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August 4, 2017 2:01 pm

New York Times Art Critic Attacks Israel-Sponsored Exhibit on Eichmann Trial

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avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Just when you may have thought that the New York Times couldn’t possibly sink any lower when it comes to Israel or Jewish issues, along comes one Jason Farago, an art critic for the newspaper, who manages to review an exhibit about the murderous Nazi Adolf Eichmann and fault it for being, of all things, insufficiently sympathetic to Eichmann.

Farago complains: “The trial was transformative, but whether it was entirely just is not a question raised by this exhibition, which prefers the relics of James Bond-like spycraft to moral and legal dilemmas.”

Perhaps the reason the exhibit doesn’t dwell on these so-called “moral and legal dilemmas” is because they weren’t truly dilemmas at all.

Farago goes on: “The legality of Eichmann’s abduction and juridical legacy of the trial are also shortchanged. Eichmann, after all, was kidnapped from a sovereign nation without warning, and American newspaper editorials, not to mention the American Jewish Committee, sharply criticized Israel’s actions. (Argentina lodged a complaint with the United Nations Security Council, which was later withdrawn.)”

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Farago doesn’t mention it, but these “newspaper editorials” included one in the Times itself that, as the New York Sun put it, “concluded by referring the Jewish people to the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus talks of turning the other cheek.” The term “kidnapped” suggests Israel committed a crime. Eichmann wasn’t “kidnapped,” he was captured. Had Israel warned Argentina, Eichmann might have escaped. The South American country hasn’t brought to justice the terrorists who bombed the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Why would it have been trusted to bring to justice a Nazi? As for the American Jewish Committee, it, like many (though not all) largely German-Jewish, Reform individuals and institutions — including the Times itself — had been skeptical of Zionism for years.

Farago writes: “These philosophical dilemmas and legal repercussions don’t much trouble ‘Operation Finale,’ whose overly pat narrative may reflect its genesis within an Israeli government institution.” What is the word “Israeli” doing in that sentence? Perhaps government institutions in general prefer simplicity, but Israelis — at least the ones I know — are perfectly comfortable with complex narratives. The Times comment is a slur against the government of Israel.

If anyone is guilty of “overly pat narratives,” it is the Times, which portrays Israel’s elected prime minister as bloodthirsty. The Times writes:

Eichmann was convicted, sentenced to death and hanged in 1962: the only civil execution in Israel’s history. (That could change if Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has his way; last week he called for a reintroduction of the death penalty after the killings of several Israeli settlers in the West Bank.)

The Times calls it “the killings of several Israeli settlers in the West Bank,” but it could also, in a less tendentiously sanitized way, call it “the murder of a Jewish family in their home on the Sabbath by a Palestinian Arab terrorist.”

The Times‘ true game, and that of its critic, is disclosed in full in the review’s concluding paragraph, which claims that Eichmann’s glass-enclosed courtroom cage “serves as a quiet commendation of the troubled institution built to prosecute the Eichmanns of our own age. That is the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which the United States — and Israel too — refuse to join.”

A more accurate word than “commendation” here would be “condemnation,” which means the opposite. Israel and America refuse to join that court because it was set up by their enemies as a trap to try to put Israelis and American government officials on trial for totally non-criminal actions they took to defend the security of their countries.

The Times is essentially claiming that the people that the International Criminal Court’s advocates would want to put on trial — Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Ariel Sharon, Richard Perle — are the Eichmanns of our age. Grotesque, false accusations of war crimes made against those who were actually defending the Jews and other innocents in Israel and America against terrorism demonstrate why justice is better left to free and democratic nation states like Israel and America rather than to unaccountable and unelected newly invented institutions such as The Hague. The Eichmann example, in other words, proves precisely the opposite of what the Times says it does.

The exhibit the Times reviews is at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan through December 22; feel free to use the money you save by canceling your Times subscription to go buy a ticket and see it. The Times review itself is a fine reminder of why such a museum, and such exhibits, sadly remain necessary. Perhaps the article could be clipped and added to the museum as an example of the kind of mindset that makes the Jewish state necessary to defend the Jewish people.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.


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