Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate who chronicled the Holocaust, denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “a madman” on Tuesday and urged in an interview with me that he be put on trial for “crimes against humanity” at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
It’s not the first time that Wiesel has spoken out against the Iranian leader he calls the “Number 1 Holocaust denier in the world.” He made the same suggestion when I interviewed him in 2009.
Ahmadinejad has stirred great emotions in New York. The fact that he was invited to address the UN General Assembly on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, prompted Denis Hamill, a columnist for the Daily News, to write: “You simply do not invite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a pure evil crackpot Holocaust denier who wants to see Israel obliterated from the Earth” to the UN on this day.
As for the Iranian leader, he told Reuters that the Jewish state has “no roots” in the Middle East and would be “eliminated.” At the same time he told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he wouldn’t object if one of his children dated a Jew, that love between people of different backgrounds was “completely acceptable.”
A United Nations spokesperson explained to me that the reason Ahmadinejad was speaking on Yom Kippur was that there was a lottery to determine the order of speakers and he happened to get that slot. The UN official recalled that the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, at a meeting with
the Iranian president over the weekend “drew attention to the potentially harmful consequences of inflammatory rhetoric, counter-rhetoric and threats from various countries in the Middle East.”
I called the Iranian mission to the United Nations to get a reaction to Wiesel’s statement. They did not reply.
New York is a city that seems to thrive on controversy. And, even if his statements offend thousands, the city spares no expense to protect him. I saw that outside the Warwick Hotel, where the controversial leader is staying.
Hundreds of officers were deployed, fulfilling what the city perceives as its mission: to protect even the most unpopular among us in the tradition of New York.