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article imageElie Wiesel: 'I expected more' on action against Syria Special

By Cate Kustanczy     Oct 2, 2013 in Politics
New York - Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was part of a prestigious panel at Cooper Union in New York City on Sunday night. The idea of the strong protecting the weak was discussed, with Wiesel indicating he thinks force should've been used against Syria's Assad regime.
Joined by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and celebrated author, TV host, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the event was organized by Boteach’s This World: The Values Network organization, which aims to to bring Jewish values to mainstream culture.
The legacy of the Holocaust, and the horrors of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, were explored, with the Rabbi asking author/activist Wiesel what he thought of recent events in Syria.
The use of poison gas by a government has very particular connotations for many Jewish people, because of its use in exterminating millions in Nazi death camps during World War Two. After a series of questions about Israel, Iran, and the role of the UN, Boteach questioned Wiesel on his thoughts around the alleged use of poisoned gas by the Assad regime.
"I expected more," Wiesel said, his soft voice carrying a convincing tone of authority. "I feel bad about our Jewish population […] there should've been half a million in the streets protesting."
Wiesel stated the United and Israel should’ve jointly mobilized in action against Syria. Kagame agreed. “One thing is clear: poisoned gas should not be used anywhere, on anybody. There has to be a strong level of accountability.”
Criticizing the U.S. government for its recent overtures toward negotiation with Iran  Wiesel offere...
Criticizing the U.S. government for its recent overtures toward negotiation with Iran, Wiesel offered a firm stance. "I think America should adopt a very harsh line, a more truthful line, and say to Iran that you cannot continue like that -not with our consent. You can't."
Justin Lanier/WSN
Wiesel would not reveal the nature of the private conversations he shares with many world leaders, though he lamented at what he perceived was a lack of influence, especially when it comes to international affairs.
“In this world, two categories of people have power: politics and finances. I am not involved in politics, and I am very poor in finances. So therefore, if they listen because I spoke, it is because it is not nice not to listen to me," he explained. "I know very well that the moment I leave them they go on to the next writer. Therefore I need a lot of work on myself not to become cynical."
Following an introduction by philanthropist and business mogul Sheldon Adelson, the panel launched into a thoughtful discussion. One young man shouted in protest at Kagame's presence, accusing the politician of exacerbating the crisis in Eastern Congo. He was forcibly removed by the sizable security presence evenly placed around the Great Hall. Kagame, who recently spoke at the UN, addressed concerns around the area (known as Kivu), noting that Rwandans "feel very strongly about relating Israel and the Jewish people."
Boteach credited Kagame for saving his country from genocide. “The level of hatred had been pushed very high,” he said, speaking of the tensions that lead to the 1994 massacre.
A strong undercurrent of spirituality anchored the talk. Boteach, Wiesel and the evening’s closing speaker, businessman and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, all quoted a passage from Leviticus: “You must not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”
“We must be open, not only to our own past and present,” Wiesel said, “but to others’ as well.”
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