Tony Judt again accused of laying the "groundwork for Israel's death"

Historians in the News

Tony Judt is a Jewish British professor of history now at New York University. He was born in the same year as Israel. He has devoted his recent years trying to lay the groundwork for Israel’s death. Although cloaking his arguments in sophisticated post modern discourse, he has acted as an intellectual collaborator with Islamists seeking to wipe Israelis and Jews generally off the face of the map. Because he has been called on the implications of his steady and increasingly radical attacks on Israel, Judt has come to see himself as a victim—so much so that Christopher Hitchens says he has a “persecution complex.” The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier goes a step farther in characterizing Judt’s grandiose sense of self and the intellectual violence of his writing when he calls him “the shahid [martyr: as in suicide bomber] of Washington Square.”

Tony Judt’s own parents were Jewish refugees from anti-Semitic persecution in Eastern Europe. Growing up in London, he lived briefly on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1960s. At that point in his career, he liked Israel, perhaps because France liked it and because the United States was ambivalent. Later, when the United States liked Israel and France detested it, Judt made his own political U-turn.

Unlike most of the leftist Bash-Israel academics, whose output consists of predictably dreary attacks on “the Zionist entity,” Judt actually has done some notable academic work. He considers himself an expert on French history and has published widely on this subject to general acclaim, although some French thinkers have challenged his credentials. But in recent years he has made a transition away from intellectual history to an obsessive concern with the Middle East conflict. As a groupie of the late Professor of English Literature and of Terror at Columbia University, Edward Said, Judt wrote the introduction to a recent collection of Said essays. The following lengthy sentence summarizes the tone and viewpoint of his approach to Israel and its quest for survival:

"Today [Israel] presents a ghastly image: a place where sneering 18-year-olds with M-16s taunt helpless old men (“security measures”); where bulldozers regularly flatten whole apartment blocks (“rooting out terrorists”); where helicopters fire rockets into residential streets (“targeted killings”); where subsidized settlers frolic in grass-fringed swimming pools, oblivious of Arab children a few meters away who fester and rot in the worst slums on the planet. . . ."

Judt has done absolutely no scholarly research into the Middle East conflict. His writing consists primarily in issuing fatwas against Israel for allegedly conducting an “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians in 1948. He also cannot imagine any problems in the world that could not be resolved through the abandonment of Israel by the United States. Not that he has any particularly strong affection for America, which he holds guilty (gasp) of having suppressed its liberals and leftists.

Judt was one of those who rallied in support of Norman Finkelstein, when the loony pseudo-academic enemy of Israel and Jews was dismissed from DePaul University due to his lack of any serious scholarly work. Like the other Finkelstein apologists, Judt insisted that Finkelstein was a martyr who had been victimized by the all-but-invisible but nonetheless omnipotent Jewish-Israel Lobby.

In a superb expose of Judt and his problem with Israel, Benjamin Balint argues that Judt’s hatred of Israel, however freighted with postmodern attitudinizing, often resembles and imitates traditional anti-Semitism. Judt’s insistence on the Jewish state’s “anachronism” edges toward a secular version of Christian supersessionism. Where once Christians wanted Jews to acknowledge the obsolescence of Judaism, Judt wants them to recognize the obsolescence of the Jewish state (“an oddity among modern nations”). Where Christianity considered the Jewish faith refuted by theological history, Judt deems the Jewish state revoked by political history. Where once Christians accused Jews of stubbornly refusing the inexorable advance of religion toward messianic fulfillment, Judt charges Israel with declining to yield to the inexorable progress of History toward enlightened universalism.

Judt pretends that he hates Israel because it is founded on nationalism, and because nationalism is dangerous as well as anachronistic. Yet every other state on the planet is also founded on nationalism, but he believes that only Israel requires extermination. There is a word for double standards that result in singling out the Jews and that word is “anti-Semitism.”

One of Judt’s most notorious tantrums against Israel appeared in the New York Review of Books on October 23, 2003. There he basically insists that Israel and Israel alone is responsible for all continuing tensions in the Middle East and for the failure to achieve peace. The entire article is a call for Israel’s dismemberment and replacement by a single state with an Arab majority, or what other anti-Semites these days are calling the “One-State Solution,” although it might more accurately been termed “the Rwanda Solution” for what would soon follow its establishment. The article, which David Frum called “genocidal liberalism,” triggered more than a thousand letters, most attacking Judt. As a result of the piece, The New Republic, on whose board he had previously sat, gave him the bum’s rush, and expelled him from the magazine.

In that same article Judt also dismisses Israel as a country of fascists: “When one hears Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, proudly insist that his country has not excluded the option of assassinating the elected president of the Palestinian Authority, it is clear that the label fits better than ever. Political murder is what fascists do.” Judt there also excuses suicide bombing mass murders against Jews because, “the Palestinians have no other weapons.” He compares Israel’s security fence, designed to keep Palestinian suicide bombers away from Jewish school buses and shopping malls, to the Berlin Wall, and then challenges the foundational legitimacy of Israel: “The very idea of a Jewish state"—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded—is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.” His anti -Israel obsession prevents him from noting that there are 22 Arab states in which Arabs and the Muslim religion have exactly the exclusive privileges that he finds objectionable when Israelis enjoy them.

He then repeats the tired fiction about how the supposedly powerful Israel Lobby prevents criticism of Israel. “It has also corroded American domestic debate. Rather than think straight about the Middle East, American politicians and pundits slander our European allies when they dissent, speak glibly and irresponsibly of resurgent anti-Semitism when Israel is criticized, and censoriously rebuke any public figure at home who tries to break from the consensus.” This is a theme he returned to in the New York Review of Books, July 14, 2005, when he wrote that “Israel and its lobbyists have an excessive and disastrous influence on the policies of the world’s superpower.” ...
Read entire article at Steven Plaut at frontpagemag.com

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