“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 Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics