Wiesel on Terrorism



CREDIT: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen
Nobel laureate Elie Weisel spoke of generosity last night at the kickoff of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa's annual fundraising campaign

Nobel laureate Wiesel rides to rescue of ‘friend Cotler’


 Recalls justice minister’s fight on behalf of Soviet Jews


Ottawa Citizen, Sep 8, 2005

Terrorism is such a scourge that it should be made a crime against humanity, with no statute of limitations and no international boundaries so suspects could be arrested anywhere, says Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Weisel.

[Israel would thus be a state committing crimes against humanity!-FT]

“Terrorism must be defeated,” he told reporters at a news conference yesterday before his address later to a sold out crowd of 1,300 at the Westin Hotel. “We are haunted by fear.” Even torture must be considered if it would result in information that could save lives. “With all my heart, I have against torture, and yet ...” The conundrum for lawmakers, including Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, has been to square increased police power with civil liberties.

[The terrorist Wiesel protesting too much, forgetting about the terrorism suffered by Ernst Zündel at the hands of the Justice Minister Irwin Cotler - FT]

Long seen as a champion of human rights, Mr. Cotler has drawn considerable fire for policies such as one bill that would give police unprecedented ability to use electronic surveillance.

But a strong old ally galloped to Mr. Cotler’s side yesterday when Mr. Weisel, his friend of 30 years, told reporters he really had no idea how to balance the need for security and the need for freedom.

Later in his speech, Mr. Weisel again praised Mr. Cotler, recalling their times fighting for Soviet Jews and on other human rights issues.

While some others lose their integrity with increased power, Mr. Weisel said, “He shows it can be different. The higher he goes, the more Jewish he becomes.”

Mr. Weisel touched on terrorism again, saying that fanatics give in to hatred. They believe they have all the answers and cannot stand dialogue. Others must die because they do not believe the way they do.

The peace prize laureate is almost 77, yet he took the podium with a sense of command, brushing a shock of grey hair across his brow as if he was going to conduct an orchestra.

In a way he did. He spoke for 50 minutes, apparently off the cuff.

The room was silent as he looked back over his life.

As this was the kickoff for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa annual fundraising campaign, he spoke about generosity, and recalled his days in the small town or shtelt where he grew up in Transylvania.

One time, he heard the religious authorities say at a funeral that charity prolongs life. To his childish eyes, this seemed manifestly false. Otherwise, would the generous not live to 100 or 120?

It was not until later in his career learning “the art of asking questions” that a rabbi explained to him that charity, or a generous spirit, ensures you are truly alive, that you are not dead before your time.

Without this generous spirit, we become indifferent, and indifference is both a sin and a punishment. Anger can be the beginning of a process but indifference is the end. “If we allow indifference to prevail, then we are all victims.”




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