Elie Wiesel harassed at Durban II

This incident struck me deep in my heart, as “Zio-Nazi” was the same slur my ‘friends’ donned upon me during the second Intifada. At the time I was a proud pro-peace Zionist, but simply advocating the existence of a Jewish state was too much for my ‘friends’ to handle once the intifada began. That incident caused me to re-evaluate the political relationship between Jews and the far left, between Israel as a political entity and Israel as a “state for the Jews” and the conflation that happens, in our mind and in the mind of our detractors (both anti-Semites and valid critics of Israel) between Jews in the diaspora and Israel. I think we need to work hard to make a separation between the two. If we can make that constructive separation, maybe we can begin to listen before we react. For example, Ahmadinejad has never once threatened world Jewry, to the contrary has voiced his support for the Jewish religion while making loud, public threats against political Zionism. Is that inherently anti-Semitic? I don’t believe so. Many call me naive, but I don’t see a risk of a second Shoah coming from this ego-maniacal little tyrant. I believe Israel’s insistence that Iran not achieve nuclear capability has more to do with power brokering than it does with any existential threat. If Iran’s supposed main concern is the Palestinians, no nuclear weapons are heading Israel’s way. There’s no way to send a nuclear missile to Israel and not kill most of the Palestinians too, not to mention some of Islam’s holiest sites.
Now, in my personal opinion, and I know many will disagree, I did not find Ahmadinejad’s speech anti-Semitic or racist. Intolerant, ignorant and arrogant, for sure, but not racist or anti-Semitic. This video, on the other hand, I know no other way to interpret. If these people were shouting such slurs and the Israeli head of state, FM or DM I would no condone it or agree with it, but I could understand it. But what does Elie Wiesel have to do with the occupation of Palestine? Here is a Nobel laureate who has traveled the world advocating peace and an end to genocide. He does not live in Israel, nor to my knowledge does he regularly make public and contentious political comments about Israel. Is there any way to interpret this other than anti-Semitism, racial hatred and intolerance?

21 thoughts on “Elie Wiesel harassed at Durban II

  1. But what does Elie Wiesel have to do with the occupation of Palestine?
    I don’t use language like “the occupation of Palestine,” but Elie Wiesel is a moderately right-wing Zionist. In fact, he worked for the Irgun (Ben Gurion just wasn’t hawkish enough for him), and continues to advocate for Israel through Holocaustism, and even through his selective concerns over genocide. He is not the universalist he plays on TV. Have you not read, “Dawn”? How about some of his other books besides “Night”?

  2. “making loud, public threats against political Zionism. Is that inherently anti-Semitic?”
    By definition, that is not anti-Semitism. Zionists do ourselves a disservice by screaming anti-Semitism over each and every criticism of Israel–we can’t say we need a state for the Jews…and then cry everytime that this state is criticized.
    “this ego-maniacal little tyrant”
    I’m no far of Ahmadinejad, but it is innacurate to call him an ego-maniacal tyrant. Let’s discuss the situation in Iran more soberly.

  3. Whether Iran chooses to build a bomb or use it, I think many are missing the bigger picture. Was Saddam more likely to use nuclear weapons in the 1980s than Iran is today? Saddam was bombed for a simple reason, and Iran will be bombed for that very same reason – these states were aiming for regional hegemony.
    Israel is often accused of acting as a hegemon, but its minuscule population means it is not able to project substantial economic and military power from beyond the Levant. Like other smaller Arab states, Israel can create disorder, but it does not have the capacity to leverage that disorder to reorient power relationships with states it does not border. Incidentally, it relies on a major outside power – the US – to handle this task.
    Iran, like Iraq in the 1980s – with a large population, a large standing army, powerful militant proxies throughout the region, sitting on the second largest reserves of oil in the world, controlling the main artery for shipping energy to the world – does have the potential to be regional hegemon. This capacity is constrained by two factors – Arab resistance and international isolation.
    Within Arab resistance, we can look at two strains – official resistance, which is vicious, and popular resistance, which is trending lukewarm. By destabilizing the American project in Iraq and funding wars against the Israelis, the Iranians have gained in goodwill and largely negated popular resistance, while incensing official resistance. Driving a wedge between Arab rulers and their people also, however, works to Iranian advantage. Indeed, the more belligerent Iran and its proxies have been to the West, the greater its credibility on the Arab street.
    Iran has been under international isolation for three decades. This isolation has stunted growth in Iran’s economy, and pure mismanagement and corruption finished it off. There were two conceivable ways to break out of this isolation. The first meant complying with Western demands that the Ayatollahs essentially remove themselves from power, and was not considered. The benefit of this isolation, however, meant that Iran was already exposed to relative maximum non-military pressure to comply, and thus had little more to lose.
    Even before the Iranians thought they could actually create a nuke, they studied and understood how Saddam had used the WMD issue to fracture the Western coalition and play the great powers against each other, making himself a valuable pawn to some. If we remember, several European states – some seduced by Iraqi oil projects – were actively advocating to lift sanctions on Iraq as soon as the end of the 90s. Saddam misplayed his hand, psychotic, murdering SOB that he was, but he proved the point – the West would fracture under the right incentives.
    Where Saddam faltered, the Iranians have played their hand to perfection. By 2005, the Europeans were offering Iran massive economic packages of aid and investment. Of course, as Cuba has discovered, the Americans are the greatest economic prize of all, and Iran had no incentive to agree until the Americans, too, were begging on its door.
    Who today speaks of further isolating Iran? Obama has thrown any timetable for a ratcheting of sanctions until at least fall – using the next six months to court Iran – and even then there is no longer consensus for sanctions. As with Saddam, those first out the door will get first dibs on the juiciest oil projects, and the Europeans, under political energy pressure from Russia, need no more incentives.
    Whether it takes one year, or five years, the Iranians have successfully used the threat of building nukes to defeat their economic isolation, and it would take a major act of aggression on their part, if that, to change the calculus. The question has become not when will the isolation end, but how much the Iranians will get when it does.
    Thus, while the West is floundering about, the Iranians have removed, at least on paper, two main obstacles to regional hegemon status – Arab resistance and international isolation.
    As we’ve learned in Iraq, Arab tribes tend not to win wars, so much as join those they believe will win. With Iran as the main regional power, it is not impossible to see a realignment of Arab states to better placate Iranian interests.
    It is there, in that shift of power in the regional balance, that Israel’s security becomes fundamentally challenged. So long as key Arab states – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – are under American patronage, the Israelis can fight on a single front against an enemy with limited resources. Israel’s greatest military fear is fight on three fronts, repelling attacks along the length of its indefensible geographic interior, against nations with the resource backing of distant powers, such as Iran.
    How an Israeli strike on Iran could change this equation is a separate matter entirely… this post is long enough 🙂

  4. j1-
    I mean, the guy clearly has delusions of grandeur. and statements like “we have no gays in Iran” are silly, and his style of rule is tyrannical. I agree with you that most people paint a false picture of Iran, but as far as I understand it, most Iranians don’t support this guy too much. And furthermore, let’s not forget this is a country that still does public executions and the like. Why do you think ego-maniacal and tyrannical are off base?

  5. From what we in the West know, what are the hopes/fears about Iran?
    The hope is that the population there–which is young, progressive, educated, and Western-oriented–will eventually turn that nation to a path of social liberalization and reconcilation with the West.
    The fear is that the regime (especially after it gains nuclear weapons) will assert itself as the Mideast superpower and, also, will consolidate its rule.
    If we focus all of our problems on Ahmadinejad, what happens if he loses this upcoming election? The regime will still be in place, perhaps led by someone relatively more moderate like Khatami…but in that situation, the West might let that same regime off the hook in exchange for some cursory “reforms.” Ahmadinejad was freely elected, within that imperfect system. He’s no more an ego-maniac than any other world leader. He heads a tyrinical system–but he alone is not the tyrant. Even if he were to disapear tomorrow the ayatollahs would still hold the ultimate power there.
    None of know for sure how best to approach Iran. Ultimately, it isn’t that Iran will soon hold nuclear weapons. There are plenty of such weapons in the word–unfortunately. The problem is the type of regime holding such weapons.
    Will we attack Iran and, even if we were to slow down their nuclear program, turn its entire population against the West?
    Will we let that regime off the hook, in exchange for a suspension of its nuclear program–continuing the U.S. tradition of turning bad-guy bad-guys into good-guy badguys?
    The hell if I have the answer. But, if we play our cards right, Iran would be Israel’s natural partner in the Middle East, along with Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq…as oppposed to the artificial friendships with Egypt and Jordan.

  6. this is just ridiculous. the shoah was the first and only real attempt of anyone to eradicate all the world’s jews; that’s why we call it “the holocaust.” does that mean that the pogroms, the inquisitions, etc, were not antisemitic? he only wants to kill the jews in israel, (where almost half the world’s jews live, btw) not all over so that means it’s not antisemitic. that’s hilarious. i suppose since he is only concerned about whether there are gays in iran and not in the world makes him not a homophobe, too.

  7. Why is it ridiculous? We say we want a state for the Jews (I sure do,) but then when anybody says that the state was a mistake, or that the nature of the state should be changed, they are an anti-Semite….It makes us look like a bunch of crybabies.
    Ahmadinejad says what, from what we know, the majority of the Muslim world believes: The state of Israel should be disassembled as the state for Jews. That’s not anti-Semitism; that’s anti-Zionism.
    It’s like when Jimmy Carter wrote that book. Whether or not the situation in the territories is akin to apartheid, stating that it is doesn’t make a person an anti-Semite (if that were the case then nearly the entire academic world in Israel are anti-Semites.)
    Saying that the state of Israel never should have been established doesn’t make a person an anti-Semite either (if that were the case than nearly the entire Heredi world be anti-Semites.)
    And trying to build a society based on the idea that it’s not what the Gentiles say but what the Jews do…and then crying everytime somebody criticizes that society makes us look like a bunch of winers.

  8. I am sorry who is harassing Mr Wiesel? I saw the video a several times. I can only see the Iranian delegates are mobbed by a crowd of pro-Zionist including Mr. Elie Wiesel and being harassed on their way out. Isn’t it that people are becoming blind by their political prejudice?

  9. Uh… what country’s diplomats were implicated in the bombing of the Buenos Aries Jewish community Center again? We’ll also just ignore Iranian weapons support of Hizballah. That’s apparently not relevant to the continued existence and vibrancy of our wonderful Jewish diaspora community.

  10. >>“For example, Ahmadinejad has never once threatened world Jewry, to the contrary has voiced his support for the Jewish religion while making loud, public threats against political Zionism. Is that inherently anti-Semitic? I don’t believe so. Many call me naive, but I don’t see a risk of a second Shoah coming from this ego-maniacal little tyrant.”
    Riiightt… Let’s think about this with a hypothetical (because apparently many people lose their heads when thinking about reality): The leader of Italy says that Poland is a mistake. Poland is inherently unacceptable, morally detestable and is a foreign cancer in the midst of Europe. The Polish state must be eliminated for the good of the entire region. Only by eliminating Poland can justice be realized.
    Are you going to claim that such a policy would not represent ‘anti-Polishism’?
    Or, the United Kingdom announces that Uganda can no longer be permitted to go on as a country. The establishment of Uganda was a historical crime. Uganda is a foul usurper of other people’s rights. Uganda must be eliminated for justice to prevail. The United Kingdom is now readying nuclear weapons that can be used to ensure justice.
    But the United Kingdom will not incinerate those Ugandans lucky enough to be in a foreign country at the time of justice’s assertion.
    Are you really going to say that such a policy would not be anti-Ugandan?
    Let’s get serious, shall we.
    >>“I believe Israel’s insistence that Iran not achieve nuclear capability has more to do with power brokering than it does with any existential threat.”
    And you believe that because…. weapons of mass destruction really aren’t a big deal after all? Because Muslims don’t mean what they say? Because Persians don’t mean what they say? Because, hey, Israel can absorb the losses from a couple of nuclear bombs anyway?
    Because when leaders of countries say they want to wipe out the Jews, history tells us that they’re just kidding?…
    >>“If Iran’s supposed main concern is the Palestinians, no nuclear weapons are heading Israel’s way. There’s no way to send a nuclear missile to Israel and not kill most of the Palestinians too, not to mention some of Islam’s holiest sites.”
    Ah-ha. Read up on the Iran-Iraq War. Iran sacrificed over one million of its citizens, including tens of thousands of children, to perpetuate the war for almost a decade.
    And look at the projected blast radius from a low-medium yield nuclear weapon. Then look at a map of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. There are ways to reduce “collateral” (i.e. Palestinian) casualties if an attacker wants to.
    Anyway do you think the Iranian ayatollahs actually care more for the Palestinians than for their own people? The Palestinians better pray they do.

  11. eric-
    many of your points are very good. however, ahmadenijad said that he wanted Israel wiped off the map like the USSR or apartheid SA. Meaning, he wants an end to the Zionist government, NOT the death of all Israelis and especially not the death of all Jews. I have never claimed that the Iranian government is not anti-Israel, obviously they are, rather I am not sure they are anti-Semitic. He never said he wanted to wipe out the Jews, not one time, at least publicly. In terms of WMDs being dangerous, obviously this is a given, but I trust Israel with them no more than I trust Iran with them. Why is it acceptable for one country in the region to have them and unacceptable for another? really, no one at all should have them.

  12. You don’t trust Israel to have nukes because it has never used them, doesn’t threaten to use them, and won’t even confirm it even has them?
    He never said he wanted to wipe out the Jews, not one time, at least publicly.
    We’re speaking about the head of a government that has murdered Jews around the world, supplied training and weapons to militant proxies who have murdered Jews and continue to do so, ran a covert nuclear program, and has used said nuclear program, once exposed, to insinuate in shades of gray that a government representing the largest concentration of Jews in the world will soon be erased from history.
    And your response to this is… he didn’t really mean this, and what he meant to say was that, and oh you stupid boobs don’t understand the complex nuances of Iranian politics and well, he might have a point about the Zionist thing…
    You, Justin, take one line from a Rabbi’s remarks to insinuate that Israel is under the control of the Jewish Taliban. You condemn an entire nation from one line! Yet, it seems that nothing that Iranian leaders will say, in articulate, long-winded speeches, short perhaps of “as we squeeze this trigger, you will die, Jew”, will elicit even a lukewarm sense of concern on your part.
    Let’s have some consistency, shall we? You wish to defend the Iranian leadership’s remarks about wiping Israel off the map? Wonderful. Then next time one sentence of a Rabbi’s comments is taken out of context and made into a big firestorm, I better see you on the front lines of defending that Rabbi and communicating every conceivable twisted theory about what he “really” meant, and how anyone who takes offense is simply not understanding of nuance.
    Thanks Justin!

  13. “You, Justin, take one line from a Rabbi’s remarks to insinuate that Israel is under the control of the Jewish Taliban.”
    what are you referring to?

  14. Justin,
    I am intrigued and amused by your energetic attempts at academicizing Ahmadinejad’s (and Iranian officials’) statements and policies into some kind of postmodern social justice manifesto with a friendly Muslim twist.
    You haven’t directly addressed the questions I asked above — probably because you intuit that they are unanswerable. If the UK announced that it sought the destruction of Pakistan and the eradication of anti-colonial ideology and the principle of Muslim self-determination, it wouldn’t take very long to realize that the UK is pursuing a path that must end in mass-murder.
    It would also be a rather obvious revelation of the moral principles of that government and an obvious disclosure of that government’s anti-Pakistani animus.
    But when Iran does the same thing against Israel you are twisting yourself into data-free pretzels trying to put a friendly spin on it. Really, how do you explain that?
    The fact that Iran wishes to eliminate the single country in the entire Middle East that is a democracy, that respects women’s equal rights, that allows people of all races and religions to run for public office…. etc. etc. etc. says everything anybody needs to know about the Iranian government’s moral standing.
    So far Iran is developing nuclear weapons, sending literal shiploads of weapons to the Palestinians, sending further shiploads of weapons to Hizbullah and targeting Jewish and Israeli people and interests overseas. Ah–but wait! Iran and its leadership can yet be redeemed! “He never said he wanted to wipe out the Jews, not one time, at least publicly.” Hooray!
    My, my — how magnanimous of them. I’ll think of that the next time some country announces its desire to wipe out Vatican City but permit the continued survival of churches in other places. Those silly Catholics take it so personally when someone talks about wiping their country off the map. They really need to get over themselves.
    Meanwhile Iran’s kind permission to (most) Jews outside Israel to continue surviving unfashionably reminds me of another dictator a few years back who felt the same way… for awhile anyhow.
    In any event your commitment to counterfactual analysis is…well, noteworthy.

  15. >>“In terms of WMDs being dangerous, obviously this is a given, but I trust Israel with them no more than I trust Iran with them. Why is it acceptable for one country in the region to have them and unacceptable for another? really, no one at all should have them.”
    I trust policemen with big guns more than convicted felons with big guns. In my world, the real world, I want the cops to have the biggest guns in town.
    Don’t you?

  16. But, Eric, I’m sure you and I agree that it will be a disaster when this Iranian regime obtains nuclear weapons (unfortunately, this became a fait accompli on the day of the 2006 Congressional elections.) Maybe, maybe, it could have been stopped had McCain won in 2008–which is part of the reason I voted for him (that and the unadulterated hatred in my heart for all African-Americans.)
    Still, the reality is that there is a new sheriff in town in DC, and we need to articulate our fears/aspirations as accurately as possible. The threat is not that Iran will use nuclear weapons on Israel, it’s that Iran is about to become the Middle East superpower (more powerful than Israel.) The threat is that that regime is about to consolidate its rule, and in doing so ensure that the forces of progress and change in Iran’s younger generation are stifled. The threat is that other Middle East regimes will build nuclear programs if it becomes clear that the West will capitualate. The threat is that the West might let this Iranian regime off the hook in exchange for very cursory reforms, or a temporary suspension of its nuclear program.
    None of us seem to have a good answer about what to do regarding Iran; but we might as well be honest about the true problems.

  17. Eric-
    I don’t have the time to fully answer your points, which are, again, good points. What I will say for now is this, I think you’re misunderstanding my point.
    I’m not trying to redeem Iran or Ahmadinejad and spin them as good in any way. I’m simply saying that the western media and Jewish interest has demonized him in such a way that hsa turned him into a fictional genocidal maniac, and I don’t believe he is that. We harp on the fact that he has “called for the elimination of a state” I’m merely pointing out that he didn’t actually do that. What he said was that he wanted Israel wiped off the map. That’s what the media reported. And it was true, he said that, but it was only half the quote. The full quote was that he wanted Israel wiped off the map like the Soviet Union and Apartheid South Africa. That is regime change, not nuclear annihilation. There’s a difference. In terms of your comment on cops having bigger guns, no I inherently disagree with you. I do not trust the police, I do not trust armies and I do not trust governments.
    you’re turning this into a black/white situation, and it’s not. By saying Ahmadinejad is not the devil we’ve made him out to be does not make him a saint. Saying Israel is bad doesn’t make Palestinians or any other enemy of Israel good.
    I will answer, completely and directly, all of your questions and statements when I return from Bethlehem on Friday if there is time before Shabbos. If there’s not, I will respond after Shabbos.
    Hopefully I can show you that I’m not being counterfactual or manipulative as you’ve made me out to be.

  18. okay, eric, he’s the response you asked for.
    Again, as I said in the last comment, what your comparison represents is that Iran is anti-Israel. That is indisputable. What my question is, are they anti-Semitic? They are not one in the same. Ahmadenijad’s rhetoric has been against Israel and Zionism, not against Jews or Judaism.
    I am not twisting his words, I am quoting his words. What he said was this, and this is a direct translation from Farsi:
    “The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”.
    he then listed three regimes which “vanished from the page of time”. USSR, US backed Shah of Iran, and Saddam Hussein. So, I’m not twisting anything, he never has threatened to send a nuclear missile to Israel.
    The rest of your statements implicate Iran in activities and policies that are not peaceful and not positive. I have no argument there, I am not trying to say that Iran is peaceful or has positive policies. I’m saying that neither the nation nor leader of Iran are bent on obliterating Israel or the Jews, especially with nuclear weapons.
    I have never been shown once a single example of a direct threat against the Jewish people or a threat of launching a nuclear missile at Israel. Can you show me one?
    In my opinion, Iran funds, arms and backs groups like Hamas and Hezbullah to wage proxy wars against the US. It was quite clear that the second Lebanon war was the US and Iran fighting each other using Israel and Hez. as pawns by funneling weapons to each respectively.
    I’m not sure what else to respond to. All you have to do is look at a full-text translation of the speeches he’s given using the term the US and Israeli media translated as “wipe off the map” and see that he didn’t say it. Also, read his 20 page letter to GWB and you’ll get a glimpse of his worldview. He’s not so crazy.
    Nations like the US and Israel need enemies to excuse their politics, so they create them. It’s not a new tactic, nations have been doing it since nations were created. That’s not to say the exaggeration of how dangerous a given enemy is is necessarily 100% wrong, but just look at how the US portrayed Hussein in the lead-up to the war (either in ’91 or ’03) and then again how they were portraying him in the 80s. Same goes for Bin Laden. When Arafat was public enemy #1 Israel backed Hamas, and now Hamas is public enemy #1 so they back Abbas. But if and when Hamas is out of the picture (either by defeat or moderating) we’ll see if Abbas becomes enemy again or a new one is chosen.
    I’m not sure what I’m twisting here, or what I’m falsifying here. I’m simply not believing a media that lies and governments that distort the truth for their own interests to implement hurtful and hateful policies. Sorry.

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