Elie Wiesel Joins the Chorus

Author Elie Wiesel has thrown his weight behind the AIPAC, WJC and ADL campaigns to try to get the Obama administration to change course on what looks to be a tense spring and summer for the US-Israel relationship.

Wiesel weighed in with an ad in today’s Washington Post in which he did his best to reverse what the New York Times described yesterday as the “far-reaching shift” shift in how Washington sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on U.S. security interests in the region.

Suspiciously, the ad was run after last week’s reports (hat tip to Didi Remez!) that Benjamin Netanyahu had personally appealed to Wiesel to use his influence with Obama to get the administration to back off U.S. demands that Israel halt settlement construction in Arab East Jerusalem and take other steps to launch a credible peace process. (Remember that the WJC ad was apparently cleared by Netanyahu in advance.)

Wiesel’s ad suggests how desperate the Israel Lobby here — and perhaps Netanyahu, too — has become. An op-ed by Elie Wiesel shouldn’t find much difficulty getting published in any major newspaper, including the Post and the Times. Apparently, Wiesel and his backers felt either that a full-page ad would make more of a splash or the Post and the Times found his piece less than compelling.

Wiesel makes unsupportable claims like,

Today, 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.

About access to Islam’s most sacred Jerusalem site, the al Aqsa mosque, however, A March 29th report from AFP contradicts Wiesel’s assertion.

Police said Muslim men under the age of 50 and all non-Muslims were from Monday barred from entering the compound — which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Police did not say when the restrictions would be lifted.

Authorities have also tightened restrictions on access to Israel from the occupied West Bank, closing checkpoints to general traffic.

The restrictions on the Palestinian territory are to be lifted on April 6 after the conclusion of Passover when Jews commemorate their biblical exodus from Egypt. The holiday begins at sunset on Monday.

And one cannot help but be struck by the similarities in the way Wiesel describes the relationship of Jews to Jerusalem and how Serbs feel about Kosovo.

Of Jerusalem, Wiesel writes:

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the ones expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain.

Compare that to an article in the Christian Science Monitor from October 2007, in which Robert Marquand wrote,

For Serbians, Kosovo is not just a territory It is an epic poem, a deep pool of collective heroic memory, a cradle of religious and national identity dating to the 14th century – even if it is now 90 percent Albanian, dominated by a language that 99 percent of Serbs can’t understand, and hasn’t been controlled by Belgrade for nearly a decade.

In this proud Balkan capital, the idea of losing Kosovo has never quite taken hold, experts say. It was always a blurry future issue. Now, with Dec. 10 fast approaching, European and US diplomats and nongovernmental organizations hope that local politicians will prepare the public for a change, and focus on Serbia joining Europe.

But the most telling part of the ad is Wiesel’s statement that “Jerusalem is above politics.”

Perhaps for Wiesel Jerusalem really is above politics.  But he should open his eyes and see that he is being coached, prodded and co-opted by individuals and groups whose mission is clearly political — recognition of the annexation of occupied territory that virtually every country in the world, including the United States, considers a violation of international law.

Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now,  responded to Wiesel’s ad and his claim that Jerusalem is not a political issue.

I would have loved to agree with you that Jerusalem is above politics. Perhaps, as a transcendent symbol, it is. But Jerusalem is not just a Jewish symbol. It is also a holy city to billions of Christians and Muslims worldwide. It is Israel’s capital, but it is also a focal point of Palestinian national aspirations. It is home to some 400,000 Israeli Jews, but also to more than 200,000 Palestinians. It is a city of people and of traffic jams, of playgrounds, of sewer systems, hospitals, schools and monstrous housing projects. It is a city in which Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, with conflicting national narratives and aspirations are entangled in an untenable embrace of enmity.

The rest of her letter is well worth reading and can be viewed here.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Wiesel is being “coached and prodded?” Don’t kid yourself. He’s speaking from the heart. Just because you admire someone doesn’t mean he can’t put himself on the wrong side of the facts. He gets kid glove treatment because he was in the camps? Piffle.

    Jerusalem should indeed be above politics, in this sense: it should have no influence on American politics or statecraft. American Christians who care about Jerusalem should confine themselves to their religious sentiments — are we not a state in which religion and policy are separated? American Jews can emigrate to Israel if Jerusalem means that much to them. As an American who is neither a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Jerusalem. The fate of Jerusalem, to the extent we have a part in deciding it, should be framed by the national interests of the United States — period.

  2. The Israeli leadership has struck me for some time as being just like that of Serbia in the 1990s – the same toxic brew of right-wing nationalism and religious intolerance.

  3. In respect to Jerusalem, the US should simply
    respect the UN Security Council resolution. It’s a US Constitutional thang, dig? You know, the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution…You know, that stuff about international treaties being the Law of the Land? Unh-huh. In short, continued US political and financial support for zionist colonization in Palestine is actually illegal–under US law. Oh, yeah, my homeboys and homebettes.
    Go ask Prof. Obama.

  4. If Jerusalem is above politics, Wiesel should quit politicking.

  5. It should by now be quite obvious that Israel wants Jerusalem to be an all Jewish city. They do not want a two state solution, nor do they wish for peace in the region. Control through chaos is their call for the day.

Comments are closed.