Thursday, January 27, 2005

An anti-Zionist Gains Undeserved Prominence

Academia seems to love anti-Zionist Jews nowadays, and Tony Judt is no exception. Judt, a European scholar who has, like many anti-Zionist intellectuals invited to speak in academic fora, no apparent academic link to either the Middle East or Jewish Studies, suddenly became prominent in 2003 when he penned an article in the New York Review of Books entitled, "Israel: The Alternative". In this article, he called for a binational state, labelled Zionism an "anachronism", and called Israel "bad for the Jews". More recently, he published an article in the Nation magazine, in which he laid blame for the recent worldwide spike in antisemitism at Israel's feet, and repeated in print what he had said in public, accusing the American Jewish community of exaggerating the threat of antisemitism and writing that some aspects of US foreign policy were "mortgaged" to Israel. Mr. Judt has expanded on his theories in public comment, which can be heard here.

In his comments, he levels a number of charges which are simply not true; among them, that debating Israel's existence is something that would never find its way into the New York Times, a thinly-veiled attempt to claim that the Jewish lobby controls the media. In fact, the Times has allowed a number of such views to appear on its op-ed page, most recently PLO counsel Michael Tarazi's. Another is that he is simply being honest and that most Israelis have no problem speaking about the topics he addresses. It's simply not true; despite the heroic place he claims for himself, no one, least of all eastern college campuses, is suppressing anti-Zionist speech, and the vast majority of Israelis remain Zionists. And people who evince support for a Jewish state are not being dishonest. He finally uses a disingenuous device to suggest that a large segment of Israel believes in ethnic cleansing, citing Effi Eitam's statements as if they were indicative of mainstream viewpoints within Israel. They are not.

He has clearly internalized the anti-Zionist hatred that has probably been hurled at him by European and American colleagues, though he vehemently denies this.

What has gotten me on his case is that my alma mater, Vassar College, has invited him to deliver the Sitomer Lecture. The Sitomer Lecture is a lecture on some Jewish-related topic given in memory of Maurice Sitomer, a Poughkeepsie native who was a leader in the Anti-Defamation League and a longtime pro-Israel activist. Judt has clearly devoted the last two years to belittling the antisemitism problem and to delegitimizing Israel at the same time, and it is simply inappropriate to honor him in this way.


At 9:19 AM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

I think the reason such figures become prominent is because they are loud. My professors, for instance, are excellent academics with a realistic attitude towards Middle East, and severe criticism of anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism. They, however, are busy with their own research and don't bother writing on subjects they are not directly concerned with. : (


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