Elie Wiesel has long walked the tightrope between pious pronouncements of universal Jewish conscience and unabashed political advocacy. He’s been trying to have it both ways for years, but it seems to me that his balancing act is becoming more and more transparent.
Last week, as Wiesel unveiled an anti-Ahmadinejad ad with other Nobel Prize laureates, he blasted the Goldstone report, calling it “a crime against the Jewish people.” Leaving aside the issue that he took this opportunity once again to speak on behalf of the entire Jewish people, I’m still somewhat staggered that Wiesel, of all people, would use such charged Holocaust rhetoric in such a patently political manner. (I think Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam hit it right on the head when he asked, “What was the last event in world history you can recall being a ‘crime against the Jewish people?'”)
If this wasn’t enough, now I read on Max Blumenthal’s blog that Wiesel’s foundation received $500,000.00 for one speech he delivered at the church of fundamentalist Christian Zionist John Hagee (whom he referred to as “my dear pastor.”) Yes, this is the same John Hagee who publicly sermonized that Hitler was sent by God to create the Holocaust so that Jews would emigrate to Israel. It’s simply astonishing to me that so many Jewish leaders are perfectly willing to cozy up to the likes of Hagee even after it has become so patently clear that his views are way off the rails. (That’s Wiesel, above, with Hagee, right, and Israeli minister Uzi Landau, left).
As far as I’m concerned, Justice Richard Goldstone is precisely the kind of courageous Jewish moral hero that Wiesel himself purports to be: someone committed to advocating for universal human rights even when doing so might mean holding our own community painfully to account. As for Wiesel, I’m finding his words and actions increasingly craven. No one begrudges him his opinions – but it’s time he dropped the pretense that he’s somehow beyond the political fray.