Wiesel: Peace will come because it must

Nobel laureate says he doesn't think there could be another Holocaust, despite rising anti-Semitism.

wiesel 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
wiesel 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Elie Wiesel believes that peace with the Palestinians is still possible and doesn't think that there could be a second Holocaust, despite rising anti-Semitism and the danger posed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "It's absolutely possible," he said of the prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians in answer to a question about his perspective during an event here on Tuesday. "I think it will happen because it must happen." He identified intra-Palestinian conflict as the main obstacle to peace, saying that "the Palestinian problem is not with Israel. The Palestinian problem is with other Palestinians." Wiesel was speaking at an event to honor the memory of Yitzhak Rabin and raise money for the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation's Capital. He discussed the issue of peace and war in the Jewish tradition with Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, before taking questions from the audience packing the 6th and I Historic Synagogue. Wiesel, a Boston University professor, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, recalled his friend Rabin's tireless efforts for peace before his death. Despite his own optimism about the possibility of peace, he said that the role of American Jews is to support the decisions made by the Israeli government rather than to try to influence those decisions. "As a Jew who is in America, I don't think I have the right to tell Israel how to wage peace, what conditions to accept," he said. If Israel decides it wants to go for peace, he said, the response of American Jewry should be "We will try to help you as much as we can." The message should be the same, he added, if Israel's leaders felt that pursuit would be counter-productive. Striking a more somber note, he referred to the rise of global anti-Semitism as "depressing" and "dangerous," but not so much that he sensed a risk of a second Holocaust. "I do not think there could be and would be a second Holocaust. It's a unique event," he said, also in response to an audience member's question. Wiesel singled out Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his Holocaust denial and calls for Israel to be wiped off the earth, as cause for particular concern. "Of course I'm worried. But not to the point that there could be another [such] tragedy in the world." He criticized the international community for not doing more to make it clear that Ahmadinejad's posture is unacceptable. "He should be excommunicated from the civilized world. He's the number one anti-Semite in the world." When it came to the Holocaust, which he experienced personally, and which has been the focus of many of his books and essays, he addressed the sensitivities and difficulties of educating young people about its horrors. However it is done, he added, "We should not obsess about it to the point that we become defined by it." Coming out of the Holocaust to watch the birth of the State of Israel was an inspiration for the author, he noted. When Israel, despite its small size and few resources, prevailed in its battle with the Arab nations, he said, "I felt proud," and that he felt something else: "I felt a sense of justice, that history had corrected itself."