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Book review: Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem Book review: Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem
by Joseph Gatt
2020-10-24 08:41:14
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The myth goes like this: Jews around the world control and dominate politics, finance, the media and other key ventures. Jews are very secretive about their wealth, power and abuses, but there are a few traitors amongst them who dared speak out.

This is the essence of the discourse among many anti-Semites.

Who are those “Jewish traitors who betray the secrets of wealth, power and abuse?” The names usually mentioned are: Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Shlomo Sand, Gilad Atzmon, Viktor Ostrovsky and Hannah Arendt.

eich001_400Noam Chomsky: Noam Chomsky is something of an anti-Zionist. But I've read a few of his books (profit over people, who rules the world?, failed states and a couple of others) and Chomsky follows one line of reasoning: non-interventionism.

That is most of Chomsky's books follow the thread of opposing foreign military interventions or any form of intervention in foreign nations.

I don't quite get why Chomsky reasons like that, but I believe Chomsky thinks that open borders lead to big business settling in foreign countries and making huge profits in foreign countries, and when those huge profits are threatened, military options are on the table.

So Chomsky wants each nation to go about its business, create its own riches, and be free from the threat of foreign military intervention.

Regarding Israel, Chomsky simply believes that it's the IDF interventions in the Palestinian territories that causes the vicious cycle of violence and reprisals.

So Chomsky is something of an anti-militarist. If I read his reasoning completely, Chomsky believes that each nation should close its borders to foreign business and abolish its military, then there will be world peace.

Norman Finkelstein: Like Chomsky, Finkelstein believes in closing borders and abolishing the military.

Like Chomsky, Finkelstein believes that if 99% votes are against Israel, Israel is the culprit. Israel is to blame.

I personally know what it's like facing a tough crowd. I don't have Georges-William Goldnadel's arrogance and go as far as saying that people are stupid, that crowds are idiots. But I've dealt with a few dumb crowds.

One example that comes to mind was during my years in Korea, where I got banned by a lot of organizations because “non-Koreans should not assimilate, should not learn Korean and eat Korean food and all that.” I got banned by American organizations as well for assimilating in Korea.

Oddly enough, those American organizations that banned me also believe that those non-Americans who live in the US should assimilate, speak English, and should let go of their native languages.

Anyway. Crowds are not always correct in their assessment. I'll save a few more stories for another day.

Shlomo Sand: Shlomo Sand is an interesting type of Israeli historian.

Shlomo Sand argues using the following logic:

-Not all Jews are the descendents of Biblical Jews, therefore not all Jews are real Jews, therefore the law of return (law according to which any Jew can move to Israel and become an Israeli citizen immediately upon arrival) must be abolished.

-Not all Jews are real Jews, not all Jews are the descendents of Biblical Jews, therefore the claim to the “historical homeland” is false. Arabs have as much rights to the land as Jews do.

-Israel should get rid of its status as a Jewish state and become a secular state with no official religion where both Arabs and Jews should be citizens (has this guy ever discussed politics with an Arab?).

-Israel is a racist state because “my Russian Orthodox Christian student at the Hebrew University did not dare raise her hand when I asked the students if anyone was not Jewish.” Anecdotal evidence at its best.

Point is, Shlomo Sand is not very rigorous when it comes to historical analysis. More importantly, Shlomo Sand discusses the existence of Jewish kingdoms in Yemen, North Africa and Eastern Europe, and argues that therefore Israel does not need to be in the biblical land. There's no clear evidence that there were Jewish Kingdoms in Yemen or Kabylie or Khazaria. Perhaps a Jewish king. Perhaps not even.  

More importantly, I wouldn't debate Shlomo Sand because he responds to calm criticism and rebuttal with belligerent rhetoric, and his anti-Semitic viewers tend to be comforted in the idea that Shlomo Sand's claims are correct. His books are speculative at best.

Gilad Atzmon: The anti-Semites made a mountain out of this mole hill.

I actually think that Gilad Atzmon would be a fun guy to hang out with. Typical Israeli, I do think that his flirting with anti-Semites is a little dangerous.

His book “the wandering who” is really auto-biographical, a very short read (I think I finished it in three hours) and he mostly discusses the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and its impact on the very rare individual Jews who want to opt-out of the conflict.

The rest of the book deals with the philosophical question “is the conflict necessary?” and Gilad Atzmon very briefly, vaguely says that perhaps it's not.

But Gilad Atzmon loves giving lectures at anti-Semitic venues, and likes to flirt with the idea that perhaps there are conspiracy theories in the looming, citing very weak evidence.

Viktor Ostrovsky: the former Mossad agent, another mountain out of this mole hill

Ostrovsky spent 5 months as a Mossad agent before resigning. A very brief part of his book discusses how he got recruited and the tests he went through.

The rest of the book are very well-documented Mossad operations. Very few Mossad operations are made public, and it is those operations made public that end up in his book.

And yet the guys who read Ostrovsky invent all kinds of stories about the Mossad that are not in the book.

Ostrovsky then wrote a follow-up book to the much hyped “by ways of deception” and published “the other side of deception” where he says that he went to Jordan and tried to provide them with Israeli intelligence, but that the Jordanians said “no thank you.” I find that very hard to believe.

Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem

Every international law class I've ever taken (four or five seminars and college classes) starts as follows: Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem should never have taken place. Hannah Arendt said so, therefore it must be true.

Arendt's book is a lot more complicated than that.

First off, 90% of the book deals with the trial itself. Eichmann first tried to feign mental illness, then tried to claim that he was Jewish.

Then the trial revealed the Holocaust in all its complexities. It wasn't just Jews who were rounded up and gassed. There was that. There were also labor camps. There were also dark chambers. There were also hostages. There were also, oddly enough, Jews that Eichmann did not want to arrest and deport to concentration camps, like the Sephardic Jews of Holland. There were Jews who resisted and were killed. And of course there were non-Jews. Horror in all its complexities.

First off, I have gigantic respect for Hannah Arendt. In her book, the Origins of Totalitarianism, she discusses how dictators and autocrats gradually make evil an accepted and normal part of life. That is abuse, torture and persecution become such a normal part of life that no one really pays attention to it anymore.

In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt describes what seems to be a fair trial. The only bias in the trial is that defense witnesses' testimonies were not heard, and that the judges relied on their written testimonies as evidence. Arendt complained about this fact, as she wanted a perfectly fair trial, but you have to understand that defense testimonies would have caused a riot among the audience.

Then Arendt discusses the nature of international law. Arendt does conclude by saying that the trial should have been an international one, and that she thinks Israel should not have been the jurisdiction that put Eichmann on trial.

But earlier in the book, Arendt contradicts her own opinion. She discusses that the Nuremberg Courts were set up in September 1945, but that the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia wanted their own national trials for Nazis and rejected the Nuremberg Courts.

When the Nuremberg Courts were dismantled, you had several subsequent trials of former Nazis in the US, in the UK, in France, in other countries, and Eichmann's trial in Israel. Being a former Nazi is a crime in many European countries, and if your Nazi background resurfaces, you could face trial for your past deeds, and there is no statute of limitations.

One thing that seems to have escaped to Hannah Arendt: to this day (2020) Argentina has a law where “once in Argentine, you are eligible for Argentine citizenship.” That is the minute you land in Argentina, you are eligible for citizenship. That's why many Nazis fled there.

Furthermore, as Arendt notes, Argentina does not extradite its own citizens (basically anyone in Argentina) and Argentina voted a law saying it does not even extradite perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

Arendt's only weakness is when she says the Eichmann trial is a dangerous precedent, because it invited countries to go out and kidnap individuals and bring them home for a trial.

Crimes against humanity are a serious crime. I did find it ironic when Arendt discussed the case of a Nazi trial in Yugoslavia where a Nazi officer got a “six year sentence” because “he only slaughtered 6 thousand people.”

If you read the book carefully, you're going to notice two things. First, Arendt focuses on the trial itself, and never really gives her own opinions or reactions. At the end of the book, she gives her opinion, which is something of a clumsy opinion, but I think it's because of Arendt's ignorance of the legal system set up against Nazi criminals.

In some countries like the United States, any former Nazi is denied entry and if you end up in the US and were a former Nazi officer of any rank, you're in legal trouble.

In most European nations that were affected by Nazi crimes, and Israel, if you perpetrated crimes, you could face trial and there is no statute of limitations.

The Nuremberg Trials ended in 1946 and the Court was dismantled. It was agreed that Germany should focus on reconstruction, and that Nazi fugitives would be hunted down and brought to justice wherever they were hiding, and face trial in different nations depending on the circumstances. In most European countries and Israel, Nazis can face trial even if their crimes did not directly affect the country where the trial takes place. Arendt seems not to be aware of this fact.

In 2002, an International Criminal Court was created for trials related to crimes against humanity. The ICC was mainly created essentially for the former Yugoslavia, and to deter countries from doing what the former Yugoslavia did in its wars against the secession with Croatia, Bosnia and other nations.

But, very quickly, the ICC started receiving petitions to put all kinds of leaders on trial for all kinds of “crimes” some serious, some laughable. The Court apparently received hundreds of petitions to put George W. Bush and Barack Obama on trial, and other leaders like François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy, Bibi Netanyahu, David Cameron, Teresa May, and basically any leader who starts a war will get hundreds of petitions calling for him or her to be put on trial at the ICC. I don't see the tribunal surviving for a very long time if this trend continues.

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