The New York Times ran a full page, glowing obituary tribute of words to Elie Wiesel, “who the world would never forget.”
Just one of 75 paragraphs of praise admitted that Wiesel “had his detractors.” Literary critic Alfred Kazin merely “wondered whether he had embellished some stories.” And, “questions were raised about whether ‘Night’ was a memoir or a novel as it was sometimes classified on high school reading lists.”
That’s all of the so-called negative criticism of Wiesel. The rest of the obit was full of this kind of glorification:
• “An eloquent witness for the six million Jews slaughtered in World War II.”
• “Seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world’s conscience.”
• “No voice had emerged to drive home the enormity of the massacre.”
• “The sheer force of his personality and his gift for the haunting phrase exhumed the Holocaust from the burial ground of history books.”
You don’t read the Times for the whole truth about its heroes.
Wiesel was liberated from Buchenwald as a 16-year-old with an indelible tattoo on his arm, A-7713. His autobiographical book, “Night,” is a moving account of the horror of the Buchenwald Death Camp. Wiesel died recently at 87.
But you had to read the online Truthout obit for the seamier side of Wiesel. It was written by Max Blumenthal, author and award-winning journalist. His articles, columns and comments appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, the English language Al Jazeera and media outlets.
‘VOICE OF THE HOLOCAUST’
“The outpouring of praise aimed at consolidating Wiesel as the eternal voice of the Holocaust was intense,” Blumenthal writes. “Those who criticized his legacy and pointed out his moral shortcomings were ferociously attacked by the forces he helped inspire.
Oprah Winfrey’s book club made “Night” its monthly selection in 2006. The book zoomed to the bestseller list and the author into the limelight. Winfrey’s acclaim made Wiesel the high priest of Holocaust theology.
Corey Robin, Brooklyn College political science professor, wrote that Wiesel “turned the Holocaust into a morality tale while sacralizing the ovens as our burning bush. He became a modern Moses.”
Blumenthal continues: “He sought to limit stories of other groups subject to Nazi extermination. He lobbied against LGBTQ and Roma (gypsy) victims of the Holocaust.
“Wiesel viewed these other victimized groups as competitors in an oppression Olympics. He fretted that widespread recognition of other victims would sap his own moral power. If the credo became ‘Never again to anyone’ rather than the actual ‘Never again,’ it was a threat to his saintly status, his celebrity and his bottom line.”
In the face of increasingly viscous Israeli crimes against Palestinians, Wiesel counseled silence. “I must identify with whatever Israel does, even with her errors,” he declared.
He vocally supported the invasion of Iraq. “We have a moral obligation to intervene where evil is in control,” he said. “That place is Iraq.”
Wiesel demanded American-orchestrated regime change in Syria. He demanded a U.S attack on Iran. He made these demands, as usual, on the grounds of defeating evil.
Blumenthal adds: “Since 9/11 Wiesel has kept America’s imperial designs safely shrouded in the ghosts of Buchenwald and Babi Yar, site of a ravine in Kiev, Ukraine, where 33,771 Jews were massacred by Nazis in 1941.
APOLOGIST FOR WAR CRIMES
As the literary critic Adam Shatz wrote: “The author of ‘Night’ had gone from being a great victim of war crimes to being an apologist for those who commit them, all the while invoking his moral authority as a Holocaust survivor. After the invasion of Iraq, Wiesel approved of the deaths of 100,000 Iraq civilians. Still, his aura remained unshakeable.
Wiesel accepted $500,000 from Pastor John Hagee for a single speech. Addressing Hagee’s Christian Zionist congregation in San Antonio, Texas, Wiesel heaped praise on the so-called Christian who had ranted against gays.
Blumenthal goes on: “I once approached Wiesel to ask him about his support for Jewish settlers ejecting Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem. He told me to contact his office and shuffled off.
“In July of 2014 Israel embarked on a lethal operation against the besieged Gaza Strip, destroying or damaging 100,000 homes and killing 2,200 people, including 550 children.”
On the day Wiesel died those who took a critical view of his legacy were subjected to the same wrath as those who challenged the segregationist principle Wiesel represented. Condemning his anti-Palestinian tirades was painted by right-wing pro-Israel outlets as tantamount to Holocaust denial.
Blumenthal concludes: “They invited a torrent of incitement and death threats transmitted through social media.”
The New York Times omitted the sordid truth about Wiesel that Blumenthal bares.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (email@example.com)