Israeli policy toward the Middle East is right on the money.

But the deeper problem with Wiesel’s letter is the one Hertzberg identified three decades ago: Wiesel is acutely, and understandably, sensitive to the harm Jews suffer. Yet he is largely blind to the harm Jews cause. In his open letter, Wiesel notes that the Iranian threat is particularly vivid now because Jews will soon celebrate Purim, when they read about “a wicked man in Persia named Haman” who tried to “annihilate, murder and destroy the Jews.” But on Purim Jews also read about what happens after Haman’s fall from power, when Persia’s Jews “with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction… slew of their foes seventy and five thousand.”

If the Book of Esther offers a haunting warning of the violence Jews can suffer, why does it not also warn us of the violence Jews can inflict? And if Wiesel is so alarmed by threats of nuclear annihilation, why does he keep embracing his former patron Sheldon Adelson, who in 2013 urged the United States to drop an “atomic weapon” in the Iranian desert, and then, if the Iranians don’t halt their nuclear program, drop one “in the middle of Tehran” so the Iranians are “wiped out.”

This tendency to whitewash Jewish behavior is a feature of Wiesel’s previous statements on Israel too. In 2010, when the Obama and Netanyahu governments tussled over settlement growth in East Jerusalem, Wiesel wrote a public letter celebrating Jewish control over Jerusalem because “for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city.”

Wiesel’s motivations for believing the best about Jewish control of the holy city may have been commendable. But his claims were blatantly untrue. In a detailed rebuttal, Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer specializing in Jerusalem land claims, noted that one-third of East Jerusalem and almost all of West Jerusalem is “state land,” available for residence only to Israeli citizens and Diaspora Jews eligible to become Israeli citizens. And since the “Palestinians of East Jerusalem, with rare exception, are in neither of these categories…Wiesel may purchase a home anywhere in East or West Jerusalem, [but] a Palestinian cannot.” Seidemann also dismantled Wiesel’s claims about religious access, noting that, “due to Israeli restrictions, today it is easier for a Palestinian Christian living just south of Jerusalem in Bethlehem to worship in Washington’s National Cathedral than to pray in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Today a Muslim living in Turkey has a better chance of getting to Jerusalem to pray at the Old City’s Al-Aqsa mosque than a Muslim living a few miles away in Ramallah.”

Again and again, Wiesel takes refuge in the Israel of his imagination, using it to block out the painful reckoning that might come from scrutinizing Israel as it actually is. “I can’t believe that Israeli soldiers murdered people or shot children. It just can’t be,” Wiesel said in 2010. But these are not questions of faith. Israel is a decent country composed of decent young men and women who, in the West Bank, are obliged to police people who lack basic rights. And in such circumstances, decent people do indecent things. “We are making the lives of millions unbearable,” declares one former Shin Bet head, Carmi Gillon, in the film “The Gatekeepers.” In the West Bank, Israel has become “a brutal occupation force,” notes another, Avraham Shalom. A third, Yuval Diskin, calls the occupation a “colonial regime.” These men don’t hate Israel; they have dedicated their lives to protecting it. But unlike Wiesel, they are discussing the real Israel, not the one they have constructed in their minds.

Really, it’s just sad to see a once heroic and great person fall into such reflexive defense of injustice.

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  • howard

    i couldn’t agree more.

    i saw wiesel read when i was a teenager in the late ’60s at the allentown jewish community center (not far from muhlenberg college as it happens) and it was clear even to my adolescent self that he was a haunted man who felt called upon to bear witness.

    to see him turn into an apologist is very sad.

  • liberalrob

    I can only speculate on how it must be, to be a Holocaust survivor and witness the place one imagined to be dedicated to the idea of never again allowing such brutality and inhumanity based on racial and/or ideological grounds itself begin to engage in that very same brutality for essentially the same reasons.

    I flatter myself that it’s probably somewhat akin to the feeling I get when I hear that “we don’t torture.”

    • Manny Kant

      begin to? The whole state was founded on brutality and inhumanity. It might be reasonable to argue that Israel’s brutal and inhumane actions before 1967 were justified by their situation, but certainly helping to turn several million people out of their homes and never allowing them to return is hard for me to see as gentle and humane.

      • cpinva

        “The whole state was founded on brutality and inhumanity. It might be reasonable to argue that Israel’s brutal and inhumane actions before 1967 were justified by their situation, but certainly helping to turn several million people out of their homes and never allowing them to return is hard for me to see as gentle and humane.”

        I’m certainly no defender of bad acts by Israel, but at least get your history straight, at minimum. Israel was founded close to 3,000 years ago, not in 1948. the only reason the jews left (the first diaspora) was because of the roman conquest and occupation, they never gave up title to the land.

        in 1948, they took back that which was always theirs, and have been forced to constantly fight to keep it ever since. unfortunately, when a people are constantly either engaged or under threat of war, the stress starts taking its toll, and things they would never have dreamed of doing start to seem, well, normal. how long did it take for our last administration to start resorting to torturing prisoners for intel?

        clearly, the two state solution would be the optimum, since everyone surrounding Israel wants them all dead. if Israel gets rid of its present leadership, maybe, just maybe, there will be some chance of getting things moving towards a peaceful outcome. one can only hope.

        • John Revolta

          Aheh. Yeah, I love that one.

          Oh, wait. You were serious……………………………

        • “I’m certainly no defender of bad acts by Israel, but at least get your history straight, at minimum. Israel was founded close to 3,000 years ago, not in 1948”

          So we recognize all national boundaries from 3000 years ago as legitimate in 2015? In that case, I’m sure all white people will be packing up and leaving the Americas.

          • wjts

            Scythia for the Scythians! All right-thinking people demand an Indo-European state be carved out of Turkey to restore the descendants of the Hittites to their rightful place! wjts deserves a Swiss chalet on account of how his ancestors used to live somewhere near there thousands of years ago!

            • John Revolta

              Some relatives of mine from Belfast are intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

            • Hey, I get to be a caucasian caucasian!

              • Lee Rudolph

                A member of the Caucasian Caucasian Caucus, even!

          • John F

            I’ve said that before, I’m fine with it, so long as the Anglo-Saxons and Norse get the boot from Brittania and back to the continent.

            :-)

          • Davis

            What is now Israel was settled by Africans about 50,000 years ago.

        • wjts

          the only reason the jews left (the first diaspora) was because of the roman conquest and occupation, they never gave up title to the land.

          For the umpteenth time, that is not what the First Diaspora was.

          • Lee Rudolph

            By sheer chance, yesterday evening I was prompted to pick up our copy of Grace Paley’s first story collection, The Little Disturbances of Man (published in 1960—the stories appeared between 1956 and 1959, I don’t know when in the 1950s she actually wrote them). And there, in the first story I read, selected (by sheer chance) from the middle of the book, was this. (The first two sentences are at the end of a paragraph of dialogue in which the ex-husband of the narrator Faith has been contending with her and her current husband. The rest is Faith.)

            Faith, can you ever forget your old grandfather intoning Kaddish? It will sound in your ears forever.

            Are you kidding? I was furious to be drawn into their conflict. Kaddish? What do I know about Kaddish. Who’s dead? You know my opinions perfectly well. I believe in the Diaspora, not only as a fact but as a tenet. I’m against Israel on technical grounds. I’m very disappointed that they decided to become a nation in my lifetime. I believe in the Diaspora. After all, they are the chosen people. Don’t laugh. They really are. But once they’re huddled in one little corner of a desert, they’re like anyone else: Frenchies, Italians, temporal nationalities. Jews have one hope only—to remain a remnant in the basement of world affairs—no, I mean something else—a splinter in the toe of civilizations, a victim to aggravate the conscience.

            And a few short paragraphs later,

            I am only trying to say that they aren’t meant for geographies but for history. They are not supposed to take up space but to continue in time.

          • joe from Lowell

            +1 for passionate but obscure pet peeve.

        • Morat

          Took back land that was always theirs? What is this gibberish? DNA testing has revealed that the Palestinians are exactly what you’d expect, descendants of the people who’ve been living there this whole time. They just converted. How exactly do the claims of the descendants of the Israelites who left take precedence over those of the descendants of the Israelites who didn’t?

          And this principle is insane. Why on earth would it matter whether “the Jews” “gave up title to the land”? Nobody ever gives up title to the land. The Akkadians never gave up title to Canaan either, and they were there 4300 years ago. The territory was part of Egypt 3500 years ago. As those empires lost the Levant by conquest rather than by signing over the deed, by your theory one or the other still owns it. So the whole area belongs to Egypt or Iraq, as they were there long before the Israelites. When we expel the Hungarians, does the land go to the Irish because the inhabitants at one point were Celtic, or does it go to Albanians and northern Italians because they’re our best guess at the descendants of the Illyrians who also used to live there?

          Punishing and rewarding people because of crimes committed by or performed on ancient tribes that people today claim membership in is ludicrous.

          • Porlock Junior

            Took back land that was always theirs?
            What do the Canaanites and the Amalekites say about this?

            • CP

              The Amalekites might have some trouble coming back, if we take the Bible at its word. Weren’t they genocided?

              • Hogan

                Hey, Yahweh said it was OK.

              • joe from Lowell

                Weren’t they genocided?

                +1 for the verbing of genocide.

                I once wrote that Andrew Jackson was our “genocidiest” President.

          • John F

            Took back land that was always theirs? What is this gibberish? DNA testing has revealed that the Palestinians are exactly what you’d expect, descendants of the people who’ve been living there this whole time.

            There is a relentless disinformation campaign disseminated for quite a few decades now claiming that Palestine/Israel etc., was essentially depopulated in the centuries leading up to the 20th…
            The claim is that “Arabs” only began moving in at the same time the Zionists did (or actually even a little after, attracted by Zionist initialed economic development)- a partcilualy hilarious tactic is to take a 19th Century Ottoman “census” figure and say, “see there are so many more so called Palestinians now than then” HELLO that’s true EVERYWHERE on earth (with the possible exception of Russia)

            (The clam by Afrikaners that they got to South Africa before the “blacks” did is relatively true by comparison- yes the Afrikaners beat the Zulu/Bantu there… that overlooks of course the various Khoisan peoples who were there before either group)

            • Manny Kant

              There was a terrible book on this topic, as I recall. The thing about the South African claim is that I’m not sure it’s really true on any level, because there’s still not very many Bantus in the Western Cape. As far as I can gather, the Xhosa arrived in the Eastern Cape at around the same time that the Dutch started arriving at Cape Town, so the idea that the Afrikaaners really predated much of anybody is kind of dubious.

        • sibusisodan

          I’m genuinely bemused by this. The last time you made this claim, the weaknesses – historical and logical – were pointed out to you. Yet you repeat the claim as if those rebuttals never occurred?

          Pretending inconvenient facts don’t exist isn’t supposed to be ‘our thing’, cpinva. And that’s not what you usually do.

          • Yes, I’m really really puzzled by the theory that “never giving up the title to the land” is going to produce either a moral or a legal argument that isn’t obvious special pleading.

            After all, in the intervening time there were periods where “By right of conquest” was a legitimate (for some value of legitimate) way to acquire title to land. So, “not giving up the title” seems…odd.

            I’m not saying anything that many other commenters haven’t said, but I am genuinely curious, cpinva, even if you believe this (something I’m struggling to accept) why would you think it’s a claim that would have purchase in this blog?

            Trolling would at least be an intelligible motive, but I don’t think you are. So, if you don’t mind, could you at least explain your thinking of what you hoped to accomplish (dialectically) by repeating this claim?

        • Malaclypse

          Israel was founded close to 3,000 years ago, not in 1948. the only reason the jews left (the first diaspora) was because of the roman conquest and occupation, they never gave up title to the land.

          If we’re going to do apologetics as bad history, can we at least get some basic things right? Israel was the entity that gave us the phrase “10 lost tribes” – they never returned after being destroyed by Assyria around 740 BCE. The jews who returned to later be conquered by Rome were those from Judea.

          in 1948, they took back that which was always theirs, and have been forced to constantly fight to keep it ever since.

          I’m sure you would view it this way if an Iroquoi kicked you out of your home. After all, they wold just be taking back what was always theirs.

          The Palestinians in 1948 had exactly as much legal title to their homes as do white people in America today. Full stop.

          • calling all toasters

            Can’t you read, Mal? cpinva is “certainly no defender of bad acts by Israel.” It says so right in his post!

            Finding examples of him defending such acts (in the same post, yet) is simply unfair.

          • rkthomas13

            Specialists in excavations in this area dispute that there ever was a tribal settlement in what came to be called Palestine. The stories of Egyptian slavery and exodus were invented by scribes in the 6th century B.C. and added to in subsequent years as religious change took place around them. Read The Invention of the Jewish People by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand. Modern Israel is about nationalism, pure and simple.

