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Elie Wiesel: Please Help Us Write about Gaza and Israel

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Last Friday, Israel barricaded border crossings into Gaza, denying access to UN trucks carrying food and water. A humanitarian crisis is looming, and perhaps it is fear of the inevitable label of anti-Semitism that keeps those of us who can wield the pen as sword from examining this issue more thoroughly. And make no mistake about it; this is a moral issue that needs serious examination.

The UN Human Rights Council criticized Israel on Thursday for its blockade of Gaza, but the vote is under scrutiny because European Union members did not vote, citing “lack of balance” in a calculated political maneuver. Western powers criticized the resolution, saying that it made no mention of Palestinian rocket attacks launched from Gaza into Israel.

The rocket attacks are not surprising, considering that Israel cut power to the only sub station in Gaza that is capable of providing electricity that is essential for water and sewage treatment. Hospitals do not have the ability to run neo-natal incubators and other essential life-sustaining equipment.

So the innocent suffer.

It is unconscionable that Israel would turn its chokehold blockade of Gaza into a full-scale lockdown of all food, water and humanitarian aid. Bowing to international pressure instead of the pressures of morality, Israel on Tuesday permitted shipments of cooking gas and fuel to power Gaza's one power station.

In a 30 to one vote, the Human Rights Council adopted the resolution that called for "urgent international action to put an immediate end to the grave violations committed by the occupying power, Israel, in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Palestinian militants set off bombs on Wednesday and destroyed the Israeli-built southern border wall, allowing thousands of Gazan refugees to pour into Egypt, creating yet another refugee crisis.

The life and work of Holocaust survivor, former teacher, and mentor Elie Wiesel has driven the work of this writer since college. Wiesel eloquently said: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
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As I considered this crisis, I naively thought, surely this man will have spoken about the current moral dilemma in a way that would provide guidance for those of us who want to shed light into the dark corners of oppression. There are reports that 80 percent of the 1.5 million people living in Gaza are dependent upon the food aid that Israel has denied.

Thorough searches of the Internet and libraries have provided no guidance from Elie Wiesel. He has been silent on Gaza, except to say that the Palestinians did not show the proper respect for Jews forced to leave Gaza by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon in 2005.

However, the United Nations has provided some guidance in terms of analysis of the oppression that Israel is now perpetrating upon the Palestinian people.

Doctor Wiesel, you wrote to me several years ago about my work and writings regarding the Rwandan genocide.

Do you remember the time you sat across the table at a dinner at Professor William Hill’s home in Chicago in 1972? Your soulful obsidian eyes with the deep, dark circles underneath looked into mine as you told me that surely I would be called upon to be a witness in my life. I was young and brash and ready for any challenge, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be asking you, you who know so well the feelings of persecution and misery, to come forward and offer hope for both Palestinians and Jews alike. Where is your compassion for the people of Gaza?
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You speak about the dispossessed having to carry their “holiest possessions” to new homes when you speak of the relocated Jews.

Please, Doctor Wiesel, come forward and tell me, your former student, how I can help the holy mothers of Palestine who have no food to nourish the breast milk for their infants? Surely you of all people can understand the moral obligations we face? Humiliation and suffering know no international borders. You taught me this many years ago.

I am a writer with only my sword arm that now wields the pen, and my arm is broken. What can you offer me now in the way of wisdom and strength?

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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