Excellent interview of the late Tony Judt by Merav Michaeli of Haaretz, at the Atlantic site. Notice Meravi's desire that we see ethnocentrism as regnant everywhere-- the first resort of Zionists who questioned Judt when he published his Israel-is-anachronism piece in 2003. Note the description of the Netanyahu gov't as "neo-fascist." Notice Judt's slam-dunk (not excerpted) of Jeffrey Goldberg's statement in the Atlantic the other day that We gave them Gaza and we got rockets. Also check out the full interview for Judt's comments on Obama's capitulation and why he left Israel after 2 years there (parochial, militaristic, open up the window and let me breathe).
If it could look so good [a binational state], why would it be "hell"?
Because it would start from a very bad place. It would begin with Jews running the place in the name of a Jewish state, defined by Orthodox Rabbis and controlled by an army whose officer core is increasingly permeated by religious and settler communities. No Arab would feel remotely safe, much less equal or a citizen in such a "single state". The Arabs' lack of property, rights, status and prospects would either make them a sullen and potentially violent underclass or else the best of them would try to leave. This is no good basis for integration, though it is of course what some of Israel's present leaders privately desire. And then there would be Gaza...
And if Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also recognize that Israel is on its way to a single state with an Arab majority, why do you think they aren't doing what needs to be done?
Of Barak I will not speak. He is now a senior minister in what I regard as close to a neo-fascist government. If he has chosen that direction, then obviously he has no interesting or ethically defensible plans of his own. He is an object of contempt in my eyes.
Olmert, who seems to have reached my conclusions by his own path, suffers from being a typical tactician, and lacking strategic vision or political courage. He is not as bad as Shimon Peres in this and other respects -- Peres seems to me the most disappointing and in some ways damaging politician in Israel's history -- but he will not stand up to the soldiers or the settlers or the rabbis and therefore he is not interesting as a candidate for real change.
In such a state, Jews would soon be a minority. Doesn't that frighten you?
Not as much as it seems to frighten others. Why is it ok for a Jewish minority to dominate an Arab majority, its leaders to call for expulsions of majority members, etc., but not ok for a democracy to have a majority and minority both protected under law? At least Israel could then call itself a democracy with a clear conscience.
What you are really asking is whether I think the Palestinians would immediately set out to rape, pillage and murder the Jews? I don't see why they would want to -- there is no historical record suggesting that this is what Palestinians do for fun, whereas we have all too much evidence that Israelis persecute Palestinians for no good reason. If I were an Arab, I would be more afraid of living in a state with Jews just now.
Can you see or understand why Israelis are afraid?
Yes, but only in the sense that someone who has been brought up to fear and hate his neighbors will have good reason to be frightened at the thought of living in the same house with them. Israelis have created a generation of young Palestinians who hate them and will never forgive them and that does make a real problem for any future agreement, single- or two-state.
But Israel should be much, much more afraid of the Israel it's creating for itself: a semi-democratic, demagogic, far-right warrior state dominated by racist Russians and crazed rabbis. In this perspective, an internationally policed and guaranteed federal state of Israel, with the same rights and resources for Jews and Arabs, looks a lot less frightening to me.
Can you see why American Jews are fearful as well of that?
No. This is the fear of the paranoid hysteric - like the man at the dinner table in the story I wrote in the New York Review who had never been to Israel but thought I should stop criticizing it because "We Jews might need it sometime." American Jews -- most of whom know nothing of Jewish history, Jewish languages or Jewish religion -- feel "Jewish" by identifying unthinkingly with Auschwitz as the source of their special victim status and "Israel" as their insurance policy and macho other. I find this contemptible -- they are quite happy to see Arabs killed in their name, so long as other Jews do it. That's not fear, that is something between surrogate nationalism and moral indifference.
In your 2003 essay "Israel: the Alternative" you wrote that Israel was an anachronism. Writers in Israel were asking why you didn't offer France and Germany to give up this anachronistic model first?
Oh, come on! I did not say that nation-states were past their use-by date. I said that ethnically driven versions were. There is nothing in the constitutions of France or Germany that creates second-class citizens defined by religion, ethnicity or parenthood. There is nothing there defining who can and who cannot have certain jobs, live in certain places or marry certain people. If Israel looked like France or Germany in these respects, it would be a better place. By the way, until Germany gave up its 1913 law regarding citizenship defined by descent, I wrote very critically about it. But Israeli commentators would not know that -- they are fixated on their own obsessions.