        • CP

          I laughed out loud when I read this fucking obscenity. I really shouldn’t have, because that’s exactly how the supposedly grown-ass men who supported the creation of Israel saw it and a big part of why we in America continue to see it as anything other than a colonial enclave – the average American gets more information about the region from the Bible than he ever did from anywhere else, and is essentially acting out Bible fan fiction. And so much the worse for anyone who doesn’t fit the plot.

          • calling all toasters

            Bible fan fiction

            FTW.

            • It’s all fun and games until we get to the bible slash fiction.

              • calling all toasters

                I believe that’s called “the Old Testament.”

                • Lee Rudolph

                  50 Shades of YHWH

                • Malaclypse

                  17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.

                  18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.

                  19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

                  20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.

                  21 Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

                  22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.

        • Manny Kant

          Man, I really hit pay dirt here. Cpinva: do you accept the logic you use to justify the 2000 year claim of the Jews to Israel to apply to any other ethnic group in the world? If not, why not?

        • Murc

          This is cpinva, guys. While otherwise a fairly intelligent commenter, he falls all to pieces when Israel comes up. I have never even seen him admit that Israel engaged in straight-up ethnic cleansing in 1948; it is always elided or ignored, and when people challenge him on it he falls silent and runs away.

          It’s sad, really.

          • Lord Jesus Perm

            His referring to the Palestinians as squatters was a real treat.

            • Hogan

              But the Palestinians changed the locks! Even though the Jews said they were coming right back!

          • Ronan

            what is it about israel palestine that brings out the best in people ?

            • J. Otto Pohl

              It is the last hold out of colonialism in the world. Which automatically makes it contentious between the colonizers and the indigenous people and their respective sympathizers in the US and Europe. But, instead of being a colony of a European state it is a settler colony of people racially persecuted in Europe. This causes all kinds of cognitive dissonance in some people. The idea that people persecuted in one context could go and do it to other people doesn’t compute for some.

              • Lee Rudolph

                The idea that people persecuted in one context could go and do it to other people doesn’t compute for some.

                FTFY.

              • John F

                It is the last hold out of colonialism in the world.

                2 problems with that
                1: Despite assertions by many that Israel was a western colonialist venture, like all the others (the land grab in Africa, the great game in Asia, what happened to the native Americans- both North and South America)- the Zionist movement and the subsequent founding of the modern state of Israel really was not like those enterprises in such away to make such a comparison useful.

                2: The Palestinians are not even close to being the last ethnic group still fighting against the fact that has been displaced/marginalized in its own homeland by another ethnic group that moved (somewhat recently) into said homeland.

                • joe from Lowell

                  1. I’d say that the differences make comparisons between the old Zionist movement and, say, the Spanish crown not useful. On the other hand, if we get beyond the European part of the story to talk about the experience of the colonized lands and colonized people, the comparisons become much more useful.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  Accepting for the sake of argument that J. Otto’s answer to Ronan’s question is wrong (whether for the two reasons you give, or for others), what would your answer be?

                • Manny Kant

                  There are obviously lots of differences, but I’d suggest that comparing Israel as a colonial project to places like South Africa or Algeria is not obviously pointless.

                • John F

                  what would your answer be?

                  guilt and cognitive dissonance

                  1: Many in the West actually feel some guilt over the holocaust even if they/their direct ancestors weren’t German, supporting Israel assuages that
                  2: Many in the West support and cheer on Israel, Israel is our friend, Israel are the good guys, the underdog made good, once internalizing that narrative, being told that Israel is and had been acting thuggishly causes dissonance and many people react to news that causes dissonance with anger.

                  Many southerners do not react well upon hearing that their heros did bad things, that the Sainted Robert E. Lee admittedly tortured a teenaged girl for trying to reunite with their family… and don’t dare suggest that the overwhelmingly primary reason for the Civil War was slavery.

                  Mention Mi Lai to a conservative American and the response is anger.

                  Mention the Holdomor to a Russian Nationalist and the response is anger

                  Mention the Armenia genocide to the average Turk

                  People do not want to hear that they or people they support have done bad things, and when they hear it the response is typically anger towards the bearer of bad news and the victims of said bad behavior…

                  Of course not everyone acts this way, but many people do.

                • John F

                  There are obviously lots of differences, but I’d suggest that comparing Israel as a colonial project to places like South Africa or Algeria is not obviously pointless.

