Upon sitting down to my computer this morning, I was besieged by news stories, Facebook entries, and blog posts reporting and commenting on the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination by the United States Special Forces. While I refrained from singing, dancing in the streets, and passing out candy (like some people I could name), I did permit myself a smile and a warm, fuzzy feeling all day thinking that the world had one less malignant fanatic in it.
While I concur with some people who have said that this will make no difference, that it will in no way stop the momentum of Islamic genocidal designs on the world, Michael Totten points out that it in no way hurts us, and in no way benefits Al Qaeda. True enough.
But one of the more incisive comments I saw was put out by my rav in Newton, who wrote the following in a post to the shul’s list:
While I would not deny a victory song and dance to the families of the victims of 9/11 or to our armed forces and to our Commander-in-Chief, my own prayer of thanksgiving was not of celebration but of somber relief and satisfaction that no matter how dark the times, no matter how dastardly and destructive the crimes, in the end good will prevail and justice will be served.
It is this same sentiment that I gleaned from having read Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt’s extraordinary new book on The Eichmann Trial, whose 50th anniversary is being commemorated this year. I had the great privilege of travelling to Poland and Budapest on a heritage tour with the ever amazing Prof. Lipstadt just a few years ago. Adolf Eichmann was a transportation specialist who applied and honed his expertise in commercial shipping to the mass transportation of the human chattel of Jews to concentration camps during the Shoah. I was not yet born in 1961 (I was born in 1968) and have no experience or memory of the trial. Upon reading Lipstadt’s riveting account, I was, at first, but then not really, surprised to learn that Israel was attacked in the news media for its own strike against one of the masterminds of the Holocaust. As opposed to a strategic assassination as in the case of Bin Laden, Israel apprehended Eichmann from his safe haven in Argentina and then brought him to justice through a comprehensive trial in Jerusalem. While many celebrated Israel’s bold capture of one of the worst war criminals, Israel was also, at least at first, excoriated by significant media outlets in the US and world press, for example, the Washington Post and Time Magazine, for “animal vengeance” and the administration of “jungle law” (p. 24 ff). Bin Laden and Eichmann alike were buried at sea to prevent their burial sites from becoming sites of pilgrimage and veneration (p. 147). Lipstadt’s book is worth reading for her gripping narrative of Eichmann’s capture and trial, as well as her trenchant analysis and critique of Hannah Arendt’s legacy. Lipstadt’s thesis and contribution to Holocaust studies, however, is that the Eichmann trial empowered, encouraged and validated survivor testimony ultimately enabling the survivors themselves to shape the ongoing memory and memorialization of the Shoah.
It is worth noting that while NATO in Libya and the US in Pakistan can get away with summary execution and collateral damage (i.e. the deaths of non-dangerous civilians), Israel gets broadsided at the UN for doing just that with Hamas terrorists. Yom HaShoah v’HaGvurah is as good a time as any to renew our determination to defend ourselves, no matter what anyone else says.