Samantha Power Exploits the Memory of Elie Wiesel

Sept. 14 2017

The former American ambassador to the UN, who has made a career of writing and speaking about the responsibility of the U.S. and other countries to prevent genocide, spent several years in the service of the Obama administration even as it remained impassive to Bashar al-Assad’s mass slaughter of his own citizens, instead providing millions of dollars to support Iran, Assad’s main ally, and working diplomatically to protect Iranian “equities” in Syria. Now she has written an introduction to a new edition of Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir Night. To Sohrab Ahmari, this is evidence of a “sophisticated exercise in self-absolution.”

The word “witness” and the phrase “bearing witness” appear five times in Power’s brief piece. Wiesel spoke out, she wrote, when others—publishers, journalists, even survivors—preferred to forget or remain silent.

This is an obvious, almost banal point. Of course Wiesel bore witness! But he believed by bearing witness he could help counter other mass murderers and totalitarians. Wiesel campaigned for Jewish refuseniks trapped behind the Iron Curtain. He implored Bill Clinton to act in Bosnia. And most recently, he compared the Syrian regime and its Iranian patrons with the Nazis, asking: “How is it that Assad is still in power?” Wiesel didn’t just remember historical crimes; he decried contemporary inaction.

Samantha Power, by contrast, legitimized inaction. Having built her journalistic reputation examining America’s failure to stop mass murder in the 20th century, Power ended up lending moral cover to the Obama administration’s bystander policy on Syria. At the UN, Power denounced Assad and his backers in Moscow and Tehran. But she refused to do the one honorable thing that might have jolted the Obama administration out of its moral torpor: resign. . . .

In the months and years ahead, we can expect more such efforts at altering the moral record on Syria, including by making use of the Holocaust and Jewish memory. Those who were alive between 2011 and 2016 shouldn’t let Obama-administration alumni get away with it. We should bear witness.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Elie Wiesel, Genocide, Holocaust, Politics & Current Affairs, Samantha Power, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas