Remembering the Historian Who Helped Shatter the Eichmann Myth

Nov. 11 2015

David Cesarani, a recently deceased historian of the Holocaust and of British Jewry, was among the first to demonstrate, on the basis of the documentary record, the falsity of Hannah Arendt’s depiction of Adolf Eichmann as a “banal” and faceless bureaucrat without ideological investment in Nazism. Jeffrey Herf explains:

[In 2004,] Cesarani was [the] first of historians writing outside Israel to come up with a seemingly obvious yet previously neglected idea. It was to read Israel’s pre-trial interrogation of Eichmann as well as the transcript of the Eichmann trial itself. . . . The transcript includes the verdict written by the three Israeli judges, Benjamin Halevi, Yitzḥak Raveh, and Moshe Landau. Cesarani’s accomplishment lay in part in bringing the judges’ verdict to the attention of an English-speaking audience. For the 40 years from 1964 to 2004, [the analysis of those] who knew the most about the case and who had studied it most closely had played almost no role in the international discussion of Eichmann. Instead, it was Arendt, who had been absent for many weeks of the most important parts of the trial, who dominated the global view of a man driven by bureaucratic punctiliousness and mindless obedience to orders. . . .

By informing readers of the nuanced, balanced, deeply informed, and sophisticated legal and historical verdict reached by the judges in Jerusalem, Cesarani shattered decades of condescension and ignorant neglect that had for too long obscured [the verdict] from global view.

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Read more at Fathom

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter