“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

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy