Finding “Neo-Israelite” Justice for Adolf Eichmann

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Abstract: A recently declassified transcript of a 1962 Israeli government meeting sheds light on a disagreement between the Ben-Gurion administration and several Jewish intellectuals regarding the trial and execution of Adolf Eichmann. Via their objections, four of these dissenting intellectuals, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, Gershom Scholem, and Walter Kaufmann, are brought into conversation with the Israeli government as revealed in the transcript. The debates expose underlying and ongoing tensions about whether Israel should be a “nation among nations,” with a universal outlook, or a “light unto the nations,” endowed with particular and exceptional responsibilities as a Jewish state. These differences are related to a conflict between what is characterized as the “neo-Israelite” approach of Zionism and the diasporic “Jewish political tradition.”

Biography: Erica Weiss is a sixth year PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University. Her doctoral dissertation is titled The Social Life of Conscience: Rhetoric, Sacrifice and Community Among Israeli Conscientious Objectors, overseen by advisors Carol Greenhouse and Abdellah Hammoudi. Weiss completed her undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins University. She is originally from upstate New York, and has lived in Baltimore, Israel, currently residing in New York City.

Volume 4, Number 2 (Spring 2009) pp. 169–188