I saw you during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, Elie Wiesel. You were there, in the gallery, next to Sara Netanyahu. Your appearance was impressive and powerful, leaving its mark on everyone who saw it.
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It is impossible to ignore your white hair, visible from afar, parted by a deep gulf on the slope of your high forehead and dividing into airy stalks of a fluttering, almost youthful, forelock with something Parisian about it. The professorial hairdo of an esteemed intellectual, the kind that characterizes a creative, instinctive and turbulent sort of person. You carry it with open self-awareness, a bit like a preening peacock, a hallmark of the icon you have become. It flew over your elongated head, your beneficent and wise eyes. The feeling was that your very hair carried something of the victory of the human spirit. That is how the hair of a distinguished humanist looks.
Your thin, elderly body hardly filled the suit you wore for the occasion. It is obvious you are accustomed to such suits. They are your natural clothing. Their touch is familiar to your skin. You looked like you were completely in your element when Netanyahu pointed you out – the most famous Holocaust survivor today, a Nobel laureate, an admired author – to illustrate his commitment to stopping the fulfillment of the Iranian threat to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. Never again, and all that Holocaust jazz. You stood and thanked all the members of Congress, who gave you a standing ovation. You sat down, but they would not stop.
There is an intolerable ease in the applause you receive. It is automatic. Applauding you is the easiest, safest thing to do. And how they applauded. You sat down and stood up, modestly, to receive their overflowing esteem. You gave Netanyahu your symbolic and moral support. It is obvious you are well aware of who you are. You are Elie Wiesel. You are 86 years old. And for you, I count for nothing.
What were you doing there, Elie Wiesel? Netanyahu is my prime minister. You are not an Israeli citizen. You do not live here. The Iranian threat to destroy Israel does not apply to you. You are a Jew who lives in America. This is not your problem. By what right did you stand there, using your reputation and your prestige, to try and influence the members of Congress to accept Netanyahu’s position on an issue that has nothing to do with you?
If Israel’s future is so important to you, if the fate of Jerusalem matters so much to you, why do you not live here? Do you think that you and I have some shared fate because we are both Jews? Think again. Everything that happens to me here in Israel does not happen to you there in New York. Where do you get the right to interfere in my affairs? You have some nerve.
I have to find a way to live here, Elie, with the Palestinians and the ultra-Orthodox, surrounded by Hezbollah and Hamas. And I have already written about how it seems to me that, over time, the chances of us creating a reasonable life here that is worth living are nil, and that I will have to leave the country.
But as long as I am here, I do not need you or your help. You do not speak in my name. You do not represent me, and you do not know what is good for me. If you love Netanyahu so much, come live here. Come live here yourself, in the state that Netanyahu is shaping for us. And move all your assets and all your loved ones here. Until you do, get out of my life, Elie Wiesel.