“Operation Finale” Tells the Story of Eichmann’s Capture without Political Pieties or Banal Moralizing

Aug. 28 2018

The new film Operation Finale tells the story of the Mossad’s capture of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. In his review, Liel Leibovitz—who as a child knew Peter Malkin, the film’s protagonist—praises the movie for avoiding the pitfalls of other cinematic portrayals of daring Israeli operations:

[C]onsider all the ways in which the director, Chris Weitz, might have failed. He could have, for example, taken the same tedious route as José Padilha in 7 Days in Entebbe [about the notorious hijacking and rescue in 1976], slathering the screen with thick layers of symbolism that neither move nor inform; that movie cross-cut the raid on the terminal in Uganda with a modern dance performance, delivering one of the most unintentionally comical moments in recent cinema. More pedestrianly, Weitz might have opted to reduce the film to just one of its elements, giving us a tense psychological drama that rarely leaves the airless room where the Israeli spy [Malkin] and the fugitive Nazi spent nine days engaged in a battle of wits, or else a fast-paced caper of subterfuge and narrow escapes. . . .

[Operation Finale also] raises far sharper questions about the intersection of justice and revenge than that other recent tale of Mossad agents out on the hunt, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s lugubrious and preachy Munich. . . . In an age when too many filmmakers fashion their work into banners advancing their own political pieties, Weitz gives us something much more valuable: a study in unruly feelings and the extremes we sometimes go to when we strive for or run away from our just deserts. . . .

If you’re hoping to see the banality of evil [the famous phrase Hannah Arendt coined in describing Eichmann] on display, you’re out of luck: Eichmann is played by Ben Kingsley, who manages to be simultaneously imperious, menacing, and vulnerable even when sitting on the toilet. . . . Weitz knows better [than Arendt]. His Eichmann is demonic precisely because he knows exactly how to think from the standpoint of his interrogator, and knows, too, how to sharpen this skill into a weapon. He sees no reason to empathize other than to gain an advantage, which makes him all the more human and all the more terrifying.

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More about: Adolf Eichmann, Arts & Culture, Film, Hannah Arendt, Mossad

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey