Tony Judt: More are outraged by cancellation of his talk

Historians in the News

The NYU historian Tony Judt was invited to speak October 3 on the subject of “The Israel Lobby and U. S. Foreign Policy” to a discussion group entitled Network 20/20, which always holds its meetings at Manhattan’s Polish Consulate. But Judt received a call from Patricia Harrington, the president of the group, canceling his talk. She told Judt (as he recounted in a widely distributed e-mail) that the Consulate had been threatened by the Anti-Defamation League, who “warned them off hosting anything involving Tony Judt.”

Judt said that ADL’s Abraham Foxman warned the Poles that unless they cancelled, to quote Judt’s e-mail, “he would smear the charge of Polish collaboration with anti-Israeli antisemites (= me) all over the front page of every daily paper in the city (an indirect quote).” Poland is particularly sensitive about the charge these days, what with the recent publication of Jan Gross’s book, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz.

Harrington and Foxman did not reply to my attempts to ask them directly about this. But Harrington did tell the New York Sun that the ADL “forced, threatened, and exerted ‘pressure’ on the Polish consulate to cancel the talk.” ADL’s October 5 press release says that “in no way did the League urge or demand that the Polish consulate cancel the October 3 event.” I e-mailed Foxman to ask what he did say to the Poles, but have not heard back from him.

In 2003, Judt wrote a piece in the New York Review of Books advocating a binational state in place of present-day Israel. For myself, I disagree. Given the difficulties in establishing a modicum of justice in two states so soaked in hatred, a decent binational state strikes me as hallucinatory. I admire Judt’s historical writing but think he sometimes goes overboard when foraying into some contemporary events. (A liberal manifesto by Bruce Ackerman and myself, to be published in the next issue of the Prospect, with many other signatures, addresses one of these excesses.)

But that’s neither here nor there. Public debate on AIPAC is long overdue and Judt is to be commended for broaching the subject. Too many people of the My-Israel-Right-or-Wrong persuasion are indulging in an unseemly hysteria about broaching the subject in polite company. Do they really think they can sustain this taboo forever by waving the bloody flag? The same day Judt was unplugged, the Forward featured a scare headline about Farrar Straus Giroux (“publisher of Singer and Malamud”) planning to publish a book by the political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, whose paper on AIPAC last year provoked a huge kerfuffle. ...
Read entire article at Todd Gitlin at the American Prospect blog

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