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Boteach: Elie Wiesel’s NYT Iran Ad ‘Not About Israel or the Jewish People, but About Human Rights’ (INTERVIEW)

December 18, 2013 5:46 pm 5 comments
Elie Wiesel's ad in the New York Times, on December 18, 2013.

Elie Wiesel's ad in the New York Times, on December 18, 2013.

Elie Wiesel’s  full-page ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are “not about Israel or the Jewish people, but about human rights,” Rabbi Shmuely Boteach told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

“Elie Wiesel is championing humanity with this ad,” Rabbi Boteach said in an interview. “This is not about Israel or the Jewish people, this is about human rights. One of the world’s greatest moral authorities, Elie Wiesel, is saying this disastrous brutal regime of Iran cannot be trusted.”

Rabbi Boteach said the ad, which was written by Wiesel, contains three messages: that Iran should not be allowed to remain nuclear, that there should be no negotiations until Iran, including its elected officials and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, repudiates all genocidal claims against Israel, and that the U.S. Senate should be able to vote on the lifting of sanctions, preferably before its upcoming holiday recess.

Rabbi Boteach’s organization, This World: The Values Network, produced the ad, while Jewish philanthropist Michael Steinhardt paid for them to run on Wednesday in the NYT and Thursday in the WSJ.

The rabbi said the idea for the ads came out of a celebratory dinner after a lecture at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, in September, titled ‘Genocide,‘ featuring Wiesel, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Sheldon Adelson and Steinhardt.

At the lecture, six weeks before the Geneva agreement that rolled back sanctions on Iran, Wiesel strongly objected to the U.S. overtures with Iran, as long as the regime continued with its genocidal rhetoric toward Israel.

“I think America should adopt a very harsh line, a more truthful line and say to Iran that you cannot continue like that, not with our consent you can’t,” he said, in response to being asked if the U.S. should be negotiating with Iran before they renounce their “genocidal aspirations.”

Afterward, at a dinner with the panelists and their spouses, “all of us lifted a glass to say l’chaim,” Rabbi Boteach said. “My toast was to Prof. Wiesel, who I said had been my hero since I first read his book ‘Night’ as a young student, and I said, Rabbi Eliezer, that’s what I call him, it would be of inestimable value if you could consider a serious public statement about the dangers of this rapprochement with Iran.”

“We didn’t feel that the administration [of U.S. President Barack Obama] was taking Iran seriously enough, starting overtures without Iran having to repudiate their genocidal calls, while the president of the U.S. and the president of Iran are already exchanging tweets about traffic patterns in New York City! We just felt it was inappropriate.”

“I said to Prof. Wiesel, no voice on Earth carries the moral authority that yours does, not just about the Holocaust… Once the deal in Geneva was signed, then he said he was willing to go ahead. Once we saw how forcefully [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] believed this as well, and how he was willing to become a thorn in the side of the [U.S.] administration, Prof. Wiesel said, ‘This is the time to do it.'”

Prof. Wiesel, who has written more than 40 books since ‘Night,’ in 1958, was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the Advisory Board Chairman of The Algemeiner.


  • Mr Leovy is a true reflection of current mainstream thought. However rational simplicity, sweeping aside the tidal wave of death and destruction that has washed over the global community by the hand of Khomeinists radical Islam. He like others ignore the genocidal fratricide against the Iranian People, the slaughter of tens of thousands in 1979 & the late 1980’s. As if having the highest execution of men, women children in the world is not enough, nor the thousands of Iranian that have fled their country. Iran’s hand in Sudan’s genocide to spending several billion dollars in asymmetrical wars against Israel is of little consequence. There is a reason why Iran designated for over two decades as the leader in sponsoring International terrorism. To this destructive and terrible entity people of blind cataleptic rationalizing would hand nuclear weapons.

  • Mr. Wiesel may have great moral authority, but his specific recommendations should be judged based on the strategic intelligence they embody, and by this standard they should be rejected. It is plain that neither negotiations nor robust multi-lateral sanctions will survive a US demand, “as a condition of continued talks, the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.” While those scandalized by the exchange of tweets about New York traffic may take comfort in the absolutist position Mr. Wiesel advocates, this position is counterproductive for the goal of minimizing the threat to Israel, as many Israelis who have devoted their careers to Israel’s security have articulated. Security is enhanced by talking to your adversaries, and negotiating – which is not the same as the demand for full capitulation that Mr. Wiesel proposes – does not in and of itself imply inordinate trust. Mr. Obama is correct that the most durable solution to this problem is a negotiated one. This advertisement makes such a solution less likely.

    • So you think that security is enhanced by talking to your enemies? Funny you say that because in September 1938 Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain and Eduard Deladier of France had the same ideawhen they went crawling to Hitler and signed away Czechoslovakia’s freedom and independence.

      But at least Chamberlain, within 6 months, realized that there is no satiating the appetite of a tyrant seeking to dominate the world and Deladier, reportedly immediately on his return to Paris, had only contempt at the mobs of Frenchmen and women who applauded his loathsome betrayal of the only democracy then in Central Europe.

      Giving Obama the benefit of the doubt that he really does not want to stick it to Israel ( and I’m not prepared to do so) his capitulation at the agreement that ‘s been revealed so far (and I don’t believe that’s all the US negotiated away)Obama ‘s failure to get tough with the Iranians will be seen as weakness to their policy of pursuing world domination and through the export of terrorism throughout the world just as Chamberlain’s- and Deladier’s – capitulation to Nazi demands only whetted the German’s appetite for conquest.

      It is a lesson that the President apparently has not yet learned – to the detriment NOT ONLY of Israel but to the rest if the free world including the United States

      • Yes, security is enhanced by talking to your enemies. That you conflate negotiation with large and one-sided concessions does not alter this.

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