Adolf Eichmann was captured 50 years ago, on May 11, 1960 outside of Buenos Aires. Eleven days later he was in Israel and on May 23 prime minister David Ben-Gurion stood at the podium of the Knesset and announced this to a hushed crowd.
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 Holocaust Remembrance Day folds in Yom Ha’atzmaut and we turn from commemoration to celebration, I’m struck by the transition in outlook that took place from statehood to the young country’s heroic marvel.
Notably, there’s a similar transition in cultural attitude that’s taking place today.
Over the past 20 years, we’ve evolved from films like Schindler’s List
to movies like Defiance
and Inglourious Basterds
. Jewish characterizations have morphed from victims to strong, rugged combatants in the face of threats from Nazis – now they face evil head on with brawny bravura.
Arguably too, many Americans’ reference point for Jewish identification is Israel. And today it stands as a source of strength – economically, militarily and, according to Gallup, Americans’ support of Israel ranks 63 percent – higher than after 1967 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 the region.
President Barack Obama’s misdirected pressure on Israel, especially given Iran’s nuclear ambitions that each day come closer to actuality, is of utmost concern. Iran 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 (Director Quentin Tarantino literally has the film Inglourious Basterds
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 the 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.
Bin Laden 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 Daniel 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 goodwill, an attack on Iranian nuclear installations would not only be cleared for take-off, it’d be escorted. It would change everything.
The stunned silence that greeted Ben-Gurion would be replicated upon Binyamin 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
. What stands out is the resolve, the fortitude and
the grit. When Israel captured Eichmann, it broke the rules. When the
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 Ben-Gurion, Mossad
chief Isser Harel and others, they persevered.
In 2010, we still hunt them. John Demjanjuk, on trial in Munich, is 89
and stands accused of aiding in 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.The writer is based in Baltimore and works in communications. www.abenovick.com
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