Prejudice, Indifference, and Disinformation

Elie Wiesel has jumped on his horse to once again topple the enemies of the Jewish state. Wiesel identifies Iran as such an enemy, although it seems rather that it is Israel that has made itself the enemy of Iran.

Wiesel says, in an ad placed in the New York Times and Washington Post: “The Ayatollah Khamenei has been as clear as his predecessor in declaring his goal: ‘the annihilation and destruction’ of Israel. He is bent on acquiring the weapons needed to make good on the deadly promise.”1

There is something about the Shoah and chutzpah that makes for strange bedfellows. Elie Wiesel has made a career out of huckstering the tale of his life and the internment and deaths of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. One video presents information, which if verified, thoroughly debunks the story spun by Wiesel.2 Writer, Esam al-Amin described Wiesel’s ignorance and prejudice. He wrote of “Wiesel ’s disgraceful history of dismissing the suffering of some in favor of others…”3 That is heavy criticism and it points to scathing hypocrisy since Wiesel is on record as stating: “Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.”4

Scholar Noam Chomsky noted that even in Wiesel’s beloved Israel that “… the Hebrew press … really dislike Wiesel. They regard him as a charlatan and a fraud.”5

Yet Wiesel still has the chutzpah to plead for the Jewish people and disinformation is no obstacle for him in this regard. In the ad, he deliberately twists the words of Ayatollah Khamenei with partial quotation and partial paraphrase and, needless to say, without sourcing and without context.

The quotation in an AP article is also partial and obviously has been translated from Farsi to English, and therefore is problematic. It is significantly different from what Wiesel stated:

‘The hands of the U.S. are fully stained with the blood of Palestinians,’ Khamenei told hundreds of thousands of Iranians at his Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University. He said there is only one possible solution to unrest in the Middle East, ‘namely the annihilation and destruction of the Zionist state.’6

Where does Wiesel’s notion of an Iranian “goal” arise from? Khamenei spoke of a “solution” for stopping the bloodletting of Palestinians. One way to stop the spillage of blood is to stop the bloodspiller from spilling more blood.7 Yet even that justifiable viewpoint would be unfair to attribute to Khamenei. And why were Khamenei’s words changed from “Zionist state” to “Israel” by Wiesel? Would not ridding the world of Zionism (and one must not conflate ridding the world of a racist ideology with ridding the world of the people holding the ideology because one can argue for the destruction of slavery, apartheid, and racism without being held to argue for the destruction of the slavers and racists) be a good thing? Is not the ridding of any racist or supremacist ideology a good thing?

Indeed, it would be extremely bizarre if the war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity that Zionists inflict on Palestinians did not illicit harsh words of condemnation. There are plenty of genuine racist quotations to criticize from Zionists and their leaders, so one tactic would be to divert attention from this and throw attention elsewhere even to the extent of distorting the words of Iranian leaders. A crucial point is that the Iranians are not occupying another people’s territory and massacring and otherwise oppressing them.8 It sounds very much like a case of a Zionist ideologue projecting Israel’s crimes unto another state.9

Of course the regressivist utterances among resistance movements must be pointed out and even criticized, but the fact remains that if there were no Zionist occupation of historical Palestine, then there would be nothing to spur acrimony and harsh words against the dispossession and occupation. As Jonathan Cook noted, if Iran poses an existential problem for Zionists: “So why hasn’t Iran started by wiping its own Jews off the map?”10

Wiesel’s distortion of Khamenei’s words comes not so long after the distortion of the words of then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad incurred much opprobrium from the western world for his alleged remarks. On 14 December 2005, the wiry-built Ahmadinejad cited the words of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which were widely interpreted as: “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Farsi-speaking Middle East studies professor Juan Cole stated, “Ahmadinejad did not say that ‘Israel must be wiped off the map’ with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people.” Cole found the phrase to be “almost metaphysical.” The Khomeini quotation was that “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.”11

A “myth in the name of Holocaust”?

Ahmadinejad also was subjected to much vituperation for his “myth in the name of Holocaust” statement.

The New Testament tells the story of two apostles of Jesus being brought before the highest Jewish tribunal, the Sanhedrin. The apostles were charged with preaching the gospels. Presiding over the Sanhedrin was a Pharisee, Gamaliel, a revered doctor of the law and grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel. Concerning the accused, Gamaliel advised moderation to his fellow Sanhedrin members:

And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. (Acts 5:38-5:39)

Some people interpret this as biblical support for freedom of speech. But it must be noted that, before their release, the apostles were beaten and commanded to be silent about Jesus. (Acts 5:40)

The decision of Gamaliel to place a controversial matter in a higher being’s hands is still resisted.

Ahmadinejad’s denouncers never refuted his statements through argumentation or presented facts to counter what he had said. The best attack that his detractors could muster was to hurl verbal abuse and vent their disagreement. Ahmadinejad’s assertion of a “myth in the name of Holocaust” is vague. What did he mean by a myth? That a genocide in which Jews perished during WWII never happened? Unlikely. It would be foolhardy for anyone to deny that the Nazis victimized and killed Jews in large numbers.

Nonetheless, a question stands starkly unanswered: Why is the victimization of one segment of humanity accorded greater abhorrence, reverence, and sanctity than the victimization any other segment of humanity?

Scholar Norman Finkelstein questions Jewish exceptionalism and asks what gives them a “claim upon those others.”12 The Holocaust industry, according to Finkelstein “has become an outright extortion racket … [conducting a] double shakedown of European countries as well as legitimate Jewish claimants …”13

Elie Wiesel is a major figure in that shakedown.

Indifference implies insouciance, and it is a negative attribute. Does it epitomize evil? It carries within it the seed of evil. But indifference must surely pale beside the malevolence required to plan and carry out the very evil acts. The deliberation that is required to twist language and spread disinformation, that in the case of war can lead to the deaths of hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands, is a malevolent act. It is an act that delegates to the Halifax International Symposium on Media and Disinformation unanimously held to be a crime against humanity.14

  1. See the ad here. []
  2. See Brother Nathaniel, “Is Elie Wiesel A Fraud?” Youtube, uploaded 18 October 2011. []
  3. Esam al-Amin, “Israel’s Enabler in the U. S.,” Counterpunch, 21 April 2010. []
  4. US News & World Report (27 October 1986). Available at Wikiquotes. Wiesel also said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.” []
  5. Noam Chomsky, “The World of Our Children,” Jacobin, 13 February 2015. []
  6. AP, World section, The Spokesman Review, 1 January 2000: 5. []
  7. Khamenei has identified that the Zionist state is not alone in the blood-spillage of Palestinians. The hands of the US — a state that exists under similar circumstances to the Jewish state (through the genocide of the Indigenous population) — are also stained. []
  8. There has been a desire among Kurds, ethnic Iranians, in Iran for a state of their own, but co-existence seems a better solution for them nowadays. See, e.g., Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “Iran’s Kurds seek coexistence with Shia as life improves,” Financial Times, 4 December 2014. []
  9. See Kim Petersen, “Projecting Israel’s Crimes onto Iran,” Dissident Voice, 5 March 2011. []
  10. Jonathan Cook, “Israel’s Jewish problem in Tehran,” ICH, 3 March 2007. []
  11. Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist And, “We don’t Want Your Stinking War!Informed Comment, May 03, 2006. []
  12. Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (New York: Verso, 2000): 47. []
  13. Finkelstein, 89. []
  14. See Kim Petersen, “Disinformation: A Crime against Humanity and a Crime against Peace,” Dissident Voice, 17 February 2005. []
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.