Elie Wiesel’s Tears Over Jerusalem

I felt stunned at the disregard for moral principles and international laws that the 1986 Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel demonstrated in his piece “Jerusalem in My Heart” published in The New York Time, January 24, 2001. I sent a letter to the editor of NYT, exposing his deceptive arguments. But my letter was not published, probably because it did not match their agenda of “manufacturing consent” against Palestine. Anyway, here I analyze some of the holes in Wiesel’s largely passionate and irrational argument.

Wiesel lamented the handover of East Jerusalem to Palestinians in a future land for peace deal. He questioned Jordan’s failure to welcome the Zionists in East Jerusalem during 1948-67. But he never mentioned that this was a period of a state of war between Israel and Jordan and that it was natural for Jordan at that time not to be cozy with the Zionists who monstrously killed Palestinians in the thousands and kicked 770,000 of them out of their homes in a sustained terror campaign that culminated in 1948. And he never mentioned how the Jews were welcomed, treated and protected (from European persecution) in Muslim lands during the previous 13 centuries when Jerusalem was under Muslim control. This is the crux of Wiesel’s intellectual dishonesty.

Wiesel commented that the faces of the Palestinian youth reflect hatred of the Israelis. But strangely he never questioned or answered why. He never questioned why Jews from all over the world should find ready-made, U.S.-funded mansions to live upon immigration to Israel while the native Palestinians are not allowed to return to their ancestral homes. With a little homework, he must have found that the Palestinians “love” their Israeli plunderers as much as the Jews “love” their Nazi destroyers. For details, he should refer to the volumes written by people like Israel Shahak, the Jewish Holocaust survivor who was formerly professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and chair of Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, and other reports and books reflecting voices of human rights.

Wiesel parochially claims that Jews are worthier than Muslims and Christians as inhabitants and stewards of Jerusalem. While expressing his religious passion for the city, he failed to even refer to the roots of Muslim passion for the holy city and its surroundings. Muslims feel passionately attached to Jerusalem because Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus who lived in and around the city are eminent Prophets of Islam. In both letter and spirit, the Qur’an commands Muslims NOT to distinguish between the Prophets of God. Jerusalem is also the city to which Muslims were once commanded by God to turn to for prayers and from which Muhammad, the last Prophet of Islam, made a night journey to heaven. This is well documented in the Qur’an, contrary to Wiesel’s claims.

Wiesel undermines the universal human rights, principles of justice and international laws as he endorses the Israeli position of denying Palestinian refugees the right of return. Wiesel should note that the international laws legitimize the creation and existence of Israel in Palestine. It is absurd to accept international laws when they legitimize the rights of Israelis and reject them when they defend those of Palestinians. If one rejects international laws that grant Palestinians the rights of return and establishment of an independent state in territories including East Jerusalem, then by definition one also rejects the right of Israel to exist as a nation state.

Wiesel claims that “In 1947 Israel accepted the plan for the division of Palestine; the Arabs rejected it.” But he does not explain why. The reason was that Palestine was robbed from the Arabs by terrorism and brute force. Later, this brutal occupation was legitimized by the U.N. under the U.S. pressure, in violation of moral principles and despite an earlier U.S. commitment to not endorse such an injustice. The U.S. President Roosevelt too opposed the idea of creating Israel in Palestine. President Roosevelt argued: a Jewish state in Palestine could be established and maintained only by force, and the U.S. should not be a party to it (Foreign Relations, 1945, Vol. III).

In an article titled “The Jews in Palestine” published in 1938, Mohatma Gandhi, the renowned Indian leader and philosopher of nonviolence and social/political justice, condemned the ongoing scheming to dispossess Palestinians. While condemning the treatment of Jews as untouchables in Europe, and asking Jews to consider their countries of origin as their own homes, he said, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.”

Wiesel has finally failed to hide that he is a false proponent of human rights and peace. Otherwise, like Israel Shahak and Noam Chomsky (both Jewish), he would have recognized the moral and legal legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to occupation, condemned Israel’s continued carnage and dispossession of the Palestinians and written another classic titled “And the World Remains Silent” like the one he wrote in 1956.

His tears over Jerusalem may be equally false, as well. His claim to Jerusalem is imaginative, illegal and illegitimate, based on mythology. The Paletinian claim to Jerusalem, in contrast, is existential, legal and legitimate, based on the reality of their existence. Palestine lives in the hearts, breaths and bloodstreams of Palestinians who are waiting in refugee camps to return to their homes and who are now living down there defying the brutality of Israeli Gestapo and armed forces.

Mohammad A. Auwal, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, California State University, Los Angeles.