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July 6, 2016 12:51 pm

The New York Times Has the Nerve to Cheer a Posthumous Palestinian-Centric Assault on Elie Wiesel

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The late Elie Wiesel. Photo Google.

The late Elie Wiesel. Photo Google.

Of all the possible ways to respond to the death of Elie Wiesel, perhaps the most perverted is to use the occasion to launch an attack on him by falsely accusing him of lacking compassion for the Palestinian Arabs — an attack in which, sadly, the New York Times has now joined.

It’s an infuriating line of thinking for at least five reasons.

First, Wiesel is dead and thus lacks the capacity to defend himself.

Second, unless someone was inside Wiesel’s own head or heart, there’s no way to accurately assess his level of empathy or compassion for the Palestinian Arabs.

Third, it’s too late to do anything about it, since Wiesel is dead and therefore not able to rise to defend the Palestinian Arab cause, no matter how much his critics wish he would do so.

Fourth, even if it weren’t too late to do anything about it, it’s not clear that Wiesel’s advocacy would have done anything actually to help the Palestinian Arabs. After all, Wiesel opposed the Iran nuclear deal and wasn’t able to prevent its implementation. The Palestinian Arabs have all kinds of powerful advocates already — the Arab League, the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, most American college professors and mainline Protestant non-evangelical churches, much of the European Left — and they are still officially miserable and malcontent. We’re supposed to believe that if only Wiesel had spoken up, it would have made a meaningful difference in the outcome? And if it hadn’t made a meaningful difference in the outcome, what would be the point, other than self-congratulatory moral preening?

Fifth, there’s evidence that it is an inaccurate line of attack on Wiesel. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech text, he said

There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism, and political persecution, writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right. Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. And then, too, there are the Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore. Violence and terrorism are not the answer. Something must be done about their suffering, and soon. I trust Israel, for I have faith in the Jewish people. Let Israel be given a chance, let hatred and danger be removed from her horizons, and there will be peace in and around the Holy Land.

Those to me sound like the words of someone who is sensitive, not insensitive, to what Wiesel called the “plight” of the Palestinians. Wiesel was also a public supporter of the Oslo peace agreements in the Clinton years, not exactly the position of an anti-Palestinian extremist. In one book, he wrote, “I have never concealed how much the human dimension of the Palestinian tragedy affects me.”

The New York Times obituary of Wiesel mercifully refrained from this nonsensical line of criticism, a restraint for which it was duly attacked by Bernard Avishai, writing in the New Yorker: “Remarkably, however, there is not a word in the Times obituary about the occupation of the Palestinian territories.” This could be remarkable only to someone with a moral and news judgment so warped as to require the placing of that “occupation” at the center of an account of the life of any contemporary Jew, anywhere.

Alas, the Times can’t restrain itself. A new hire on the paper’s news side, Max Fisher, tweeted out a link to an article that, for all its pretensions at fairness, nonetheless proceeds more or less to judge, posthumously, Wiesel’s supposed shortcomings on the Palestinian-Arab issue. Mr. Fisher praises the article as “thoughtful, careful, eloquent,” when, in fact, it is none of the three.

It’s one thing for a professional anti-Israel agitator to try to use Wiesel’s death to advance his agenda. It’s another for the New York Times to join in, which it now, alas, has done.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. 

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