Before Rosh Hashana, Orthodox Jews gather at night to read and study in a ritual known as Selichot (“penitential prayers”). The ritual is meant to spiritually attune the mind and soul to repentance and introspection, primary themes of the High Holidays.
One of the leading land-grabbers in East Jerusalem is an Israeli settler NGO, Elad, one of whose tactics has been to have Palestinian homes declared archaeological sites. This allows them to condemn and expel the residents and then create artificial archaeology parks. Elad celebrated one of its major projects, opening a hitherto “secret tunnel” from the City of David (one of its archaeological sites) to the Western Wall (Kotel) at such a Selichot ceremony.
Elad’s goal is to rid Jerusalem, especially those parts of it with Jewish historical significance (which most often happen to be within Palestinian neighborhoods), of Arabs. It will do so by hook or by crook. Since Palestinians don’t generally take well to their homes being taken out from under them–it’s usually by crook. Elad is part of the settler movement that seeks, either intentionally or unintentionally to create a religious conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. For Elad, this is a Jewish jihad, literally a Jewish struggle for dominance of the Holy City.
Who should join these settlers in commemorating their service on behalf of the Jewish people and their expropriation of Palestinian land? None other than Nobel Peace Prize winner and Jewish humanitarian par excellence, Elie Wiesel. In fact, he’s the chair of this settler group’s Advisory Board. He was joined by two former Israeli intelligence chiefs, Shabtai Shavit and Amos Yadlin, a number of prominent judges, lawyers, entertainers and government officials.
It doesn’t seem that the introspective spirit of Selichot in which we contemplate our sins and ways we and our people have fallen short, penetrated Wiesel’s brain. None of this should surprise us since Wiesel has already taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from John Hagee and spoken to one of his CUFI, Christian Zionist pro-Israel celebrations. The money I’m sure went to replenish some of the millions Bernie Madoff pilfered from him. Wiesel has also joined together with Alan Dershowitz in sponsoring a Jewish anti-Iran group. He called the Goldstone Report a “crime against the Jewish people.” How the (once) mighty have fallen.
I can remember in the late 1960s when Wiesel spoke frequently to Jewish community gatherings in Rockland Country, NY where I grew up. My congregation rabbi would pick me up and bring me to hear him speak, because he thought it would open my mind to the moral dignity, teachings and Jewish values of this great man. Wiesel was such an inspiring figure then. A towering exemplar of Jewish dignity amid suffering. Now, he is a caricature of his former self.
The poster image reads:
The Advisory Board of Elad blesses the City of Jerusalem on the opening to the public of the Hidden (or secret) Tunnel from the City of David national part to the stones of the Western Wall.
It thanks the Nature and Parks Authority and Municipality of Jerusalem for their donations.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.