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Holocaust survivors pen open letter denouncing Elie Wiesel’s “abuse of … history”

Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is also the author of dozens of books, the best-known of which is his 1955 memoir Night, about his experiences as a teenager in a Nazi concentration camp. An outspoken activist for Israel, Wiesel caused controversy in 2010 by taking out an ad in The New York Times criticizing U.S. president Barack Obama’s handling of Middle East peace talks. “For me,” Wiesel wrote at the time, “for the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics.”

That 2010 ad referenced Jewish history and scripture, something Wiesel has done again around the current conflict in Gaza. In another full-page ad, which ran in the NYT and other major U.S. newspapers earlier this month, the author refers to the Old Testament stories of Ishmael and Isaac, who put an end to the Molochite practice of child sacrifice. “In my own lifetime,” Wiesel goes on to write, “I have seen Jewish children thrown into the fire. And now I have seen Muslim children used as human shields, in both cases, by worshippers of death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites.”

The most recent missive has sparked an open letter from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, decrying what the signatories see as Weisel’s “abuse of [Jewish] history … to justify the unjustifiable.” The letter, signed by more than 300 Holocaust survivors and relatives of survivors, goes on to condemn “the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society.” (As the website i24 News points out, only 40 of the signatories are actual Holocaust survivors.)

The IJAN describes itself as “an international network of Jews who are uncompromisingly committed to struggles for human emancipation, of which the liberation of the Palestinian people and land is an indispensable part.”

Wiesel’s letter was sponsored by This World: The Values Network. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, executive director of This World, is quoted in The Globe and Mail as saying, “Elie Wiesel is one of the most respected human beings alive, a Nobel Peace laureate, and is the living face of the [Holocaust]. No greater expert on genocide exists in the whole world.”

Boteach’s comments were in response to an earlier controversy surrounding Wiesel’s letter, sparked when the London Times refused to publish it, deeming its contents “too strong.”