After death, critics attack Wiesel legacy over Israel support

Pro-Palestinian activists take to Twitter to cry foul about accolades for human rights champion

Elie Wiesel meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, prior to Netanyahu's speech at a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2015 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Elie Wiesel meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, prior to Netanyahu's speech at a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2015 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel was widely mourned Sunday after his death at age 87, but some Israel critics and pro-Palestinian activists have focused on Wiesel’s ardent support for Zionism, saying his backing for the Jewish state tarnished his reputation as a champion for human rights.

Wiesel was a public supporter of right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is highly unpopular among Palestinians and much of the international community.

The Jewish leader and prolific author also loudly chastised his friend US President Barack Obama for calling for an end to settlement construction and for brokering the Iran nuclear-rollback-for-sanctions-relief deal. Wiesel’s stance on these issues led to criticism, even from long-time admirers.

“Eli [sic] Wiesel supported human rights for everyone but for Palestinians, where he advocated for most Israeli policies against our people,” tweeted Xavier Abu Eid, communications adviser of the PLO’s negotiations department.

After surviving the Holocaust, Wiesel, a novelist and activist, became known as one of the foremost witnesses to the Holocaust and a man who not only documented the horrors of the past but sought to prevent future tragedies by fighting for human rights.

“As a writer, a speaker, an activist, and a thinker, he was one of those people who changed the world more as a citizen of the world than those who hold office or traditional positions of power. His life, and the power of his example, urges us to be better,” Obama said Saturday night.

For more than a half-century, Wiesel voiced his passionate beliefs to world leaders, celebrities and general audiences in the name of victims of violence and oppression. He wrote more than 40 books, but his most influential by far was “Night,” a classic ranked with Anne Frank’s diary as standard reading about the Holocaust.

But for some pro-Palestinian activists, his support for Israel outweighed the rest of his legacy.

“Elie Wiesel will be remembered by Palestinians for his racism and his propaganda services to their oppressors, ethnic cleansers and killers,” Ali Abuminah, co-founder of the well-known Palestinian blog Electronic Intifada, wrote.

Abbas Hamideh, co-founder of Al-Awda, an organization that works toward allowing Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Israeli Independence War to move back to their former lands, called Wiesel a “fraud.”

“Elie Wiesel was a fraud who lied about his experiences & supported ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people in the process. Nothing honorable,” he wrote.

Some international media personalities also took to Twitter to criticize undiluted world praise for the recently deceased human rights activist.

Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American author and scholar of religion who often appears on US media outlets, called Wiesel’s promise to never be quiet about human suffering a lie.

Mehdi Hassan, a TV show presenter and journalist for Al Jazeera, suggested high praise for Wiesel was unfounded due to his stance toward the Palestinians.

“Poor old Palestinians — only people whose human rights you can ignore/undermine and still get called a human rights champion when you die,” Hassan wrote.

In a later tweet, the Al Jazeera journalist tried to clarify his view, writing: “To be clear, it is possible to appreciate Elie Wiesel’s struggle, legacy & literature while also being repulsed by his support for settlers.”

Max Blumenthal, a journalist, activist and son of Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, argued Wiesel was not deserving of any honor at all.

“Elie Wiesel went from a victim of war crimes to a supporter of those who commit them. He did more harm than good and should not be honored.”

Clinton’s campaign later condemned Blumenthal’s statement, saying the candidate “emphatically rejects these offensive, hateful, and patently absurd statements about Elie Wiesel” and calling on Blumenthal to “cease and desist in making them.

“Elie Wiesel was a hero to her as he was to so many, and she will keep doing everything she can to honor his memory and to carry his message forward,” the campaign said.

One Arab high-level diplomat was willing to publicly praise Wiesel without mentioning the Palestinians.

Khalid Bin Ahmad, Bahrain’s minister of foreign affairs since 2005, wrote: “Rest in peace #ElieWiesel. Your noble legacy will survive.”

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