Hillary Seeks Distance From Max Blumenthal, as Top Adviser’s Son Doubles Down on Elie Wiesel Attacks
Following a barrage of angry comments he received for responding to the passing of Elie Wiesel by vilifying the Nobel Prize laureate, the son of Hillary Clinton’s close confidant Sidney Blumenthal doubled down on his vitriol, while the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee hastened to distance herself from it.
Hillary Clinton “emphatically rejects [Max Blumenthal’s] offensive, hateful and patently absurd statements,” her campaign’s senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Tuesday. “She believes they are wrong in all senses of the term. She believes that Max Blumenthal and others should 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.”
On behalf of his boss, Sullivan was referring to a series of hostile tweets that journalist Max Blumenthal posted on Sunday, the day after Wiesel’s death. As The Algemeiner reported, Blumenthal — senior writer for AlterNet and author of Goliath and The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, a virulently anti-Israel book about Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 — said that Wiesel “did more harm than good and should not be honored;” that he “went from a victim of war crimes to a supporter of those who commit them;” and that he “repeatedly lauded Jewish settlers for ethnically cleansing Palestinians in East Jerusalem.”
Though the Clintons released a joint statement honoring Wiesel’s memory, Blumenthal’s comments were used by Hillary’s critics to highlight her past expressions of admiration for the young Israel-basher — revealed in the batches of emails from her personal server that were released to the public.
In several exchanges she had with Sidney Blumenthal, Hillary praised his son’s articles. The following are some examples compiled by Israel-activist Rabbi Shmuley Boteach:
7/6/2010 – “Pls print 5 copies but w/out heading from Sid.”
8/17/2010 – “Pls congratulate Max for another impressive piece. He’s so good.”
11/18/2010 — “A very smart piece as usual.”
4/7/2011 – “Will Max’s piece be published anywhere else? It is powerful and touching.”
12/23/2011 – “Max strikes again!”
1/21/2012 – “Interesting reading.”
9/13/2012 — “Your Max is a mitzvah!”
12/7/2012 – “Good stuff. Where is he now?”
The social-media storm stirred up by Blumenthal’s anti-Wiesel tweets was fierce. In response, he penned a lengthy piece in AlterNet to defend his attacks on the famed Holocaust survivor.
“The news of…Wiesel’s death in the early morning of July 2 ushered in veneration and reflections from figures across the political spectrum, from Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to Benjamin Netanyahu and George W. Bush. The outpouring of high-level praise aimed at consolidating Wiesel as the eternal voice of the Holocaust and the central preceptor of its lessons,” Blumenthal wrote. “Those who criticized his legacy or pointed out his moral contradictions, meanwhile, were ferociously attacked by the forces he helped inspire.”
“…[T]he general public has been familiarized with Wiesel over the course of several generations through educational curricula and an expansive commercial apparatus,” Blumenthal claimed further in his 2,000-word article — “It Is Important to Have Perspective on Elie Wiesel’s Legacy” — “In 2006…Oprah Winfrey’s…book club made [Wiesel’s] Night its monthly selection. The public relations maneuver drove the book onto the national bestseller list and centered its author in the celebrity limelight. Soon after, Oprah joined Wiesel on a tour of Auschwitz, where he spoke before a camera crew in mystical terms about the souls of those were exterminated and how he communed with them as he stepped across the hallowed ground.”
He went on: “Through Oprah, Wiesel secured his brand as the high priest of Holocaust theology, the quasi-religion he introduced some 30 years earlier…”
According to Blumenthal, “While Wiesel leveraged his literary talents to win sympathy for Jewish victims of genocide, he sought to limit the narratives of other groups subjected to industrial-level extermination…[He] seemed to view these other victimized groups as competitors in an oppression Olympics, fretting that widespread recognition of the atrocities they suffered would sap his own moral power. The universalist’s credo — ‘Never again to anyone’ —was a threat to his saintly status, his celebrity and his bottom line.”
Blumenthal continued on in this vain, demonizing Wiesel for supporting Israel, “[i]n the face of increasingly unspeakable crimes against Palestinians,” while taking shots at the United States, as well.
“Since 9/11,” he wrote, “Wiesel’s figure has helped keep America’s imperial designs safely shrouded in the ghosts of Buchenwald and Babi Yar.”
On the day of Wiesel’s death, those who took a critical view of his legacy were subjected to the same wrath as the survivors who challenged the segregationist principle he represented. Condemning his anti-Palestinian tirades was painted by right-wing and pro-Israel outlets as tantamount to Holocaust denial, and invited a torrent of incitement and death threats transmitted through social media. (A quick browse through my Twitter interactions will show an almost endless stream of disturbing imprecations).
With Elie Wiesel gone, his most zealous defenders have set out to destroy those who embraced the message he espoused in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, but which he ultimately failed to uphold: “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”
Max Blumenthal’s father, Sidney, is a former aide to President Bill Clinton and served as an adviser to Hillary during her 2008 campaign to become the Democratic presidential nominee. When she lost to Barack Obama and became secretary of state in 2009, she wanted Blumenthal on her staff. The White House blocked his appointment, however, still holding a grudge against him for his having spread negative stories about Obama during the primaries.