Holocaust survivor discusses Iraq War, Iran, Israel

Elie Wiesel, a famous holocaust survivor and author, said at last week’s sold-out Kalb Report that the Iranian president is a disgrace.

The Kalb Report is a GW-sponsored public affairs series hosted by distinguished journalist and former “Meet the Press” host Marvin Kalb. The author of the successful Holocaust memoir, “Night,” Wiesel also spoke about Israel’s statehood, his human rights advocacy and the Iraq War.

Wiesel, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attitude toward the Holocaust and human rights should exclude his country from the United Nations.

“He is a disgrace to humanity. He is the No. 1 person of denial (of the Holocaust),” Wiesel said. “He must be declared persona non grata. Iran should be excluded from the UN.”

While speaking about Israel and the controversy of its statehood, Wiesel faced the center of the room and proclaimed that the enemy of the Jewish people is the enemy of the world.

“We are one nation, one community, and that (enemy) should be ostracized – or religiously speaking – excommunicated,” he said.

Members of the audience, many of whom were orthodox Jews, agreed with Wiesel’s statement, nodding their heads in approval.

Kalb highlighted Wiesel’s commitment to human rights with a hypothetical question about the outcomes of Wiesel’s advocacy.

“Elie, you have been known to say that ‘the opposition of hate is not love, it’s indifference; and the opposition of life is not death, it’s indifference,'” Kalb said. “How would you respond if this practice of indifference will unfortunately continue with human rights?”

“I will do it anyway, and I will continue to fight,” Wiesel responded. “I am a man with a wounded faith, but I have never lost faith in God.”

Wiesel, a Boston University professor teaching a course titled, “The Book of Job,” explained that his “wounded faith” was due to the atrocities he endured and witnessed in the Auschwitz concentration camp. His mother, father and younger sister were killed there during the Holocaust.

Kalb brought up Wiesel’s visit with Condoleezza Rice in 2003 when Wiesel said the Iraq War was a moral issue. Holding true to his statement, Wiesel said the war, although a violation of human rights, was justified because it saved the Iraqi people.

“Every nation is at danger of losing its existence,” he said.

The intense conversation was broken periodically with jokes about President George W. Bush, Wiesel’s compulsion to write books and his satirical invitation to rule Israel.

Wiesel said he gets up every morning at 5 a.m. to work on the two new books he is writing. One is a non-fiction work titled “My Teachers and My Friends.” He said he couldn’t reveal the title or subject of his other book, a fictional piece.

Sarah Cramsey, a recent graduate of William and Mary College, where she concentrated in Jewish studies, said Wiesel impressed her.

“Everyone should get an opportunity to listen to him speak,” she said. “We are so fortunate to listen to him today, because unfortunately he will not be on this earth forever.”

The Kalb Report is sponsored by the National Press Club and Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center and produced by GW Vice President for Communication Mike Freedman. It is broadcast live from the National Press Club on XM Public Radio, WHUT-TV Channel 32 Public Television and 630 WMAL. It was also broadcast on Washington Post Radio Wednesday.

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