The ironies of Anne Frank’s tragically brief life didn’t end with her murder in Bergen Belsen. Her diary was originally adapted into a play by Meyer Levin whose version was rejected by Lillian Hellman and the play’s producers because its emphasis was too Jewish. Hellman, a communist and anti-Zionist, wanted to universalize Anne, even at the expense of history and authenticity. The play that was ultimately produced on Broadway was written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett who won a Pulitzer Prize for it, but who certainly complied with Hellman’s determination to turn Anne into less of a Jew and more of an “everyman” whose eternal optimism leaves the viewer on a buoyant plane of forgiveness and hope. There is no final scene showing Anne’s anonymous, diseased corpse strewn into a mass grave in a concentration camp, just the message of an adolescent firl who, despite everything, continues to believe in “the goodness of man.”
The film version paralleled the stage play and even though it is indicated that the people in the attic are Jews, the most salient point is that Anne still retains an uncorrupted belief in redemption, a stirring ending for a Hollywood film. Years later, Otto Frank was involved in lawsuits rebutting the claim that the diary was a fraud, ultimately producing the man who had arrested the family and could attest to the veracity of the events that were depicted by Anne. Meyer Levin’s attempts to protest what he considered a conspiracy to strip Anne and her diary of their Jewish identity were delineated in his book Obsession and in several subsequent books by Lawrence Graver ( An Obsession With Anne Frank) and Ralph Melnick (The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank).
The Anne Frank Center in the U.S. bills itself as “a not-for-profit organization that promotes the universal message of tolerance by developing and disseminating a variety of educational programs, including exhibitions, workshops and special events.” True to Hellman’s vision, there’s not a word about anti-semitism in the Center’s mission statement, and truer still to that vision, this year’s Anne Frank Award was given to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. In the same week that Kristof accepted the award at a tony gala at the Pierre Hotel, he made the following comments in reference to the city of Hebron on the west bank:
“In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people….More than 1,800 Palestinian shops have closed…and several thousand people have been driven from their homes….When she (Palestinian housewife) went into labor, an ambulance could not get the appropriate permissions in time and the baby died, she said….Americans who haven’t toured the West Bank or Gaza recently may not appreciate how the new security regime of the last few years is suffocating, impoverishing and antagonizing Palestinians….It is here in the Palestinian territories that you see the worst side of Israel: Jewish settlers stealing land from the Palestinians (almost 1/3 of settlement land is actually privately owned by Palestinians);…the diversion of water from Palestinians (Israelis get almost five times as much water per capita as Palestinians).”
Kristof does briefly acknowledge that Israeli civil rights organizations monitor abuses and that the Israeli courts, citizens, scholars and journalists have been fair-minded towards Palestinians in a way that is rarely reciprocated. But the over-arching question of why more than a million Palestinians are citizens of Israel but 800 Israelis cannot live in Hebron without protection from an “enemy population” is never raised. The question of why Arab countries are all Judenrein but it is somehow incumbent upon Jews to provide medical and humanitarian care for people who despise and attack them them is never considered. The open dedication of Islamic governments and religious leaders to the destruction of Israel and Jews is not even a blip in Kristof’s consciousness. Does the fact that Kristof speaks Arabic and not Hebrew tell us anything about his bias in this part of the world?
Anne Frank was a Jew whose family fled Germany for the safety of Holland, a country that later achieved the highest rate of police compliance in turning over Jews to Nazis. Had Otto Frank moved his family to Palestine in the thirties, Anne might have lived a bit longer but might have perished in one of the continual Arab wars, intifadas, suicide bombings and rocket attacks against the state of Israel. The irony of her name now being used to honor a man who has repeatedly reported an anti-Israel point of view is the latest perversion of her memory. If she had a grave of her own, she’d be rolling over in it.
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