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To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope.
December 7, 2005 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Against Indifference: A Conversation with Elie Wiesel "I believe that a person who is indifferent to the suffering of others is complicit in the crime. And that I cannot allow, at least not for myself." short, but good. The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity site is worth some time as well (or if you're looking for a worthy cause this season).
posted by amberglow (32 comments total)

 
Meh
posted by parallax7d at 4:07 PM on December 7, 2005


Elie Wiesel (whether or not the criticisms of him are true) is an inspiration. And I like that he quoted Albert Camus.
posted by amro at 4:10 PM on December 7, 2005


Every MUST be indifferent to somebody's suffering. Either that somebody is an enemy or is so insignificant and foreign that it simply doesn't matter.

Show of hands: who here is not indifferent to Osama Bin Laden's kidney ailment? Or the fact that Charles Manson will spend the rest of his life behind bars?
posted by Yakuman at 4:11 PM on December 7, 2005


Then don't rejoice in that suffering, but accept it as necessary, as may be your complicity.
posted by Richard Daly at 4:20 PM on December 7, 2005


Oh fuck off. Nice article. Sympathy. There's a fucking value.

I'm good. Thanks.
posted by nervousfritz at 4:24 PM on December 7, 2005


I had the honor of meeting E.W. at a function I ran. He embraced two young children who had gone up to him to have him give an authograph. He pushed some adults aside and reached out and drew the kids in. I asked him for an autograph for my two kids. He said No, but give me your address. A week later, his latest book, signed, for my children. A truly remarkable man.
posted by Postroad at 4:31 PM on December 7, 2005


I think he's a hypocritical pig who is great at PR and talking from the side of his mouth. A true inspiration.
posted by undule at 4:36 PM on December 7, 2005


Didn't we use up all our sympathy with 9-11, Katrina, tsunami,earthquakes, Bono/Sally Struthers speaking about African suffering?

Sympathy seems to be quite the commodity these days.
What you got to trade?
posted by Balisong at 4:51 PM on December 7, 2005


For an alternative view to Wiesel's work after Night, Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry is a pretty harsh treatment of how Wiesel and others abuse the memory of the Holocaust for particular agendas. Not trying to open a can of worms, but I just finished this book, and thought its iconoclasm would be relevant here.
posted by slow, man at 5:11 PM on December 7, 2005


which agendas?
posted by amberglow at 5:36 PM on December 7, 2005


Indifference to the suffering of others is a vital part of human existence. If you were to sincerely put equal effort into the relief of suffering of all human beings, you would be completely overwhelmed and ultimately accomplish less. Everybody has to pick their battles.
posted by nightchrome at 5:39 PM on December 7, 2005


Wiesel and others abuse the memory of the Holocaust for particular agendas

Given that Wiesel, you know, watched his father waste away in a filthy concentration camp, I trust his view of the Holocaust more than Finkelstein, who was born in the US and actually got to go to school, rather than being shoved into a cattle-car to Auschwitz.
posted by unreason at 5:47 PM on December 7, 2005


unreason: No one is disputing wiesel's views on the holocaust, but rather Wiesel's actions in all the years between then and now.
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on December 7, 2005


No one is disputing wiesel's views on the holocaust

That is because he does not have views. He has facts. He was there. He saw it. And in my book, that gives him a lot more credibility than his detractors.
posted by unreason at 6:18 PM on December 7, 2005


That is because he does not have views. He has facts. He was there. He saw it. And in my book, that gives him a lot more credibility than his detractors.

What are you talking about? How do his "facts" have any baring on his credibility on subjects that are not the holocaust?
posted by delmoi at 6:24 PM on December 7, 2005


besides, you were the one who used the term 'view' in the post i was replying too, moron.
posted by delmoi at 6:25 PM on December 7, 2005


That is because he does not have views. He has facts. He was there. He saw it

He doesn't have facts, he has a drama, which may or may not be wholly fictive. Every couple of years a Holocaust account is discredited - - some spanish guy earlier this year, remember that? -- and Weisel will get his day. He describes geysers of blood shooting out of the ground, he says the Germans killed 10,000 a day in flaming ditches -- which is almost impossible, and not substantiated in any way whatsoever. These are the facts? C'mon. The guy is shameless. He's a Jewish exceptionalist, a racist and a liar.
posted by undule at 6:54 PM on December 7, 2005


Wow. Just - wow. Have you read Night? Been to Yad Vashem? Or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum? Ever heard of Babi Yar, where, on September 29 and 30, 1941, THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND Jews were killed?

