Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel will be in the House chamber to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
But first, Wiesel stopped Monday at the Dirksen Senate office building — accompanied by his wife, coming straight from the airport — for a heart-to-heart with Israel supporters and a bank of TV cameras to remind America that “silence is not an option.”
Code Pink interrupted the meeting in the Senate hearing room, brandishing signs criticizing AIPAC and one that read “parking for Palestinians only.” Many of those who showed up to hear Wiesel bore lanyards from the AIPAC megaconference at D.C.’s convention center.
The crowd chanted “get out” at Code Pink, and organizer Rabbi Shmuley Boteach lectured the protesters after they grabbed hold of a mic. They were led out by Capitol Police before 86-year-old Wiesel arrived.
Boteach called Wiesel “the living face of the six million murdered in the Holocaust.”
“The privilege of hearing Elie Wiesel on any occasion is historic,” the rabbi explained, but Wiesel coming to Washington to support the Jewish state on the eve of Netanyahu’s address made it an especially “historic discussion.”
“I learned to rely not on the promises of our friends but the threats of our enemies,” Wiesel said. “When our enemies make threats, take them seriously.”
“…If they say so and they repeatedly say so we should take them seriously.”
Wiesel implored members of Congress in a February ad to attend Netanyahu’s address.
“It is important for him to speak, it’s important for the American people to listen to him,” he told Monday’s audience. “When the prime minister of Israel speaks it’s not a political event; it must be viewed in historic terms.”
Wiesel said that to feel OK about a deal with Iran, “I need proof that whatever I read about Iran is not so.”
“When evil begins its work don’t give it another chance,” he said.
Boteach noted that the professor would have the chance to assess a grade to Netanyahu’s speech. “I’m giving him an ‘A,'” Wiesel preemptively replied.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) was supposed to be at the event, but withdrew after Boteach ran a New York Times ad this past weekend calling out National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s “blind spot” on genocide, from Rwanda to the current administration negotiations with Iran.
“Since 1998, I have taken advantage of every opportunity to urge the toughest sanctions on Iran, including nearly twenty presentations at AIPAC policy conferences,” Sherman said in a statement. “I cannot appear at a forum which was advertised using an unwarranted incendiary personal attack. I will be working with Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, and others, to create appropriate forums to focus on the danger posed by Iran.”
At the event, Boteach said if the ad was “construed as a personal attack that was not our intent.”
“I personally want to offer an apology to anyone who was offended, including Ms. Rice herself,” he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was there, telling Wiesel “you are truly an American hero, a Jewish hero and a hero of the world.”
The senator met with Netanyahu earlier in the day and described the Israeli leader as “Churchillian.”
“This is not about powering the lights,” he said, referring to Iran’s claim that it wants nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes.