Saturday, April 17, 2010
Adolf Eichmann was captured fifty-years ago, on May 11th 1960 outside of Buenos Aires. Eleven days later he was on Israel’s soil and on May 23rd Prime Minister David Ben Gurion stood at the podium of the Knesset and announced to a hushed crowd his news.
Eichmann’s capture reignited the world’s outrage over the Holocaust. Up until that time, many desired to move on. After all, Israel had plenty of new and more immediate problems.
As Yom HaShoah folds into Yom HaAtzmaut and we turn from commemoration to celebration, I’m struck by the transition in outlook that took place from Israel’s statehood to the young country’s heroic marvel.
Notably, there’s a similar transition in cultural attitude that’s taking place today.
In the past twenty years, we’ve evolved from films like Schindler’s List to movies like Defiance and Inglorious Basterds. Jewish characterizations have morphed from victims to strong rugged combatants in the face of threats from Nazisnow they face evil head on with brawny bravura.
Arguably too, many American’s reference point for Jewish identification is Israel. And today it stands as a source of strength - economically, militarily and according to Gallup, American’s support of Israel ranks 63% - higher than after ‘67 and just one point below its high after the Gulf War.
Still, one can’t miss the skewed news reports and factually misleading editorials blaming Israel for the ills that plague that region.
President Obama’s misdirected pressure on Israel, especially given Iran’s nuclear ambitions that each day comes closer to actuality, is of utmost concern. It presents an existential threat to Israel through either itself or one of its terrorist proxies and destabilizes the entire region.
But what if, in this postmodern world, where the line between fiction and fact splice together seamlessly (Tarantino literally has film burn Hitler and his cronies to death), the story of Eichmann’s capture and a true wish-fulfillment fantasy made real, were to be revived?
Put yourself in the director’s chair and wonder if you will, what if Mossad captured Osama bin Laden? Imagine what that would do. Who in this country could claim to be anti-Zionist then? In one fell swoop it would be an end-run around placating the Obama administration, by directly appealing to the American people and a world constituency demonstrating a vigilant determination to seek justice.
Osama is a mass murderer who on countless occasions has vowed to destroy Israel. He and his group are not only responsible for 9/11 and the murder of Danny Pearl, but al Qaida carried out a suicide attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya killing 12 people, including three Israelis and wounding 80. Israel would be justified.
In this revenge fantasy (“Inglorious Zionests”), Israel’s Herculean labor would gain so much good will, an attack on Iranian nuclear installations would not only be cleared for take-off, they’d be escorted. It would change everything.
The stunned silence that greeted Ben Gurion, would be replicated upon Netanyahu by onlookers, many not knowing if it’s live or Memorex.
If it sounds too much like a cinematic whimsy, revisit the Eichmann capture and then tell me I’m dreaming. Read Neal Bascomb’s 2009 nail-biting, historical account of the operation in Hunting Eichmann. What stands out is the resolve, the fortitude and the grit. When Israel captured Eichmann, it broke the rules. When Mossad entered Argentina, it didn’t ask permission. It went in undercover. When El Al’s Britannia secretly whisked the war criminal away, it was through an illusory cloud of mystery.
What’s amazing about the story, is how so many things could have gone wrong jeopardizing the entire operation, but because of the determination of a handful of leaders, including Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, Mossad Chief, Isser Harel and others they persevered.
In 2010, we still hunt them. John Demjanjuk on trial in Munich is 89 years-old and stands accused of aiding the murder of 27,900 Dutch Jews in Sobibor. Last month, 88 year-old, Heinrich Boere was given the maximum sentence by a German court for murdering three Dutch civilians as part of a Nazi hit squad.
But what happens when they are gone? There will still be evil in the world and our focus should be aimed at the new Eichmanns. Our lens should not be lost, but readjusted.