Independent op-ed scolds Elie Wiesel for his “blind spot towards the Palestinians”.

Over at Israellycool, you can find a collection of tweets by some vile Israel haters vilifying Elie Wiesel on the day the world learned of his passing at age 87. The tweets, by bigots such as Max Blumenthal, Ali Abunimah and Richard Silverstein, smear the Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Winner as a racist, and a support of Israeli “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians.

An op-ed (Elie Wiesel’s life was a metaphor for Israel and its politics, July 3) by Rupert Cornwell published at The Independent about Wiesel’s legacy doesn’t go nearly as far as this group of extremists, but nonetheless attempts to sully his moral reputation by accusing him of speaking out injustices across the globe, while showing a huge blind spot with regard to Israel’s “oppression” of Palestinians.


The op-ed’s use of Wiesel’s death to repeat tired old calumnies, and borderline antisemitic tropes, begins in the second paragraph.

In his later years, he was not so much witness of the unspeakable as a metaphor for Israel. If you disagreed with Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, if you believed that a people who had suffered so much should understand the miseries they were inflicting on another people, then you would not appreciate Wiesel and his blind spot towards the Palestinians.

Note that Cornwell repeats a narrative used by former MP David Ward.  Ward wrote on his website on International Holocaust Memorial Day in 2013 that he was saddened that “the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in…Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis…”.

Ward was widely criticized for his remarks which echoed a truly reprehensible narrative (sometimes advanced within anti-Zionist and antisemitic circles) characterized by  Howard Jacobson as perversely subjecting Jews to an “elevated moral scrutiny” as a result of their suffering in the Holocaust.  By this logic, Jacobson argued, “the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t.”

The Indy op-ed continues:

He fought for the rights of the oppressed and persecuted elsewhere in the world – the Soviet Jews, the Bosnians and Kosovans in the former Yugoslavia, and the victims of the Rwandan genocide. Constantly, he warned of the abyss into which racism might lead us. But he seemed indifferent to the plight of the people next door to Israel, under effective occupation, the rump territory allotted to them eroded by settlements, their rights as a state denied to them.

If you disliked the grip that Israel had on the politics of America, its great protector in the world, and America’s reflexive support for the Jewish state, then Wiesel would make you uneasy…

Though Cornwell concludes by commending Wiesel for his contribution to safeguarding Holocaust memory, his evocation – in the sentence above – of classic antisemitic tropes about Jewish-Israeli control of the US political system would certainly make many anti-racists “uneasy”. 

The op-ed’s attack on Israel and Wiesel is a perfect example of the toxic calculus which views Israel primarily as an oppressive political actor in the region, one which morally implicates Jews everywhere (including Holocaust survivors) unless they take a stand against this injustice.

It evidently didn’t occur to Cornwell that Wiesel didn’t ‘speak-up’ against Israel in part because he simply didn’t accept the binary good-evil, oppressed-oppressor paradigm of the conflict advanced by the opinion elite in the UK, and in fact viewed Israel not as an oppressor, but as the victim of decades of Palestinian Arab rejectionism, extremism, violence and antisemitism.

This shameful op-ed represents yet another example of how the Independent has surpassed the Guardian in the race to the bottom within the myopic and obsessive criticism of Israel which characterizes British media coverage of Israel.

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