February 7, 2008; South Florida Sun-Sentinel; Holocaust survivor speaks in West Palm, says anger is the answer; by James Davis.
WEST PALM BEACH
Elie Wiesel is a man of letters: Nobel laureate, Boston University professor, best-selling author. But his message Thursday night amounted to four words: "Where is the anger?"
"Everyone talks about racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism," Wiesel told about 400 leaders of the Anti-Defamation League at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. "But one word is missing: Anger."
Wiesel, 79, a Holocaust survivor and human rights activist, was the keynote speaker for the National Executive Committee dinner of the bigotry-fighting ADL. Abraham Foxman, the group's longtime executive director, praised Wiesel for his ability to sting consciences.
"He has shown us our brutality and our possibilities, our pain and our promise," Foxman said in his introductory remarks. "He has shared his soul with the world and, in that process, has reminded the world that it, too, has a soul."
The speaker, who gained fame for his Holocaust memoir Night, voiced concern at the lack of outrage over the return of anti-Jewish words and deeds to public life.
He mentioned the 2005 call of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to "wipe Israel off the map," as well as the "culture of death" taught to children by militant Muslims to condition them to become suicide bombers.
"There is so much anti-Semitism today, it should arouse disgust," Wiesel said. "I don't feel that protest."
In his 20-minute speech, he derided the widespread criticism of Israel in its conflicts with Palestinians. "After World War II, Jews were criticized for not resisting their enemies. Now we're criticized for resisting too much. Somehow, the world doesn't accept that we should fight."
However, he broadened his message beyond Jewry, calling for a defense against not only anti-Semitism but also racism, ethnic hatred, religious bigotry, even the pain of the poor.
"When a desperate woman cannot feed her children, we should be angry," he said. "Whenever we see a parent who cannot pay for the education of his children, we should be angry.
"Whenever one community is targeted, all others are targeted," he said. "When someone is humiliated, we are all ashamed. When one person is a victim of torture or torment, and no one comes to help, our own honor is blemished."
He said anger was useful for spurring people to correct injustices. "Hatred is destructive. Anger is constructive."
Some of his listeners added their endorsement of Wiesel's sentiments.
"He has an insight that really makes you think," said Ronald Shaw of Palm Beach Gardens.
Shellie Hearst of Boca Raton agreed. "This is a new issue for me: Why don't we get angry? It's something I don't have an answer for. [Wiesel] is sensitive to what anti-Semitic people are saying. And we ignore it at our peril."
James D. Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4730.
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