the banality of engagement: blame the victims

There is something about Hannah. For some reason Hannah Arendt has been a post-modern magnet for for ant-Jewism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Israel sentiments all nicely couched in the language of human rights, respect, and all manner of motherhood statements that masks a psychosis of hatred not easily explained. A recycling of long standing hatred in the language and contextual use of people like Slavoj Zizek filtering down to a pseudo-intelectualism of the small douche-bag on his soap box. An Arendt is central to this process. The banality of evil. Ask the survivors of the camps if they thought their experience was banal. Or Mundane. Like a trip to the mall where they couldn’t find the advertised specials.

Bernard Saffran portrait of Eichmann for Time Magazine. ---But we made the Hollerith, and with it the attitude that the machine insulates us from the deeds we program it to do, from push button war, and "I was only following orders." Adolf Eichmann told his hangman merely hours before his execution in Jerusalem in 1961 that all the Jews had to do to defeat the final solution was to avoid registration on the Hollerith cards. Just not be there when the census taker called. Once the holes were punched, he said, their fates were sealed.---Read More:

Of course what is most grating about her, and which underlines her entire dialog is a barely restrained antipathy to Judaism that is traditional and observant. This near hatred of Judaism that is anything but hyper-secular, symbolic and vaguely cultural; like a birth defect to be ashamed of. Not the same shame as a holocaust survivor wearing long sleeves on a hot August day of course. Maybe if Arendt had taken a little swing through the camps in their salad days she could have offered her captors at least a little joy division diversion and gotten the general feel of the digs so to speak.

---Nevertheless, for today’s defamers of Israel, Arendt is a patron saint, a courageous Jewish intellectual who saw Israel’s moral catastrophe coming. These leftist intellectuals don’t merely believe, as Arendt did, that she was the victim of “excommunication” for the sin of criticizing Israel. Their homage to Arendt runs deeper. In fact, their campaign to delegitimize the state of Israel and exile it from the family of nations—another kind of excommunication, if you will—derives several of its themes from Arendt’s writings on Zionism and the Holocaust.---Read More:

Her analysis of the trial as a sort of Society of the Spectacle is not questioned. Wily old Zionists like Ben Gurion knew how to market the state as domestic and international entertainment. But beyond that, there were broader more profound implications. After all, instead of capturing this automaton imbecile half wit on a safari hunt, they could of executed him on the spot. Arend’t total disdain for what she rermed the ancilliary and extraneous diversions of endless testimony from holocaust survivors begs to question her own mental stabilty, her own level of sanity, or insanity and an emotional frozenness that only long term exposure to German very white tower academia can induce in an individual through Osmosis. After her own exile she became an ardent Zionist when it was intellectually chic for her to masturbate on the issues surrounding the creation of a super jew, but later changed gears when the auditorium filled up with destitute and ragged jews form the Eastern hinterland. The only realistic explanation for her nihilism, if we assume she was not profoundly and intrinsically evil, is that there must be a history of child abuse of some form that was traumatized and sublimated into a severe intellectualism that was detached, and callous to the sufferings at large, and her transition from proto-Zionist to anti- Israel can best be understood as a career move to increase social capital in academic circles.


( see link at end )…But the belated grappling with the Shoah also had to do with the dynamics of Israeli society. Holocaust survivors, who at the time of the trial made up a full quarter of Israeli Jewry – 500,000 men and women – had been encouraged to forget their horrific past and to focus instead on the more important task of state-building and transforming themselves into “new Jews” devoid of all the pathologies bred by the despicable existence in galut….

