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

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform