Terrorism affects politics disproportionately. Like Matti Friedman in the New York Times On the eve of the last elections in Israel, the Second Intifada irrevocably changed the development of Israeli politics. “No episode has shaped Israeli people and politics as much as the wave of suicide bombings committed by Palestinians in the early years of the 21st century,” argued Friedman. Similarly, Steven Brill demonstrated in The Atlantic How September 11 changed America’s political imagination forever and shaped national debates on security, borders, and policing. Enhanced by media narratives, 24/7 news and, as George Will once remarked, “the pornography of mourning” fascinates terrorism.
Julie Salamon’s newest book, An innocent onlookeris a refreshing reminder of the lasting legacy of terrorism in societies that go far beyond the law. The book follows the story of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American Jewish tourist who was murdered by terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) in 1985 on board the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship. Filled with impressive topics from terrorism on the high seas to criminal proceedings and international politics, An innocent onlooker transcends the murder itself and aims to contextualize the broader implications that Klinghoffer’s murder has set in motion. Salamon foreshadows the “war on terror” with its associated modern implications and interweaves a cascading narrative that links Achille Lauro, American media, terrorism processes and Klinghoff’s rise to popular consciousness.
Salamon’s story is based on the ordinaryness that the Klinghoffer family radiated. “The Klinghoffers were an American family, innocent viewers of another’s war,” writes Salamon. After the tragedy, they became the epitome of terrorism for America. Remarkably, against the backdrop of increasing urban violence, Salamon writes that the similarity of the Klinghoffer saga to a spy novel overshadowed all other news reports.
An innocent onlooker is equally a compelling work of social memory and the wider impact of terrorism on society. In the second half of the novel, Salamon examines life after the death of terrorism. Reminiscent of the latest 9/11-inspired pieces like Come awayIn later years, the murder of Klinghoffer inspired the San Francisco Opera to commission a work. Klinghoffer’s death, based on the kidnapping. In addition, two television films attempted to revive the drama while Philip Roth Klinghoffer nodded into his book Operation Shylock.
There was no doubt that the ingredients for such a drama were there. With all of the inherent evocative topics throughout the book, the structure and organization of the kidnapping can sometimes fail to capture the tense atmosphere of the kidnapping. Instead of reconstructing an entire chapter solely about the attack, Salamon distracts readers’ attention by moving ahead prematurely on regional policy, excluding the PLO from Lebanon, and Ronald Reagan’s rise as President of the United States. The disjointed nature of the narrative, which culminates in Klinghoff’s murder in Chapter 4, is ultimately anti-climactic. Within this range, redundant biographical sketches of tangential signs are also spliced. For example, seven pages in the second chapter are devoted to Reem al-Nimer, the second wife of the PLF commander.
Salamon’s narrative structure is again involved in the possible capture of the kidnappers. Although Salamon manages to involve readers in the rapid American surveillance of the perpetrators aboard an EgyptAir Boeing 737, the chapter ends abnormally with readers in the establishment of the United States-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) by former U.S. Senator James Abourezk The alleged role of the Jewish Defense League in the murder of ADC employee Alex Odeh is included. Only after these issues have been resolved will Salamon return to the crisis between the American and Italian forces at Sigonella Air Force Base.
Despite some narrative flaws, Salamon’s retelling of Klinghoff’s murder evokes a deeper, almost communal feeling of horror and hopelessness that Jews have become increasingly prepared for. This is partly due to Salamon’s initial motivation to write the book. As she admits in the book’s confirmations, it was originally justified Klinghoff’s daughters, intends to narrowly describe an American perspective in an “exciting, heartbreaking and intellectually committed” manner.
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In fact, Salamon managed to expand the scope of the book and reveal a deeper historical truth about the nature of anti-Semitism. As Salamon writes, the extent of Klinghoffer’s version of “sentimental” Zionism was to consider Israel merely as “a place where a tree can be planted in honor of a deceased”. However, the superficiality of identity among the Achille Lauro’s Jewish passengers did not prevent them from being the main targets of violence. They discarded any potentially harmful items that could expose their religion. Chai necklaces and B’nai Brith cards sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean to cleanse their owners ’Jewish identity together. This is perhaps the most compelling, if not considered, aspect of An innocent onlooker.
Although Salamon probably completed the book before the wildest illustrations of violent anti-Semitism in American history in Pittsburgh and Poway, California, it is impossible for contemporary readers to ignore parallels. Perhaps most foresighted An innocent onlooker is a reminder that whether Jews live in Israel or the Diaspora, whether they are passionate Zionists or anti-Zionists, their Judaism remains a common denominator for bigotry.
“The Jewish passengers were deeply rooted in the fear of anti-Semitism,” writes Salamon shortly after describing the kidnapping. This sense is crawling up the back of American Jews today.
However, not everything is lost.
As Poways Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein in the New York Times After the attack on his community, it served as a “reminder that my ancestors gave their lives so that I could live freely in America; and above all a reminder of never being afraid of being Jewish. “
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