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October 3, 2013 9:51 am

Elie Wiesel: Jewish Response to Syria Gas Attack Not Powerful Enough, Considering Gas Was Used by Nazis to Kill Jews

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Chairman of The Algemeiner Journal's Advisory Board, Professor Elie Wiesel speaking at the newspaper's 40th anniversary gala, on April 22, 2013. Photo: Sarah Rogers / Algemeiner.

Chairman of The Algemeiner Journal's Advisory Board, Professor Elie Wiesel speaking at the newspaper's 40th anniversary gala, on April 22, 2013. Photo: Sarah Rogers / Algemeiner.

Famed Nobel laureate and humanitarian, Elie Wiesel, told a New York audience Sunday that the U.S. Jewish community should have responded to the recent use of poison gas, by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, by organizing a mass demonstration of half a million people, according to a recording obtained by The Algemeiner. Wiesel, who also serves as Chair of The Algemeiner’s Advisory Board, said that the use of gas should have elicited an especially strong reaction from Jews considering that it was used by the Nazis to kill Jews during the Holocaust.

“Here I feel very bad about our own leadership,” said Wiesel, responding to a question from the event’s moderator Rabbi Shmuley Boteach who asked, “What do you think about Syria? should we punish Assad for gassing children? And for us Jews of course, gas has the worst possible connotation.”

“Jewish leadership, the moment we knew that they are using gas should have organized a mass demonstration of 500,000 people in the streets. Go to Washington and say, ‘this is beyond. Enough. That we cannot take. Gas?!’ When we know what was done with gas to our people two generations ago,” he said. “When that came out, there should have been a reaction, a very powerful reaction, and organize really something that should force the world to stop and say, ‘hey, hey, hey, wait. It is true. Gas?! That we cannot take. We cannot allow. We cannot accept.'”

Wiesel also lamented the transient nature of the media’s coverage of the event. “It became something like, one day’s news, next day you don’t talk about it. Where is memory? Where is sensitivity? Where is responsibility? So here I am afraid our leadership was not on the level. I expected more. It can be done in 24 hours,” he said.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” the world’s most famous Holocaust survivor responded when asked by Boteach if he thinks that “both the Jewish leadership and the American political leadership should be help accountable for not doing enough to punish Assad for using chemical gas.”

“The fact is, gas has been used for the first time, and therefore it cannot be used again, and those who use it again should be, I think, arrested, imprisoned, charged […]. Anyways, something must be done, we cannot let it happen without a reaction,” Wiesel concluded.

The event which took place at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, was hosted by Boteach’s This World: The Values Network organization. Titled “Genocide,” the forum included Rwandan President Paul Kagame and philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt. Wiesel also shared strong words about Iran and the genocidal rhetoric of the country’s leaders.

Following news in August of the gas attack in Syria, Jewish groups almost unanimously backed President Obama’s initiative to launch punitive strikes against the Assad regime. Political divides appeared to be set aside as both the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition joined forces as did many others from across the political spectrum. Action in Syria did not receive popular support, and was ultimately averted when the U.S. accepted a Russian proposed deal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to the international community. This week, United Nations inspectors began the hunt for Syria’s chemical weapons.

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  • Sandy Brown

    I went to the Doctor

    He said: “You have a very serious illness”

    I said: “May I have a second opinion”

    He said: “You are ugly as well”

    • lothar meza

      thats a dumb joke

  • Sandy Brown

    I was reading about Napalm the other day. I cannot get that photo out of my mind of the little girl in Vietnam who was scorched by it and running down the road. I was about 20 when that happened. The British are the people who sent the ingredients of the gas used in Syria, to the Middle East, which was used on the Syrian people recently. We have always got our heads stuck in there somewhere, we British.

    • P gaetti

      No . the British did not send the Sarin gas that was used in Syria. Few years back and until four years ago the British sold Unknowing to a Syrian Beuty company components that was used to mix in the Sarin gas that the regime used . The Syrian Beuty company was a front and a lie and therefore Britain did not know Aoart that would be used for Beuty products

  • EG

    I think the brilliant Wiesel has succumbed to Alzheimer’s. Those Arabs would be delighted to aim that gas at the Jews in Israel, and they’d also sent it America’s way, if they could.

    Syria is a Iranian terrorist satellite and has been so for decades. They have no interest in western values of freedom and democracy. They are a Islamic Militant nation. Karma comes to Islam, and it’s about time.

    • Ac220404

      No, I think he understands greatly and is sensitive to stereotypes that can haunt ethnic and national groups most innocent victims based on actions of the few, even if there made up. all the more reason to intervene, use this situation to our advantage by dictating the terms of our assistance (ONLY air power and cruise missiles) to the rebels, (allows us to work against Al-Qaida and use drones to attack their bases, Causing a mass split from Al-Nusra, whose only reason for becoming so powerful is a lack of options, even after asking for our own assistance.

  • In Duck Soup, Groucho Marx plays the leader of a nation at war. In one scene, he receives a message from the battlefield that his general is reporting a gas attack.

    Groucho tells his aide, “Tell him to take a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda and a half a glass of water.”

    • Sandy Brown

      Ha. Ha. Very funny Misha Benlevy. Love that.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    How utterly inane is world leadership! Can a lunatic leader be allowed to deploy lethal gas even once and get away with it? There is no doubt that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the deployment of sarin gas against his own people as was explained by a newly defected general of the Syrian army, Brigadier General Zaher al-Sakat. General al-Sakat explained that Assad would be the only person in Syria to give the order to use lethal WMD because he is the Commander-in-Chief and President of Syria. What is the free World waiting for? Merely destroying the remaining WMD IS NOT ENOUGH! Assad committed a violation of the human rights of his own people. Why has he been interviewed as if he is a bystander: HE IS THE PERPETRATOR! Why has he not been arrested and forced to stand trial for a crime against humanity on August 21, 2013, at the International Court at the Hague? Where is there any conscience among world leaders and the leaders of World Jewry?

    • annette

      Dear God! Did ANYONE see those innocent little children gasping for thier last breathe? There they were little ones scattered all along a dirty floor literally dying right before everyones eyes! Dying alone, cold, pathetically! they were being muttled through, being turned to thier sides, and stepped over, and just stared at. I will never again be able to get those immages out of my head! It was more than i could take. A dying dog gets more respect than those helpless dying babies! This is when the nations should unite and bring down the bad guy before more innocent children can be terrorized and torchured in this manner or any other way! It discusts me to know the man responsibile for this inhumane act is sitting there with no shame! Eating, drinking, sleeping comfortably! The world needs to wake up and see what that deadly gas that no one is responsibile for did to those innocent people, and thier precious little ones! God Help us all.