                  I’d tend to disagree somewhat:
                  I’d suggest that from the Israel/Colonizer side the comparison is largely pointless

                  From the Palestinian/Colonized side there are some useful comparisons to be made- Gaza and the PA are somewhat analogous to the “homelands” that the SA Government tried to set up. The status of Palestinians/Arabs/Druze non-Jews in Israel “proper” is bad but not as bad as the legal and cultural status of blacks in Apartheid era SA.

                  Where the comparisons break down is that the “colonizers” in Israel were not so much European Imperialists but rather (i) refugees/victims of European oppression; and (ii) some weren’t even from Europe, some were from other Arab countries, other parts of the old Ottoman Empire, some had been in Palestine for decades and some for much longer.

                  Also forget right/wrong/historical accuracy/”title” the Jews do have a deeply passionately felt connection to the land, “Next year in Jerusalem.” To them they are HOME, thinking you are going to make them leave the way the French were made to leave Algeria is quite frankly delusional.

                • Manny Kant

                  I don’t think I suggested that they should be made to leave in the same way the Pied-Noirs were, just that there’s some obvious comparisons to be made between, on the one hand a bunch of European settlers in North Africa in the early part of the twentieth century, and, on the other, a bunch of European settlers in the Levant in the same time period. That doesn’t mean everything was exactly the same, but surely there’s productive comparisons to be made.

                  And Algeria *was* home to the pieds-noirs (just as South Africa is home to the Afrikaaners). The connection obviously isn’t as long-standing, but I think it’s insulting to suggest that French Algerians did not view Algeria as home.

        • wengler

          My ancestors were booted out of the German part of Switzerland for being Protestants 200 years ago. Should I go kick the Catholics’ asses and take it back?

          • Malaclypse

            You’re lucky. My great-great grandfather was kicked out of Missouri, and who the hell wants to move back there?

            • John F

              Your ancestors were kicked out of Missouri and Wengler’s the lucky one? You are like that guy who won the lottery and then complains about having to pay taxes on the payout

          • Hogan

            You think I’m just gonna give up now? I’m a Duffy, Liz! We didn’t give up when we got kicked out of Ireland. We didn’t give up when America sent us back, and we didn’t give up when Ireland then sent us adrift on a log.

          • djw

            The details are a bit sketchy, but some of my ancestors may have been Roma. I’m looking forward to my vacation homes in Northern India, Turkey, and throughout rural Eastern Europe.

        • joe from Lowell

          they never gave up title to the land.

          You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

          If you want to bring that nonsense, then neither did the Philistines.

  • keta

    How old is he now? Is he still fully sentient, or being gently led in his thinking by others? Pity the linked piece is behind a paywall.

    And yes, this is sad. Beyond sad, really, because it perhaps speaks to a late-life lashing out that could be rooted in the realization of mortality. Or I could be wildly wrong (again!), and projecting on Wiesel something I’m dealing with for the first time.

  • Barry Freed

    Alas, Wiesel has long been like this. And Cyrus the Great, King of Persia was the best friend the ancient Israelites ever had in ending the Babylonian Captivity.

    • heckblazer

      That’s why he gets called a messiah in Isaiah 45:1:

      “This is what the Lord says to his anointed,
      to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
      to subdue nations before him
      and to strip kings of their armor,
      to open doors before him
      so that gates will not be shut:

    • Sev

      He kind of lost me when he sucked up to Reagan. No, not Cyrus, who worked for Carter and was rather principled.

  • his claims were blatantly untrue

    Not only is it the case as you point out that Palestinians today don’t have full access to Jerusalem, it is also the case historically that access has almost always throughout history been at its most equal when Muslims have been in charge. Jews were expelled from Jerusalem by pagan Romans and kept out through the Christianization of the empire until the advent of the second Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattāb, who established the system under which the city’s holy places would be protected and maintained for the benefit of all three faiths in 638, maintained through the Christian conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, when Muslims and Jews were massacred and Jews expelled; Jews were permitted to return when the Kurdish hero Saladin reconquered the city in 1187 and have remained ever since, but restricting access to (Arab) Muslims and Christians since the “Jewish state” conquered East Jerusalem.

    • Hogan

      Well that can’t be right.

      • I agree. There’s no mention of the Maltese Falcon.

    • mikeSchilling

      You are aware that the years 1948-1967 were a significant exception to ” ever since”.

      • No, I had totally forgotten. Barring of Jews from East Jerusalem was pretty bad on Sheriff Hussein’s part and I absolutely acknowledge it. Thanks for the reminder.

    • John F

      it is also the case historically that access has almost always throughout history been at its most equal when Muslims have been in charge.

      It is also the case historically that Christian minorities in Muslim lands were treated better than Muslim minorities in Christian lands.

      Alas in many things what is historically true is not always what is true NOW.

  • Jean-Michel

    He didn’t “become” this, he was always this. Immediately after the Six-Day War he praised the conquest of Arab lands as a great “mystical” and “spiritual” experience (“Do not tell me they [Israeli forces] were moved by a will for power or material superiority”) that the rest of the world didn’t celebrate because “the world cannot forgive the Jew for having disappointed it: the promised holocaust will not take place.” He also insisted “the Jew in victory…will never be a tormentor,” spoke highly of conditions in West Bank, and said that while “every occupation regime is saddening and fundamentally unjust,” the Israeli occupations were necessary “for the moment” and would be “the most humane and least oppressive possible.”

    Of course there was lots of cheerleading and optimism back then from people who would change their minds over time, but Wiesel isn’t in that group. Shortly before the 1973 war he explicitly defined his role as that of an apologist (“I feel that as a Jew who resides outside Israel I must identify with whatever Israel does…That is the least Jews in the Diaspora can do for Israel: either speak up in praise, or keep silent”). He doubled down during the invasion of Lebanon and not only reaffirmed that Jews shouldn’t “pass judgement,” but added he couldn’t criticize Israel’s policies because “You must be in a position of power to possess all the information…I don’t have that information, so I don’t know.” He occasionally claims to sympathize with Palestinian suffering but carefully denies or waters down Israeli agency in this respect, e.g. insisting after the First Intifada (with settlements already dotting the occupied territories) that Israel “did not want those territories” and they were “imposed on Israel in war.” Your 1986 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, everyone.

    • Stag Party Palin

      Your 1986 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, everyone.

      Only the Academy Award for Best Song has a worse record at talent-spotting than the Nobel Peace Prize.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        The Academy Award for Best Song never went to Kissinger so I think the Nobel Peace Prize might still be in the lead on this.

        • calling all toasters

          Kissinger didn’t write “My Heart Will Go On”?

          OK, strike one war crime from the list.

        • Malaclypse

          You can’t tell me Kissinger never did at least a cover version of Shaft.

          Can you dig it?

          • Hogan

            Shut your mouth!

  • AuRevoirGopher

    Wiesel is a fine novelist, but was he ever a great or heroic person?

    • Crusty

      I’m not going to offer a primer on the life of Elie Wiesel, its out there if you’re curious, but I’ll answer yes to your question, on both counts. Just because you happen to be personally ignorant of something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

  • MacK

    I am often curious, it may be a matter of degree, but what is the difference between a Holocaust denier and someone who denies all wrongful acts by Israel, not matter how clear the evidence?

    • Gator90

      Well, the difference in degree is, to put it mildly, substantial. But both are often motivated by irrational emotions regarding Jews — the Holocaust denier by hatred, the Israel apologist by blind loyalty.

      • MacK

        I agree that the degree is substantial (though sadly growing less so.)

        Over the years I have heard New Yorkers and a Jewish settler woman call for the eradication of Palestinian villages and I have wondered, did anyone think to mention to them Oradour-sur-Glâne, Lidice and countless Schtetls where their demand was implemented and by who?

    • J. Otto Pohl

      It may be that Holocaust denial could be argued to be worse than Nakba denial. But, I would argue that they are both similar in the sense of denying a great crime. Yes, the crimes were different. Ethnic cleansing and dispossession is not the same as attempted total genocide. The underlying fact remains, however, that in both cases large numbers of people were violently deprived of certain human rights. I would also put denial of other crimes such as the Armenian genocide or Stalin’s executions and deportations in the same basic category.

    • Ronan

      It depends whether holocaust denial a moral or analytical failure ?

      • Gator90

        It is both, I would say. To deny the Holocaust is essentially to assert that large numbers of Jews conspired to perpetrate the most ghastly hoax in human history. This is, er, problematic from both a moral and analytical perspective.

        • Ronan

          I was being a little facetious. I’d guess maybe only 5% of those ‘confused’ are suffering a failure of logic. The rest, well….

          • Barry_D

            A blogger who naively tried to educate deniers back in the mid-90’s, when he encountered them on this new ‘internet’ thingie, had the best take:

            There are two types of Holocaust deniers – those who think that it didn’t happen, but should have, and those who think that it didn’t happen, and want to see it happen again.

