“Saints should always be judged guilty before they are proved innocent...” - George Orwell
On March 18, 1991, not long after 88,500 tons of lethal cluster bombs, guided missile, BLU-82s, and smart bombs had stopped falling on the Iraqi people in the first Persian Gulf War, a surreal ceremony took place inside the White House. Elie Wiesel, the celebrity Jewish Holocaust survivor, was there. He presented an award to Dubya’s daddy, George H.W. Bush, aka "Bush I." The prize acclaimed the then-president for his “humanitarianism!” Keep in mind, that on Feb. 26th and 27th,1991, during “Operation Dessert Storm,” elements of the Iraqi Army, which were withdrawing from Kuwait pursuant to UN Resolution 660, along with many refugees, were slaughtered. In fact, they were incinerated by U.S. forces, along the infamous “Highway of Death.” (1) Surely, Wiesel must have known all of this and also knew that the Iraqi casualties from the short-lived, but horrific military assault on Iraq, were as high as 100,000, with another 300,000 reportedly wounded! (2) Nevertheless, the awarder, Wiesel, told the awardee, Bush I, it was a "magnificent victory!" (3) Really! What was so "magnificent" about wasting all of those Iraqi lives and contaminating a country of 27 million souls with depleted uranium?
Making the White House event appear even stranger was the fact that the so-called “Humanitarian Award” was named after Wiesel himself! Now, that’s something I thought only a Donald Trump type ego could pull off. At that affair, Wiesel, a holder of a “Nobel Peace Prize,” also urged Bush not to "pressure" Israel into a settlement in any U.S. initiated Mideast parley. Who was he representing at the White House? Himself? Israel? Or, both? (3) I must say, I’m not too much taken with this Nobel Peace Prize business either. I mean, isn’t it true that the late Menachem Begin- who blew up the King David Hotel, on July 22, 1946, an act of terrorism which murdered 91 people-once, too, receive a Nobel Peace Prize? (4) He later went on to become one of Israel’s prime ministers. What was so peaceful about Begin? And what do these nonsensical awards really signify? Time magazine just put out its silly list of 100 people, whom they arrogantly claim “shape our world.” Many of the names on that list only prove to me that our world is in a mess. For example, beside Wiesel, and Dubya, there are Matt Drudge, a one note Right Wing gossip hound; that boring motor mouth, Howard Stern; and, finally, perky Katie Couric, herself!(5) It’s enough to drive a sane man to drink.
What brought Wiesel to my mind was his recent appearance at a rally against Genocide, which dealt with the tragic situation in Dafur. It was held on the National Mall, in Washington, on Sunday, April 30, 2006. According to the Baltimore Sun, (05/01/06), Wiesel was one of the speakers at the event. He said, “Silence helps the killers. Never the victims.” Well, I’ll go along with that statement, but I have some questions for Wiesel, who is also a devout Zionist. Queries: “Why didn’t you say something after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacked and slaughtered 34 Americans on the USS Liberty, on July 8, 1967? (6) Why did you remain silent after the IDF bulldozed to death the peace and justice activist, Rachel Corrie, on March 16, 2003, in Rafah? (7) And why, after all of this time, haven’t you spoken out, at least once, against the serial crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people over the last 39 years of brutal occupation, including the building of its notorious “Apartheid Wall?” (8) Although Wiesel is a naturalized American citizen, he told Bush I, that he "spiritually" claims Israel's destiny as his own. (3) That kind of reasoning sounds familiar, particularly, after reading Jeffrey Blankfort's insightful critique of the iconic Noam Chomsky, another apologist for Israel, who once lived there as a young Zionist. (9)
As for as the present Iraqi War, many Americans believe it is unjust, immoral and illegal and that it was launched based on a pack of rotten lies. (10) Nevertheless, Wiesel, who knows how to generate publicity, has been as silent as a church mouse about it, even though he urged the invasion in an Op Ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, back on March 11, 2003. (11) Since then, not a word out of the mouth, or from the pen, of the much hyped Nobel Peace Prize winner. I think the argument could be made that Wiesel, by not speaking out, is condoning the mayhem in Iraq. We know that the Iraqi War was wrongly initiated by the Bush-Cheney Gang, with key contributions by its Neocon ideologues, like the Strangelovian Paul Wolfowitz, the conflict's primary architect. (12) Does anyone know what Wiesel's opinion is of the Neocons ? What does he think about the sordid Abu Ghraib prison scandal?
I’m glad to say I’m not the only one who believes that Wiesel is a little bit - different! Take the feisty pundit Alexander Cockburn. In a keen analysis on April 1, 2006, he said: “Although the Nobel committee extolled him as a 'messenger to mankind' it is difficult to find examples of Wiesel sending any message on behalf of those victimized by the policies of the United States, and virtually impossible when it comes to victims of Israel.” (13)
Another sharp critic of Wiesel was the late Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. He didn't like his persistent tendency not to see any Israeli wrongdoing either. Hertzberg said in an "Open Letter" in the NY Times' Review of Books, "We should both be haunted by one recent image. Several days after the incident in Beta, an Israeli patrol tried to stop some Arab youths to question them. The youths were unarmed; they had not been throwing rocks, and they were guilty of nothing except not wanting to be interrogated. These young men were fired on, and one was killed. Now I know, as you do, about the dangers for Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza. I have nieces in Israel's army, and I have said to them that their moral obligation does not include allowing themselves to be slaughtered. But killing those who are simply unwilling to be questioned is another matter entirely. How can we be silent?" (14)
Finally, Wiesel is a riddle, like Chomsky. (15) I'm sure he has done good work, such as on the Dafur issue. But, if he's really a "messenger of mankind" then it's obvious that he has abandoned a lot of victims of oppression. Maybe, that Nobel Peace Prize went to his head! In any event, the world is a more dangerous place today then it has been in recent years. For that fact, we can blame, mostly, the rabid warmongering of the Bush-Cheney Gang and the failure of many in the U.S. Congress, the Media, the Labor Movement, and the peoples of conscience, also, to engage them. And if, Wiesel can't see the evil of that regime-with this immoral Iraqi War, all the lies, the smearing of critics, the torture of POWs, the holding of detainees without charges or trials, the unlawful surveillance, the enactment of the USA Patriot Act, the gutting of Habeas Corpus, etc.-then why should anyone believe anything else that this supposed "messenger to mankind" has to say?
© William Hughes 2006
William Hughes is the author of “Saying ‘No’ to the War Party” (Iuniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at: email@example.com