Brewer, thank you for posting Israel Shamir’s eloquent reply to Wiesel.
Marc Ellis, I have great respect for you, but this isn’t a cheer-leading commentary. It’s more a “confessional-commandment” reflection on how I read and re-read your challenging essay above as a sort of “liturgy of commitment and inclusion on the personal and collective level.”
There’s so much you write that shows great sympathy for Palestinians, yet it seems your affection for an insider rabbinical-paternal role in writing tends at times to muddy the clarity of your political analysis. I appreciate the need a spiritual counselor has for indirection at times, but this literate temple here, mondoweiss.net, isn’t literally just Weiss’s world or a one-windowed room for intratribal philosophizing… Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry made that clear long ago, as have many of the articles, op-eds and essays here, and even more importantly the diverse, at times brilliantly fiery comments (thanks in large part to facilitation and encouragement by Annie, a presence and voice sorely missed in recent weeks/months).
“I never pursued Elie Wiesel like some other Jews who felt that his memory of the Holocaust deflected, even buried, the complicity of Israel and the Jewish establishment in America in the injustice done to the Palestinian people.” I thought, okay, how did YOU decide to “pursue” him? Did you consider, for instance, how much of what he claimed since “Night” as “memory” might be fiction?
Then you added: “Over the years, I studied and wrote about Wiesel in a respectful and critical way…..I will never forget a prominent liberal rabbi complaining that Wiesel was cashing in on the Holocaust. When he ended his stinging indictment – “There’s no business, like Shoah business” – he expected from me a sign of solidarity. I cringed and walked away.”
“cringed and walked away” from what? I thought, there you go again, with that (play-it-safe-with-certain-audiences) rabbinical ambivalence. Which devil are you advocating for at this point?
When you touched the heart of your essay, “a reflection by Wiesel’s son, Elisha, in the Forward on the first Rosh Hashanah since his father’s passing last year,” I relaxed, Okay, maybe now Marc is getting somewhere clear and straight.
But you spun about: “Again respect is due. Each one of us has a right to remember his or her father in the way we need to.” “the way we need to”? We’re not talking about private lives here, but about a very major public figure, my friend. What’s the rabbi doing here? Weaving a web of comfort for some one he imagines needs comforting? Pontius Pilate, maybe (to mix religious metaphors)? I mean ELIE WIESEL, to borrow from Trump’s lexicon, was HYUUGE!
“Elisha calls for the recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Nowhere are Palestinians mentioned. Or Israel’s settlement polices in Jerusalem and the West Bank. On Gaza, Elisha is silent.” You are pushing him. This is good. “The call among some of Israel’s political and religious leaders to further diminish Palestinian life are likewise unmentioned. As is the need for Jews to listen to Jews of Conscience in solidarity with Palestinians.”
“SOME” of Israel’s political and religious leaders”???? I wonder why you didn’t write more unequivocally, openly challenging the notion of a state having rights at all. (A state is a massive institutional abstraction dominated by the most domineering of human agents, what Jacques Ranciere has brilliantly clarified as the POLICE operatives of an aesthetic regime.) Or at a minimum you might have ventured declaring that no state “has a right to exist” as an ethno-exclusive regime, especially one that disenfranchises a fifth of its residents while parasitically colonizing its neighbors whenever the opportunity arises – largely thanks to that 69-year-old state’s leaders running a regime with leaders (and Founders) who since Herzl’s The Jewish State have been infiltrating every European state (including the Euro-colonial states of the Western hemisphere) with an agenda bent on using those states (they’re mere gentiles after all, and former persecutors to boot) to finance, arm and even wage Israel’s overt and covert wars on its neighbors to soften them up for future colonization.
“Respect is due” false memories? Like the 1996 Zionist blueprints Wiesel seemed to have no objection to for today’s Western/Israeli-devastation of North Africa and the Middle East, i.e., the Project for a New American Century and A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (drawn up, btw, on Clinton’s watch)?
What’s the meaning of “the need for Jews to listen to Jews of Conscience”? As if Jews who are NOT “in solidarity with Palestinians” are incapable of, or are entitled to exemption from, listening to non-Jews when it comes to the human rights of non-Jews? I know that’s not what you meant, but it’s hard at times to “read” you when it feels like you start to walk into a room but then back out of it before you’ve finished painting the picture you had in your head.
And you say: “Elisha moves on to more apolitical issues:,” and quote his poetic notions of a father generous toward others — hardly an “apolitical” set of images, given Wiesel was bereft of kindness to the people whose land he dishonestly, or delusionally, claimed for Jews.
Marc, you call “Elisha’s remembrance of his father tragic.” It was certainly tragic his father took pride in ethnic cleansing of Palestine by European Jews who deceitfully call themselves “Israel” — as if taking that name for their terror-manufactured state of ’48 made them holier than any of the post-Enlightenment nation-states attempting to develop genuine social democracies in the modern era.
A double irony claiming “Israel” as a divine-secular political identity, when history shows the people called Israel in an ancient holy book comprised an ancient tribe of polygamist warlords and their slaves and subordinates — not much more brutal and supremacist, in fact, than many Yankee/Southern Bible-thumping Christian elitists today who are all too happy to absolve nationalist Jews of accountability to the rest of the living human race if it will bring on “the Second Coming.”
When Elisha earns characterization as “tragic” (as opposed to simply, or stubbornly, ill-informed) it will be when he stops worshipping an abstraction of a man whose example of manliness for his son involved letting his own humanity lie dormant within him because he preferred parroting Judaic scriptural phrases while lording it over an “other” tribe (of Palestinians, including Christians and Jews as well as Muslims and agnostics) whose homeland he and his supremacist ilk coveted and stole (and continue stealing) through killing, torture and lies, in blithe violation of key commandments of (supposedly) his scriptural God.
“Honor thy father and thy mother,” btw, doesn’t mean say nice things about them so people regard you as a good obedient son. Or maybe it does? Did? Long, long ago …….. only way for the prince to win the crown. But a crown to what kingdom?