        • CP

          To deny the Holocaust is essentially to assert that large numbers of Jews conspired to perpetrate the most ghastly hoax in human history.

          Thing is, while Holocaust denial still marks you as a kook (in America – not necessarily elsewhere), this pretty well describes a very mainstream and popular attitude towards the Palestinians and the Nakba.

          The whole shtick of “there is no Palestinian people” was spoken by Golda Meir and is quite a popular viewpoint nowadays. That, too, is basically accusing an entire nation of conspiring to perpetrate a hoax. It’s about as absurd, and certainly equally problematic from a moral and analytical perspective.

          • Manny Kant

            The Palestinian people don’t exist, so what would be the “entire nation” who is perpetrating the hoax? Catch 22!

  • matt w

    I can’t read Beinart’s entire article (due to the paywall) so I don’t know if he covers this, but calling Wiesel a blind defender of right-wing policy seems to be too kind. He chairs the public council of an East Jerusalem settler organization. That makes him a big player in the occupation and ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem.

    I read his version of the Golem once, having seen an excerpt from it that was moving, and its message was “The Jews must learn to kick ass.” I had been hoping for something different.

    • Manny Kant

      Man, it took me a while to figure out that “having seen an excerpt from it that was moving” did not refer to you seeing an excerpt from the book on the side of a truck.

    • benjoya
      • matt w

        Thanks.

        And yeah, Beinart misses Wiesel’s role in actively promoting East Jerusalem settlements (I probably shouldn’t have said “big” player because I don’t know how big the players are there).

    • John F

      I read his version of the Golem once, having seen an excerpt from it that was moving, and its message was “The Jews must learn to kick ass.”

      If you were a Jew who had personally experienced the holocaust that may seem to be a reasonable position to take… One of the characters in Fail Safe (the Novel, may be movie as well but I haven’t seen) felt the need to ask, “what if every time the Gestapo/Brownshirt knocked down the door to a Jews’ home, he was met with gunfire? If your formative experience is what happened to you in Nazi Germany, you are going to view tings very differently from the vast majority who don’t have that as a formative experience.

      Which is a very longwinded way of saying that I’d cut Weisel some slack for holding that POV, but if he was a 30 something Jew from long Island?? No I wouldn’t.

      • Barry_D

        ““what if every time the Gestapo/Brownshirt knocked down the door to a Jews’ home, he was met with gunfire?”

        They’re a small minority, and the people who were kicking in their doors had lots of combat experience in WWI and the assorted fighting in Germany afterwards.

        The first Jewish person who shot a German would be used as an excuse for something like Kristallnacht, which is what actually happened.

        • John F

          They’re a small minority, and the people who were kicking in their doors had lots of combat experience in WWI and the assorted fighting in Germany afterwards.

          In the US in the 1930s, Jewish WWI vets made a habit of disrupting German American Bund meetings. Obviously 1930s US was not 1930s Germany, but you will get people who don’t seem to realize stuff like that- what works in one place won’t in another (for example Gandhi’s really bad advice to Jews being persecuted by the Nazis)

  • John F

    Speaking of Israel, there is actually a chance that Likud will not win a plurality next month, that Labor will* and therefor Bibi will get booted from the Prime Minister’s office.

    I mention that because where I live there are quite a few very vocal Bibi fans (not all Jewish either), who believe that BiBi will be handily re-elected because Israelis sensibly realize that he is the ONLY person who can guaranty their security… If Bibi loses an Israeli election they will be absolutely flabbergasted. The fact that, as Israeli polls point out time and again, Bibi is actually deeply personally unpopular in Israel is completely lost on them… He’s praying that the 20-25% core that he/Likud are basically left with is enough for a plurality (and it may be this time) He can’t really form a workable coalition- but of course no one else can either, Israel’s politics are so shattered that if you have three main issues, you can’t form a coalition where each member party is on the same side of all three issues, or even 2 of the three… hell 1 of the three is tough.

    *and will be able to form some unwieldy and unworkable and unsustainable 61:59 majority coalition

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  • John F

    Wiesel is acutely, and understandably, sensitive to the harm Jews suffer. Yet he is largely blind to the harm Jews cause….

    MOST PEOPLE are acutely, and understandably, sensitive to the harm THEIR GROUP suffers, yet are largely blind to the harm THEIR GROUP causes….

    • Hogan

      MOST PEOPLE haven’t won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among (many, many) others.

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