Thursday, August 21, 2014 | return to: views, opinions


Why Elie Wiesel’s full-page ad troubles me

by amy neustein

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As a Jewish sociologist residing in the New York area, I was stung by the words of Nobel laureate and Holocaust historian Elie Wiesel in a paid ad that appeared this month in a handful of major newspapers along the Eastern corridor.

The headline: “Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it’s Hamas’ turn.”

9_Vneustein_amy_withnameThe ad grouped Gazan parents together with the Molochites (a reference to ancient Canaanites who sacrificed children to the god Moloch) and raised many disturbing questions for me. Was the ad simply repeating the same mantra about how Palestinians use their children as “human shields,” now repackaged with a biblical wrapper? On the other hand, was this a genuine behest made to Gazans to protect their children from enemy fire?

For those parents who have fled at a moment’s notice with their children, packing diapers, milk formula, medications, a few changes of clothing along with mattresses and linens on the backs of donkeys or on the roofs of cars, the ad was an insult to their integrity. But for those who have already lost their children in Operation Protective Edge, or whose children have suffered serious and debilitating injuries from the monthlong war, these harsh words, indicting Gazan parents as “worshippers of death cults” must have been nothing less than demoralizing. Why was this done?

I remember reading about how German American political theorist Hannah Arendt drew fire from the Jewish community when she mentioned in “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” that Holocaust victims were partly complicit in their own murder because of the failure of influential members of the Jewish community to act on their behalf. Though her attack was mainly directed at Jewish leaders rather than individual Holocaust victims, the rage she encountered caused her marginalization in many sectors of the Jewish community.

What she probably learned from the strong reaction of the Jewish community and those in her academic milieu was that even the slightest imputation of blame to a victim population does not bode well. I ask why is Wiesel using this same tactic now? Could it be a way to spin the numbers of civilian causalities so that the catastrophic loss of Gazan children might be rendered de minimis? In essence, does the circulation of a factoid act as a nepenthe to help us forget the pain and sorrow of the mothers and fathers who have just buried their dead children in Gaza?

Though I am middle-aged now, as a youth I worked as a volunteer at the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, tending to the victims of the 1975 Kikar Zion (Zion Square) refrigerator bombing that killed 15 civilians and badly injured 77 pedestrians. One Israeli youth, whose name was Chanan, had lost the use of both of his legs from this brutal attack. It was late one evening and I had just finished canvassing the bakeries on Ben Yehuda Street to find a special kind of rugelach, a cream-cheese pastry roll made with nuts and dried fruit, for which he said he had an irrepressible yen. I bought several pounds for him since I would be going back home to the States the following day to resume my studies.

What I saw next would remain with me forever. Chanan’s roommate was a Palestinian who had suffered from a car accident. Without a moment of hesitation, Chanan, who couldn’t walk, motioned to his Palestinian roommate to come over to his bedside so that he could share his rugelach with him. I couldn’t contain myself and asked Chanan in a whispered voice how he could bring himself to be so generous toward his Palestinian roommate when he lay there in bed with massive third-degree burns from the refrigerator bombing. He replied, “I don’t blame just for the sake of blaming.”

Could we learn a lesson from this young Israeli bomb victim? What did Wiesel accomplish in blaming the Gazan parents for the untimely deaths of their children? Did all the Gazan parents place their children in harm’s way? Was there even one child placed deliberately in front of Israeli artillery? Do Gazan parents lack the same parental instincts, found in populations throughout the world, to protect their children? On the other hand, should we be blaming the Jewish settlers who have buried their own children following attacks, when it is undisputed that living in the West Bank settlements leaves one vulnerable to such attacks?

If blame serves the purpose of minimizing our pain over the deaths of both Palestinians and Jews whose lives were tragically cut short, then we’ve successfully used blame to excuse ourselves from working together to find a solution.

Amy Neustein is a sociologist living in Fort Lee, N.J., and the editor of “Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities and Child Sex Scandals.”



Posted by Michael Lesher
08/22/2014  at  04:19 AM
condoning violence is the real sacrifice

Because I’ve just published a book on child abuse cover-ups in Orthodox Jewish communities—and earlier co-authored a book with Amy Neustein that detailed the failures of family courts to protect children—this column quickly caught my eye.

It’s crucial to recognize that whenever we rationalize or condone violence against children—as Wiesel’s comments implicitly did—we effectively trivialize abuse of ALL children. And if committed Jews don’t speak out when children (among others) 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—because they stand in the way of Jewish expansion—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—if they’re in the way—are expendable. Such a society should be anathema to Jews, regardless of who leads it or who condones it.

Michael Lesher
Author of Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities
See link at:

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Posted by lgbtlaw
08/22/2014  at  02:10 PM
Gazan Parents Speak On Video

Let’s not turn our backs on abused children of any culture just because it makes us uncomfortable! Many Gazan parents have stated on the record and on video many times that they are pleased when their children die in the cause of eradication of “the Jews.” See for example

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Posted by paul
08/22/2014  at  03:52 PM
Why did they vote for

Why did they vote for Hamas? Why are dying for Hamas? You see, when Israel go war against Hamas, Israel call to every house in Gaza and ask people to be evacuated and go some where, where   it safe. I don’t know any country and Army of the world that would do the same. The only reason why Gazans are suffering, it’s of the Hamas Government. Israel, does have a right to exist. And, Israel will always have a right for self defense.

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Posted by Jerry Rosenblum
08/23/2014  at  10:26 PM
A massive response to Elie the Weasel.

“…we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.”

The letter also blames the United States of aiding Israel in its Gaza operation, and the West in general of protecting Israel from condemnation.

“Genocide begins with the silence of the world,” the letter reads.

The letter ends with a call to bring the blockade of Gaza to an immediate end, and for a full boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!,” the letter concludes.

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