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