OK - flame away. I'm quite comfortable taking your heat in light of these facts.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:39 PM on December 7, 2005


undule: WTF are you talking about? I read the book and there were no geysers of blood, or flaming ditches. As for 10k a day, that dosn't sound imposible. Most of the deaths happened at the end of the war, and I still don't see how it would be difficult to kill 10k/day. If you can fit 250 people in a gas chamber you can do it in a day by cycling in a new batch ever 36 minutes. And they were higher capacity then that. How many cows does the beef industry kill a day?

Probably a lot more then 10k
posted by delmoi at 8:42 PM on December 7, 2005


The US beef industry kills 35.735 million cows a year. That's 97k/day, and a cow is a lot bigger then a person. You think a whole country, dead set on killing a large number of people couldn't do better?
posted by delmoi at 8:45 PM on December 7, 2005


if this is true about the quicklimed, stuffed, and sealed rail cars, then 10,000 is completely doable. (kos diary about a Polish guy, Jan Karski)
posted by amberglow at 9:23 PM on December 7, 2005


"I believe that a person who is indifferent to the suffering of others is complicit in the crime. And that I cannot allow, at least not for myself."

Wiesel has proven himself time and time again to be utterly indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. He is therefore complicit in their suffering (and a hypocrite to boot).
posted by laz-e-boy at 10:09 PM on December 7, 2005


Laz-e-boy - a link or two, please? Does supporting the state of Israel implicitly mean that one is indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians? What about these folks?
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:53 PM on December 7, 2005


I think people are being a little snarky with Wiesel's words. Look, the fact of the matter is that there is FAR too much complacency in the world - would anyone disagree with that? Maybe the guy could have said it more clearly, but given what he has lived through, I'm happy to give him all the slack in the world for coming up a little short in the poetry department.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:58 PM on December 7, 2005


In 1982, after Gen. Ariel Sharon had treated the inhabitants of the Sabra and Shatila camps as target practice for his paid proxies, Wiesel favored us with another of his exercises in neutrality. Asked by the New York Times to comment on the pogrom, he was one of the few American Jews approached on the matter to express zero remorse. "I don't think we should even comment," he said, proceeding to comment bleatingly that he felt "sadness-- with Israel, and not against Israel." For the victims, not even a perfunctory word. (source)

He knows from personal experience that on April 9, 1948 Arab civilians, including women and children, were murdered in cold blood in the village of Deir Yassin on the west side of Jerusalem by Jewish terrorists known as the Irgun and the Stern Gang. Wiesel worked for the Irgun, not as a fighter, but as a journalist and knows the details of this infamous (but not the only nor the largest) massacre of Arabs by Jews. And while he piously demands public apologies for atrocities committed against Jews (for example in 1946 at Kielce, Poland), he has never been able to apologize for the atrocities committed by his own employer. (source)

And from his own site - where you will find buckets of tears for oppressed people all over the world - this is pretty much the only mention you'll get of the Palestinians. Clintonian hand-wringing followed by lumping in innocent Palestinians with the violent ones:

Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere. That applies also to Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore when they lead to violence. Violence is not the answer. Terrorism is the most dangerous of answers. They are frustrated, that is understandable, something must be done. The refugees and their misery. The children and their fear. The uprooted and their hopelessness. Something must be done about their situation. (source)

I'd give you more, but I'm late for work...
posted by laz-e-boy at 5:33 AM on December 8, 2005


Laz-e-boy - a link or two, please? Does supporting the state of Israel implicitly mean that one is indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians? What about these folks?

