Where Hannah Arendt Went Wrong
Posted: 2 Jan 2001
This is a contribution to a Symposium on historical investigation commissions, law, and politics in Israel. Part of the "new Israeli historiography," the Symposium examines law and critical junctures in the formation of Israeli state consciousness and ideology. This essay examines the place of law in the construction of two different types of truth: the historical and the political. Specifically, this piece contends that significant parts of Hannah Arendt's *Eichmann in Jerusalem,* those dealing with the cowardice and perfidy of East European Jewish leaders, are constructed on the basis of a political truth that is historically false. Arendt, perhaps unwittingly, accepted the right-wing Zionist effort to outbid mainstream Zionism on the matter of creating a strong, post-diaspora Jewish identity. The instrumentalized, political resolution of a state-building libel trial in Israel provided the basis for the denunciation of European Jewish leaders that is central to Arendt's famous and influential treatment of the holocaust.
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