Elie Wiesel’s full-page newspaper ad decrying Hamas’ reported use of human shields in the Gaza conflict has provoked no shortage of controversy. Here at J., that controversy has sparked a thought-provoking conversation between columnists and readers alike.
Last week, Amy Neustein’s column (“Why Elie Wiesel’s full-page ad troubles me,” Aug. 22) challenged the Holocaust survivor about his assertion that Gaza parents are to blame for the deaths of their own children. Her comments inspired a number of letters to the editor from J.’s readers, which you can read below. It also brought a response from Rabbi Ari Cartun of Palo Alto, “Critic of Elie Wiesel ad misses mark,” which you can read online or in this week’s newspaper.
J. welcomes your thoughts and comments as this conversation continues. — Editors.
Columnist’s troubling defense
Amy Neustein’s column troubled me (“Why Elie Wiesel’s full-page ad troubles me,” Aug. 22). Her defense of Gaza parents did not mention that Hamas was elected by them. Hamas does use their children as shields. Foreign journalists reported this as soon as they left Gaza. Gaza parents publicly state they are proud of their children when they become suicide bombers.
Ms. Neustein said nothing about the rockets raining down on Israel, which forces Israel to defend itself. She made no mention of the terror Israeli children feel as they run for shelters, or the funerals of Israeli soldiers and civilians murdered by Hamas. Nor does she mention what would have happened had the tunnels not been destroyed.
Elie Wiesel has seen the worst the world can do to Jews. He is far wiser than Ms. Neustein.
Jill Maleson | Fremont
Courageous critique of Wiesel’s ad
I was heartened to read Amy Neustein’s critique of Elie Wiesel’s ad. I was doubly heartened to see a Jewish paper show the courage to publish this piece. The op-ed reminded me that in the middle of a heated conflict, one must still have compassion. The little vignette about the Israeli bomb victim made me realize there was once a time when two warring sides could set aside differences in the interest of aspiring to reach higher levels of humanity. Can we rekindle the best in all humanity to end the suffering of everyone caught up in the war?
Susan Daglian | New York City
Stop blaming victims of child abuse
Because I’ve just published a book on child abuse cover-ups in Orthodox Jewish communities, Amy Neustein’s column about Elie Wiesel’s comments caught my eye.
It’s crucial to recognize that whenever we rationalize violence against children, as Wiesel’s comments implicitly did, we trivialize abuse of all children. And if committed Jews don’t speak out when children fall victim to the violence of the “Jewish state,” who will?
I’m afraid it is no accident that the same rabbis who condone violence against Palestinians all too often minimize the problem of child abuse among Jews, since acknowledging it would similarly interfere with the leadership’s priorities and power. Amy Neustein’s equation of the value of all children’s lives is, therefore, right on target. Blaming the child victims for their abuse is one of the oldest, and most cynical, tactics of those who want to whitewash a society in which children are expendable. Such a society should be anathema to Jews, regardless of who leads it or who condones it.
Michael Lesher | Passaic, N.J.
Calling out Wiesel is ‘plain chutzpah’
Whatever Amy Neustein has learned from her “late one evening” experience in a Jerusalem hospital, where an Israeli boy disfigured in a previous suicide bombing shared a rugelach with an Arab Palestinian injured in an auto accident, not only pales in comparison with what Elie Wiesel witnessed in Nazi concentration camps, it’s just plain chutzpah.
Ms. Neustein says she has been carrying through all her life the goodwill of the Israeli boy. She might have known from all our teachings that Jews have never enjoyed the suffering of their enemies, from Exodus to the recent Gaza battles. Meanwhile, Elie Wiesel carries the yoke of memories of Hitler’s Germany and the thousands of monsters ready to torture, murder and burn people alive.
Wiesel’s appeal to Gazan mothers, through a full-page newspaper ad, should be read as a call to action to protect their souls from the poisonous hatred spread by Nazi-like Hamas propaganda. There is no reason Elie Wiesel’s full-page ad should trouble Ms. Neustein.
Vladimir Kaplan | San Mateo