Now that I’ve got your attention, I want to offer a shocking and provocative thought first suggested by a Twitter follower who read my tweet featuring a Guardian article about the 30th anniversary of Adolf Eichmann’s hanging. The article focuses on the revelation that Eichmann wrote a letter requesting clemency to Israel’s president, Yitzhak Ben Tzvi. The actual substance of the letter is quite banal and uninteresting. But the fact that he wrote it at all is interesting.
@richards1052 Sounds a lot like what Israelis want to do. Not kill all Palestinians but just create a purely Jewish state.
— GCB (@GhadaChadarevia) January 29, 2016
Here is the operative passage from the Guardian article:
“Eichmann did not grow up a rabid antisemite [sic]. And [sic] nor, it seems, did he harbour any particular personal hatred towards Jews, other than the casual default racism common among Austrians in the 1920s. The US title of Cesarani’s book, Becoming Eichmann, suggests that his willingness to participate in mass murder was not always a given. Before 1941, he wanted to rid Europe of its Jews, but more as a way of making space for pure-bred Germans than because he wanted to eliminate Jews per se. For example, in 1937, Eichmann met with the Jewish Zionist and Haganah agent Feivel Polkes in Berlin to discuss the possibility that the Nazis might supply weapons for the Zionist fight against the British Mandate in Palestine, and that Eichmann might arrange for Germany’s Jews to be deported to Israel. Later in 1937, Eichmann travelled on a steamer to Haifa to assess the possibility – a possibility he eventually realised was impractical.”
In other words, before Hitler decreed the Final Solution at the Wansee Conference in 1942, Eichmann was an ethnic cleanser, not a genocidaire. To put this is an Israeli context, his pre-1941 views were absolutely in accord with those of Lehava, Im Tirzu, and settler rabbis, who wish to rid Israel of Palestinians to create an ethnically pure Jewish state. Contrary to the claims of many on the far-left of the pro-Palestinian cause, none of them advance the notion of mass murder or genocide. But they are certainly willing to kill Palestinians en masse and engage in mass violence in order to achieve an Arab-rein State.
But there’s a bitter irony here as well. It did not take much to transform Eichmann’s more “moderate” views into the killing machine he became. All it took was a strong leader, determined to implement a Final Solution. Once the order was given, Eichmann fell into line and organized the efficient extermination apparatus that enabled the Holocaust.
Think what that could mean in the Israeli context…
Another thought to contemplate is that right up till 1939, both Zionist factions, the Revisionists and the Labor Zionist Yishuv leadership, conducted negotiations with the Nazis, under the rubric that the enemy of my enemy could be my friend. Chaim Arlosoroff, leader of the Labor Zionists, was assassinated in 1933 only days after he returned from a negotiating session with the Nazis in Germany that eventually resulted in the infamous Haavara Agreement. The Nazi-Zionist collaboration lasted until at least 1941 in the case of the Stern Gang, which delivered a proposal to the Nazis in late 1940. What could they possibly have been thinking to make such dirty alliances?
Another bitter irony: the President Yitzhak Ben Tzvi who ordered Eichmann’s execution is the same leader who in 1924 ordered the assassination of Dutch Jew, Jacob de Haan, the leading proponent of the Orthodox anti-Zionism of the era. By what right does a man with Jewish blood on his hands order the execution of an enemy of the Jewish people?
Nor have I ever heard that Ben Zvi repented of his orders. He too, like Eichmann was a killer. Only Ben Tzvi murdered his own, while Eichmann murdered another people and another race.