Elie Wiesel’s Turn

Wiesel's ad

In the midst of the current and ongoing assault on Gaza, chief holocaust industrialist Elie Wiesel had written an ad which has been run in major U.S. and U.K. news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wallstreet Journal and The Guardian. The London Times had refused to print it. The ad was organized and paid for by This World: The Values Network, an organization founded by radical orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

After centuries if not millenia of anti-Semitic blood libel, Elie Wiesel’s ad starts with a similar accusation against Hamas: “Now it’s Hamas’ turn.” It is worth to quote from Wiesel’s essay at length.

“In my own lifetime, I have seen Jewish children thrown into the fire. And now I have seen Muslim children used as human shields, in both cases, by worshippers of death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites.

What we are suffering through today is not a battle of Jews versus Arab or Isreali versus Palestinians. Rather it is a battle between those who celebrate life and those who champion death. It is a battle of civilization versus barbarism.

“Moderate men and women of faith, whether that faith is in God or man, must shift their criticism from the Israeli soldiers – whose terrible choice is to fire and risk harming human shields, or hold their fire and risk the death of their loved ones – to the terrorists who have taken away all choice from the Palestinian children of Gaza.”

The emerging trend of blaming the victim sounds like Joseph Goebbels’ rant “Die Juden sind schuld!” some 73 years ago.

Palestinian medic tries to comfort a wounded boy at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip,

Luckily, fortyJewish holocaust survivors and 287 of their descendants stood up today. In an open letter they have condemned Israeli acts in Gaza and expressed disgust of Wiesel’s exploit of the holocaust.

“Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. ‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

In his explanation why Jews reject child sacrifice for more than 3500 years, Elie Wiesel consults Akedát Yitzḥák, one of the Bible’s numerous most disturbing legends, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). In order to test his loyalty, God demanded the sacrifice while Abraham apparently obeyed. He was only stopped by God’s angel. He did not reject the bizarre call, he apparently accepted it. Wiesel claims, in his ad, that with this narrative, “monotheism and western civilization begin[s].”

Well, when asked what he thought of western civilization, Mahatma Ghandi replied, “I think that would be a good idea.”

24 August 2014 @ 8:14 am.
Last modified August 24, 2014.
Posted in Israel, Palestine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Under Which Circumstances?

When Henk Zanoli yesterday returned to the Israeli Ambassador in The Hague, Haim Davon, his 2011 medal which asserts that he is one of the Righteous Among the Nations, conferred by holocaust museum Yad Vashem, I wondered under which circumstances the then 88 years old long retired Dutch attorney had actually been awarded, 68 years after he and his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, had sheltered and thus saved the life of Elchanan Pinto whose parents Had vanished in German concentration camps. Why he has now returned the medal has been widely reported. His greater family consisted of in-laws in Gaza, six of whom had been killed in the relentless shelling including deliberate careless targeting hundred of civilians during IDF Operation Protective Edge last month.

What is even more intriguing is, why did he accept it then, two years after Israel had been accused of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity in a similarly brutal assault called Operation Cast Lead, in the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, see [pdf]? Was it because Richard Goldstone had lopsidedly modified the previous conclusions of the UN Fact Finding Mission just a few months before Zanoli has received his award in 2011?

In the meantime, another assault on Gaza had been launched by IDF, in November 2012; the so-called Operation Pillar of Defense, with about 100 Palestinian civilial casualties. In his letter to the Israeli Ambassador Mr. Zanoli writes,

“After the horror of the holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a national home. Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews. As a consequence, ethnic cleansing took place at the time of the establishment of your state and your state continues to suppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza who live under Israeli occupation since 1967. The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity…The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political rights and social and economic rights and opportunities.” (Emphasis added.)

Amazing that Mr. Zanoli seems to support a one-state solution. As Juan Cole notes today,

“[His] endorsement of a one-state solution betrays his legal training. He is objecting to the Palestinians being stateless, and therefore lacking political, social and economic rights and opportunities. Populations that do not enjoy citizenship in a state lack, [...] ‘the right to have rights.’ It was the Nazi stripping of citizenship from German Jews that laid the groundwork for the Holocaust.”

A fair one-state solution may nor longer be possible after the numerous wars since 1948 and, in particular, 2002. It would rather be the apartheid state which, according to not just few, Israel is already.

The main questions remain, Why had Henk Zanoli been awarded 68 years after his admirable humanitarian act by the Yad Vashem museum and why had he accepted the medal in the first place? Amazing that Henk Zanoli had already been removed from Yad Vashem’s list of Righteous, see here.

16 August 2014 @ 12:30 pm.

Last modified August 19, 2014.

Posted in Israel, Palestine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“These Are the Worst Times Since the Nazi Era”

Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews recalled Kristallnacht when interviewed by The Guardian. Inappropriate Nazi comparisons have also been made as regards Israel’s newest assault on Gaza, a besieged and largely defenseless, mostly civilian population living in what even UK Prime Minister David Cameron had called an open air “prison camp.” Two wars ago. Graumann was born 1950 as son of Polish holocaust survivors in Israel. His fist name was originally David but his parents told him when returning to post-war Germany that his new name was Dieter, since a Jew should not attract attention in Germany (“In Deutschland fällt man als Jude besser nicht auf”).