---But as with guns, computers create a cloud of unreasoning, a wall of emotional distance, and a swirling cape of techno-heroism that prevent us from acknowledging the chaos that follows the click of the trigger. And here is another quote, from the enigmatic philosopher Martin Heidegger, himself drafted into the Nazi Party in the 30s, but a lifelong questioner of the ease given us by machines: "Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we affirm it or passionately deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst way when we regard it as something neutral. It is not that 'Technology can be dangerous.' Rather, the essence of technology is danger."---Read More: image:

…In a society that valued courage, self-reliance and the romantic idea of an indigenous Hebrew man who emphasized action over words and was tied to the soil of the Land of Israel, there was little room for articulation of the memory of the Shoah. Except for isolated incidents of partisan uprisings against the Nazis, the story of the survivors simply could not be integrated into the Zionist collective’s meta-narrative of a bold return to history. (It is no coincidence that the approximate date of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which began on Pessah eve, was chosen for Holocaust Remembrance Day.) The David Ben-Gurion-orchestrated and Gideon Hausner- executed “production” of the Eichmann trial, which literally took place in a theater house, was unabashedly designed to affirm Zionist ideology and emphasize the importance of a Jewish sovereignty capable of capturing and bringing to justice a Nazi war criminal, and the futility and humiliation of living in exile as another people’s guest.

Spectators at Eichmann trial. ---Unlike Nuremberg, where very few Holocaust victims gave testimony, approximately 100 survivors testified at the Eichmann trial, which became a centerpiece of the prosecution’s case. “It was a chance for them to tell their stories, one by one by one, to be present and to put a face on the suffering in a way that hadn’t been the case at Nuremberg,” Lipstadt explains. Lipstadt remembers being intrigued as a child by televised news clips of the trial on the evening news, but not fully und

anding the connection between the Eichmann trial and the anti-Semitism that gave rise to the horrors of the Holocaust.--- Read More: image:

Ironically, however, by turning the Eichmann trial into a public forum for the voicing of Holocaust survivors’ testimonies, Ben-Gurion unwittingly brought about what Lipstadt noted in the conclusion of her book was “the polar opposite to this Zionism Weltanschauung.”

The testimonies made it clear that Jews had not “gone like sheep to the slaughter” and that the few instances of physical rebellion were truly remarkable. The extremely personal accounts of survivors were broadcast to a captive audience glued to the radio throughout the day, and were avidly read in transcribed form in Israeli dailies. Israelis understood that through a thousand small acts of heroism- of-the-spirit, the Jews of Europe had maintained their humanity. Israelis understood that but for chance they might have ended up in Europe during the Shoah and shared an identical fate. The testimonies also acquainted Israelis, many of them born here, with the rich Jewish Diaspora culture that had been lost….


---Traditionally, out of the injustice directed against it Judaism has expressed the demand for justice. Thus, the execution of Eichmann expresses what happens to the demand for justice after it obtains power. Horkheimer claimed that in this respect, for the Jews Eichmann became a disaster for the second time as he was put to death by an executioner representing the government of Israel. According to my interpretation this dramatic phrasing has to be understood thus: at that very moment Judaism has showed that it too had assumed its place in the game in the fields of power in current reality and lost its essential uniqueness; and so it forsook power to demand justice, and has lost its faith in the utopian demand for justice and in non violent protest against this world, which was ruled by violence and by endless aspiration. ---Read More: image:

…The Eichmann trial helped change, and improve, Israeli society, making it more empathetic to Holocaust survivors’ suffering. Today, as the generation of survivors grows smaller and there are so few people left to speak in the first-person singular, we should use the 50th anniversary of the trial to appreciate the power of survivors’ testimony and take steps to ensure this testimony is never forgotten….Read More:
Sol Stern: ( see link at end )…Arendt had the foresight to see that if even deracinated Jews like herself found themselves under attack as Jews, they had to fight back as Jews. She praised the German Zionists for doing just that. In Berlin in 1933, she courageously carried out an illegal mission for her friend Kurt Blumenthal, the German Zionist leader. Her assignment was to collect material from the state archives documenting the Nazi-dominated government’s anti-Jewish measures, which would then be presented at the next Zionist Congress in Prague. Arendt was caught, arrested, and sent to jail for eight days….

…During much of that period, Arendt wrote as a committed Zionist. She referred to Zionism as “the national liberation movement of the Jewish people,” for example, and she praised the socialist Zionist parties representing “the workers” in Palestine: “For if the Jews are to live in Palestine by right and not by sufferance, it will only be by the right they have earned and continue to earn every day with their labor” (the emphasis is hers, and these translations of the Aufbau columns are from a collection of her work called The Jewish Writings). Arendt’s intentions in supporting Jewish settlement in Palestine were sincere, but her writing displayed an astonishing lack of political judgment—as in her belief that the accomplishments of Jewish “labor” might somehow win Arab acceptance of Jewish rights in Palestine.

In her very first Aufbau column, Arendt suggested the creation of a Jewish army—independent of any nation, but under Allied command—to fight the Nazis….

…But Arendt damaged the Jewish-army cause by unremittingly attacking the one organization already lobbying for it. Long before she embraced the idea, the Zionist Revisionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky had formulated a detailed plan for a military force composed of Palestinian Jews and Jewish refugees. One of Jabotinsky’s lieutenants in America, a Palestinian Jew named Peter Bergson, created an organization called the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews. The committee, supported by such popular writers as Ben Hecht and Max Lerner, launched a lobbying campaign in Congress and succeeded in getting a resolution introduced in the House of Representatives supporting the creation of a separate Jewish army.

Arendt’s response was to attack Bergson and other activists associated with his committee as “Jewish fascists.” The charge was a canard. As almost every objective historian of the period has acknowledged, Jabotinsky was a classic nineteenth-century liberal nationalist. He supported separation of religion and state and civil rights for non-Jews in a future Jewish state. According to the model constitution that he wrote for that state, in every government department headed by a Jew, the deputy minister had to be an Arab, and vice versa. There wasn’t a fascist bone in his body.

Nevertheless, with little thought or evidence, Arendt repeated the inflammatory accusations regularly made by the labor Zionists against their nonsocialist rivals in Palestine. In published comments that a later era would have called “McCarthyite,” Arendt suggested that “Jewish fascists” had duped the prominent personalities supporting the committee. …

…Years later, Arendt pilloried European Jewish leaders facing the Nazi murder machine for their “pathetic” behavior. But what did she do for the cause of rescue while living safely in the United States? According to Young-Bruehl, Arendt and her husband took long, melancholy walks in Riverside Park and thought about the catastrophe in Europe. She wrote a poem, “Park on the Hudson,” describing her thoughts. It ends with the lines:

A loving couple passes by
Bearing the burden of time.

…Even some of Arendt’s close friends were troubled by the seeming callousness with which she compared the Jews of Europe to their murderers. She described Rabbi Leo Baeck, the revered leader of the Berlin Judenrat, as the “Jewish Führer.” When Eichmann claimed to have sympathy with the Zionists—presumably because their desperate attempts to get German Jews to Palestine had moved Germany one step closer to being Judenrein—she flippantly called him a “convert to Zionism.” Those efforts, moreover, she labeled “a certain amount of non-criminal cooperation with the Nazi authorities,” suggesting a confluence of interests between Zionism and Nazism….

…Her impressions of Jerusalem and the Israelis can only be described as bigoted. The police gave her “the creeps” because they spoke “only Hebrew and looked Arabic.” Jerusalem was “dirty” and as unpleasant as Istanbul. She was disdainful of the “oriental mob” outside the courthouse. She expressed distaste for the black-hatted, ultraorthodox Jews “who make life impossible for all reasonable people here,” as well as for Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. (In Eichmann in Jerusalem, she described state prosecutor Gideon Hausner as a “Galician Jew who speaks without periods or commas.”) The only people in the courtroom she seemed to respect were the three judges, who were—just like her—exiled German Jews of high culture and intelligence….

…In his introduction, Elon likened Arendt to the great Enlightenment philosopher Spinoza: both were supposedly Jews who had challenged the historical myths of their tribe and suffered for it. Elon hoped that a statue of Arendt might someday be built in Israel, just as there is one of Spinoza. But Arendt was no Spinoza. Not only did the attacks on the Eichmann book not harm her; they made her even more famous in America and Europe. She found more access to elite publications and received numerous literary honors and academic positions….

Arendt’s greatest legacy to the Left, however, isn’t merely that she is remembered as a martyr; it’s the nature of her criticism of Zionism. As Hebrew University philosopher Elhanan Yakira shows in his 2010 book Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust, Arendt’s accusation that Ben-Gurion manipulated the Eichmann trial in order to justify Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians has become a “master postulate” for the international coalition of anti-Israel intellectuals and activists….Read More:

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