Tony Judt: Included in essay linking liberal Jews and anti-Semitism





The American Jewish Committee, an ardent defender of Israel, is known for speaking out against anti-Semitism, but this conservative advocacy group has recently stirred up a bitter and emotional debate with a new target: liberal Jews.

An essay the committee features on its Web site, ajc.org, titled “ ‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” says a number of Jews, through their speaking and writing, are feeding a rise in virulent anti-Semitism by questioning whether Israel should even exist.

In an introduction to the essay, David A. Harris, the executive director of the committee, writes, “Perhaps the most surprising — and distressing — feature of this new trend is the very public participation of some Jews in the verbal onslaught against Zionism and the Jewish State.” Those who oppose Israel’s basic right to exist, he continues, “whether Jew or gentile, must be confronted.”...

The essay, written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, an English professor and the director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington, castigates a number of people by name, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, the historian Tony Judt, the poet Adrienne Rich and the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, in addition to a number of academics.

Mr. Judt, whose views on Israel and the American Jewish lobby have frequently drawn fire, is chastised for what Mr. Rosenfeld calls “a series of increasingly bitter articles” that have “called Israel everything from arrogant, aggressive, anachronistic, and infantile to dysfunctional, immoral, and a primary cause of present-day anti-Semitism.”

A historian at New York University, Mr. Judt said in a telephone interview that he believed the real purpose of outspoken denunciations of him and others was to stifle harsh criticism of Israel. “The link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is newly created,” he said, adding that he fears “the two will have become so conflated in the minds of the world” that references to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust will come to be seen as “just a political defense of Israeli policy.”


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