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Judt Agonistes

I have my problems with Professor Judt (see here and here), but more troubling than his intellectual murkiness is his increasingly sparse lecture calendar. This is due to bureaucratic cowardice, which sees a popular academic’s critical stance on Israel, and … Read More

By / October 9, 2006

I have my problems with Professor Judt (see here and here), but more troubling than his intellectual murkiness is his increasingly sparse lecture calendar. This is due to bureaucratic cowardice, which sees a popular academic’s critical stance on Israel, and a rather silly one on the dread “lobby” in America, as grounds for denying him a platform to speak about just these subjects. The Polish consulate (it might as well have been the German or Austrian one) has just cancelled an invitation to Judt to speak about AIPAC’s reign of terror on U.S. foreign policy-making. According to the Washington Post, an hour before Judt was due to arrive, Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk put the kybosh on the talk, saying that the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee had suggested this as the wise course of action:

"The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure," Kasprzyk said. "That's obvious — we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that."

Well, at least he’s honest. There’s a troubling tendency to keep Jewish Cassandras and loudmouths and gadflies mums about Jewish politics, as if to prove their main points for them. Abe Foxman comes right out and says, "[Judt’s] taken the position that Israel shouldn't exist. That puts him on our radar.” That’s not only untrue and menacing (“our radar,” did he say?) but hardly a justification for telling a foreign country whom it can and cannot have gibber within its own borders (the Polish consulate is legally Poland on U.S. soil). Judt’s position on Israel is that it’s undemocratic by design and that it should allow Arabs an equal voice in government and society – something which will inevitably translate into the end of Israel’s existence as a “Jewish state” as opposed to a “state for the Jews.” I’d say that you can argue with this, but clearly the ADL and AJC would rather you didn’t. The same stupid logic has applied to an even more self-parodying figure Norman Finkelstein. I don’t know what’s worse anymore: seeing him turned into a martyr for free speech, or hearing his most hysterical and vicious critics label him a Holocaust denier when both his survivor parents attest to the reality of the Shoah. How about the following as a symposium topic for Warsaw: “American Jewish Organizations Harmful to American Jews?”

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