The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, April 29, 2002  

Elie Wiesel Wants Arafat’s Nobel Prize

“The voice is soft and kind, but the message is dark and fierce.”

When a newspaper article starts with a sentence like that, we duck for cover. It’s a sure sign of high moral dudgeon ahead.

No disappointment in this latest instance. The voice and the message being those of Elie Wiesel, public speaker, author, and Nobel laureate, who made an appearance in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sunday.

Before speaking to a large crowd assembled at Temple Emanuel, Wiesel told a group of reporters that the sympathy he previously had for the Palestinian people has evaporated, reports Kristen A. Graham in a not particularly well written article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now, we haven't known Wiesel to be a particularly vocal Palestinian symphathizer. A thorough source of the Internet reveals scant evidence of such concern. Indeed, more common are Wiesel's protestations that silence regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is his most appropriate response.

"As a Jew living in the United States, I have long denied myself the right to intervene in Israel's internal debates," Wiesel wrote in an essay, "Jerusalem in My Heart," published in the New York Times in January 2001. "I consider Israel's destiny mine as well, since my own memory is bound up with its history. But the politics of Israel concern me only indirectly....[A]s I am not an Israeli citizen, I am not directly involved."

"This behavior at times results in 'open letters' and acerbic articles scolding me for not protesting whenever Israeli police or soldiers react excessively to violence from Palestinian soldiers or civilians," wrote Wiesel. "I rarely answer."

The morality of silence, let's call it, though it's an odd stance for the world's favorite Holocaust survivor.

“The suicide killers overshadow anything good that has been done,” said Wiesel. “Those who glorify them are not my friends, not my allies.” The assumption here being, of course, that all Palestinians support suicide missions, an aspersion upon an entire culture that is shocking in its simplicity and vulgarity.

Wiesel maintains he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, but the obstacle in the way of this goal is embodied in the person -- and solely in the person -- of Yasir Arafat.

Indeed, Wiesel said “he would lead the charge to take back Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize if such a move were possible,” according to the Inquirer.

Helpfully, the 1986 winner of the Noble Peace Prize offered two suggestions for achieving peace in the region: First, “an injunction from all Middle East Islamic leaders calling for a stop to suicide bombings,” and second, “a removal of the books that teach hate to Palestinian children.”

That would be a start, we suppose. But can this man be serious? Wiesel says Israel is fighting for its very existence and yet the only suggestions he can offer for resolving this 54-year-old conflict are platitudes of the sort that elicit ovations on "Oprah."

Can the level of discourse on this matter sink any lower?

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