There have indeed been anti-Semitic acts among anti-Israel demonstrations in Germany and elsewhere in Europe (nothing faintestly recalling Kristallnacht) as response to Israel’s relentless shelling of defenseless Gazans in what is called Operation Protective Edge. What Israel has done is instantly visible now on the internet. Hospitals, schools, shelters, thewhole infrastructure were targeted. More than 1800 people lost their lives, mostly civilians, among them hundreds of children.

I would have appreciated Dieter Graumann’s outcry  about Israel’s disproportionate acts after the killing of three young West Bank settlers (by Hamas-linked Qawasmeh terrorists) which are almost unanimously considered, on a global scale, war crimes. Rather than to whinily compare the situation in Germany with Nazi Deutschland.

“On the streets, you hear things like ‘the Jews should be gassed’, ‘the Jews should be burned’ – we haven’t had that in Germany for decades. Anyone saying those slogans isn’t criticising Israeli politics, it’s just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else. And it’s not just a German phenomenon. It’s an outbreak of hatred against Jews so intense that it’s very clear indeed.” (Emphasis added.)

8 August 2014 @ 5: 32 pm.
Last modified August 8, 2014.


Posted in Germany, Israel, Palestine | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Everything is Terrorism, Then Nothing is Terrorism”

Eventually, another whistle-blower after Edward Snowden appears to have emerged and provided the team at The Intercept with an outraging piece of the overreaching American intelligence community which seems in fact to consider 280,000 people who are not affiliated to any terrorist organization as terrorists, 41% of all the 680,000 people officially put on a “watchlist”, with “another 320,000 monitored in the larger TIDE [Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment] data base.”

Who gets on this watchlist? Well, The Intercept had published last month government watchlisting guidelines. According to these, officals do not need “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly place someone on the list, just “reasonable suspicion”. Criteria to get on the TIDE list are even more relaxed.

The now leaked documents say that the second highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected [sic] terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, MI. The city with less than 100,000 inhabitants has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the U.S., most of which “are ethnic Lebanese who immigrated in the early twentieth century to work in the auto industry, like many immigrants to the area. They have ben joined by more recent Arab immigrants from other nations.” (Source: Wikipedia.)

Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Deveraux of The Intercept had interviewed Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who responds, “To my knowledge, there have been no Muslims in Dearborn who have committed acts of terrorism against our country.” He added that the high concentration of Dearborn residents in the watchlisting system “just confirms the type of engagement the government has with our community—as seeing us as perpetual suspects.” Well, the Christmas 2009 underware bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallah was actually on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on its way to Detroit, MI. This terrorist had not been identified by NSA surveillance, so the nearby Muslim population in Dearborn got apparently under general suspicion.

David Gomez, former FBI agent told The Intercept, “You need some fact-basis to say a guy is a terrorist, that you know to a probable-cause standard that he is a terrorist.” “Then I say, ‘Build as big a file as you can on him.’ But if you just suspect that somebody is a terrorist? Not so much.” “If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism.” According to the documents, “The government adds names to its databases, or adds information on existing subjects, at a rate of 900 records each day.” (Emphasis added.)

What happens to people who have secretly been put on the watchlist or TIDE list? One obvious hint that they are targeted is that they will be stopped at airports. According to the docments, a wide range of personal information is collected and analyzed in secret, including facial images, fingerprints iris scans.

As Scahill and Deveraux report about the leaked documents,

“The documents also offer a glimpse into which groups the government is targeting in its counterterrorism mission. The groups with the largest number of targeted people on the main terrorism watchlist—aside from “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”—are al Qaeda in Iraq (73,189), the Taliban (62,794), and al Qaeda (50,446). Those are followed by Hamas (21,913) and Hezbollah (21,199).

Although the Obama administration has repeatedly asserted that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula poses the most significant external terrorist threat to the United States, the 8,211 people identified as being tied to the group actually represent the smallest category on the list of the top ten recognized terrorist organizations. AQAP is outnumbered by people suspected of ties to the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network (12,491), the Colombia-based FARC (11,275,) and the Somalia-based al-Shabab (11,547).”

Coming back to the whistle-blower. At first glance, it might be good news. The revealing story continues with another individual in the intelligence community who might have perceived a moral conflict. Snowden had instantly understood that he had to escape from relentless prosecution. The manhunt for the new whistle-blower has just begun.

6 August 2014 @ 5:48 pm.
Last modified August 6, 2014.
Posted in surveillance, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s War Aims


It wasn’t very clear from the beginning what the Israeli government and IDF actually wanted to achieve in the first place in Gaza. Punish Hamas for the three abducted and killed youths in the Westbank in which Hamas was apparently not involved, the tunnels, the rockets? And what has that to do with deliberately shelling hospitals, schools, UN shelters, neighborhoods and marketplaces? As usual, war propaganda was necessary to anyhow justify the unleashed war machinery leaving Gaza in rubble and, according to estimates by the UN, at least 1117 people killed, 926, or 83% civilians including 296 minors. Others have counted 1656 dead.

A new escalation of Operation Protective Edge may have been prevented when it became clear that the allegedly kidnapped captured Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin had actually been killed in action and never in Hamas custody, adding up to 64 IDF soldiers and 3 civilians on the other side.

To see the above video (which has apparently been removed from youtube but is anyway informative), click here. Thanks to Norman Finkelstein.

3 August 2014 @ 6:51 am.
Last modified August 3, 2014.
Posted in Israel, Palestine | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment