Abusing Elie Wiesel at Durban II

One of the fruits of the Durban II circus is a brief, appalling video of someone described as "a member of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's entourage" verbally abusing author, Nobel Prize winner, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. In the incident, which took place Tuesday, the Iranian's form of verbal abuse is simple and consists of bellowing the word "Zionazi" over and over again at the stunned and silent 80-year-old, who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a teenager while his mother and sister died in the former camp and his father in the latter one.

A few observations about this horrific incident:

1. The bellowing Iranian clearly takes sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain on Wiesel and can't get enough of it. And the Iranian is an acolyte of a totalitarian ideology, Islamism, which -- like Nazism and communism before it -- largely consists of organized sadism with ideological underpinnings. The sadism intrinsic to the totalitarian mindset is vividly on display in the video.

2. At the same time, the Iranian deeply believes in what he is saying; he believes that Wiesel, as a "Zionist," is a member of a Satanic people and fully deserves the pain and humiliation of being equated with his peoples' archenemy. The Iranian has no doubt or ambivalence, no postmodern ennui or relativism, to enervate him in his frenzied fervor.

3. The type of abuse the Iranian levels at Wiesel is, so far as I know, a kind directed only at Jews. Cambodians are not told that they are Khmer Rouge members; Darfur victims aren't called Janjaweed tribesmen. Only Jews are now regularly and ritually identified with their slaughterers. In the case of someone like Wiesel, who is himself a survivor who lost his immediate family, the level of psychological abuse is draconian.

4.  Although calling Wiesel a Nazi, the Iranian in the video can be safely assumed to be a Holocaust denier -- especially as a follower of Ahmadinejad, for whom Holocaust denial is an obsessive theme and under whose auspices a conference dedicated to it was held in Tehran in December 2006. The combination of Holocaust denial with using the word Nazi -- especially against Israel and Jews -- as the blackest epithet is by now so widespread in the Arab and Muslim world that it no longer is recognized as illogical. Logic dissolves before the imperative of inflicting as much pain on the demonic enemy -- Israel and Jews -- as possible, whether by saying that the genocide of the Jews did not occur or that the Jews themselves are the genocidists.

5. The Iranian in the video is, however, unwittingly observing a kind of etiquette by using the word Zionazi, which doesn't contain the word Jew. The Iranian presumably knows that Wiesel is not an Israeli, and his point is hardly to accuse him of being active in Israel's cause; his point is that as a member of the accursed Jewish people Wiesel is a proper target of hatred and fury. Today, though, the haters of Israel and Jews increasingly use the word Zionist instead of Jew to imply that theirs is not the old, stigmatized anti-Semitism. Rather, it is an ideology centering on the sinful creation and existence of the state of Israel as the center of the Jewish people, an ideology justified by that state's evil conduct and the support for that conduct by Jews outside of Israel.

6. The video displays verbal and emotional barbarism in sharp relief and, ideally, should be viewed by all those who believe Western actors should participate in events like Durban II since that "dialogue" is always worthwhile and capable of achieving something. The video is an example of what happens when all civilized standards are suspended in the interest of accommodating and appeasing those outside the realm of the civilized. Tolerating the presence of the likes of Ahmadinejad means opening the door to, and becoming tainted and complicit with, a kind of barbarism that is unequivocal and can only be unequivocally opposed.

And that has long been, and continues to be, the story of the UN. We've come a long way from the days when gun-toting arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat addressed the world body. Nine Western nations, along with Israel, scored a small but significant moral improvement by refusing to participate Durban II . But that most of the Western countries have insisted on taking part, and joined in reaffirming the Durban I resolution that singles out Israel alone for censure as "racist," means the kind of blind barbarism represented by the Iranian in the video remains ascendant.