Oh, and my criticism of Wiesel has nothing to do with Peace Now or the other fine Israeli institutions that are miles ahead of him in recognizing suffering when they see it.
posted by laz-e-boy at 5:34 AM on December 8, 2005


He was a journalist when he was 16-18? All bios say he was in a French orphanage post war, and then went to the Sorbonne--how was he a journalist for a radical Israeli terrorist group? How did he even have the connections to be trusted by them? Are there any existing articles he wrote during his teen years that document this? You'd think they'd use real, adult journalists who were out their teens and had connections. Most of the online stuff claiming it is from supremacists. What has he said about it?

And that "sadness with Israel" quote can be taken very differently if you put it in the light of all his statements--he is sad with all countries (and the citizens therein) that allow such suffering--that's why he continually speaks of indifference. His life was entirely shaped by the indifference of all those "good Germans" and "good Poles", etc...why does he have to be knocked when he's says he's not against Israel? does he have to be against the US bec we torture and start unjustified wars, killing thousands? Where's the knocking of him because he hasn't said that?

There's a giant double standard at work when it comes to Jews and Israel. And why is it ok to write books talking of a "Holocaust Industry"? Where are the books of the "Civil Rights Industry"? (it's only us Jews and us gays who are always painted as having "agendas"--something to think about)
posted by amberglow at 6:01 AM on December 8, 2005


When he speaks out against genocide in Darfur, urging people to action, does he have to say he's "against the Sudan?" Why aren't people angry he doesn't say that?
posted by amberglow at 6:06 AM on December 8, 2005


He describes geysers of blood shooting out of the ground, he says the Germans killed 10,000 a day in flaming ditches -- which is almost impossible, and not substantiated in any way whatsoever

As the pool of holocaust survivors shrinks, it becomes easier to make ignorant statements like this because there are fewer eyewitnesses in the room to stand up and tell you where the difference between your ass and a hole in the ground is. If anything, Wiesel's value is that he is a very public witness.

I have taken personal exception to his tendancy to view the Holocaust as an exceptionally Jewish experience when I was a participant in one of his seminars at Boston University in the 1970s. He couldn't concieve of the Roma/Gypsy holocaust on the same terms as the Jewish one, a view which eventually got him in some sticky rhetorical dilemnas during the planning of the Holcaust Museum in Washington DC.

Wiesel is a writer, and has a flair for the dramatic phrase, but that doesn't detract from his value as a witness. When I was a kid in the Bronx, virtually every adult I knew was a Holocaust survivor (except for my Father, or else they spoke Italian or Spanish.) You didn't have to take "Holocaust sensitivity" courses at your local community college to hear personal accounts of the ash pits and cleaning out the ovens.

I know an old man ("Uncle Zoli") in Romania who was deported in the same transport with Wiesel, and slept two bunks away from him at the Buna camp in Auschwitz. Uncle Zoli was put in a work brigade to build a new crematorium. I asked him if he had ever applied for reparation moneyt and this is what he said: "All I want is to be paid for the work I did. Nobody owes me anything except for the forced labor."

Differing views of the holocaust from two old bunkmates at Buna.
posted by zaelic at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2005


And that "sadness with Israel" quote can be taken very differently if you put it in the light of all his statements--he is sad with all countries (and the citizens therein) that allow such suffering--that's why he continually speaks of indifference. His life was entirely shaped by the indifference of all those "good Germans" and "good Poles", etc...why does he have to be knocked when he's says he's not against Israel?

His basic attitude towards the victims of Sabra and Shatilla was "Fuck 'em". You can parse that any way you want, but it screams hypocrite to me.
posted by laz-e-boy at 8:24 AM on December 8, 2005


"I believe that a person who is indifferent to the suffering of others is complicit in the crime. And that I cannot allow, at least not for myself."

What a lie. I used to admire this man greatly (read his books, saw him speak several times). But he does, every day, exactly what he claims not to allow himself. And the sickest part is, he is right next door to where this suffering is happeneing, and does nothing-- to the point of keeping himself wilfully ignorant of what happened and happens to his neighbors.
posted by cell divide at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2005


Like the rest of "the tribe," he's also completely indifferent to the tens of millions of Russian Christians raped, robbed and murdered by what even Noam Chomsky calls Jewish Boshevism.
posted by kjc at 6:59 PM on December 8, 2005


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