Bruising Judt, Fukuyama says Arabs aren’t ready for liberalism

on 68 Comments

Check out the review of the Tony Judt interview book by Francis Fukuyama in the Times last Sunday. It strikes me as so weirdly balanced between insult and a faint readiness to entertain that Judt might in the end be right. The controversy is all about Israel and Palestine. Judt is deemed genius lucid on everything else, which he of course was, but taken to the woodshed for criticizing a bit too strongly the neocons and their liberal Iraq war enablers, and being unrealistic about Israel–too much an “intellectual,” says Fukuyama.

Yet Judt’s arguments, and his great rogue state that uses the Holocaust as a get out of jail free card line, are quoted.

[Judt] argues that Israelis and their American supporters have used the Holocaust as a “Get Out of Jail Free card for a rogue state,” but seems to think that his own Jewishness and the fact that he lived in Israel at one point give him the authority to be as morally obtuse in return. Judt seems intent on transferring the lessons learned in Eastern Europe, where genuine liberalism mostly replaced ethnic nationalism, to a part of the world where such liberalism just won’t work. His proposal for a binational state was put forward with the self-certainty of an intellectual who has never had to deal with the realities of practicality and power…

[My students] are fortunate not to live in a world where ideas could be translated into monstrous projects for the transformation of society, and where being an intellectual could often mean complicity in enormous crimes.

I wonder what Fukuyama really thinks–did he perhaps want to go further and praise Judt a bit more, and the Times wouldn’t let him? It kind of gives me that impression, but one never knows.

There’s a context. Fukuyama is a subtle and accomplished thinker, a former neoconservative who broke over the Iraq war. Eight years ago, he had a semi-famous feud with Charles Krauthammer, who implied without saying so directly that Fukuyama was an anti-semite for noticing that the neocons may have internalized Israeli hostility to Arabs, and that it distorted their world view. An outsider could see that Fukuyama clearly won the ensuing exchanges, but it’s a bruising thing for a gentile trying to maintain establishment credentials to go through– and not everyone has the thick skin or temperament for it.

Can one sense in Fukuyama’s criticism of Tony Judt’s anti-Zionism a whiff of Stockholm syndrome, of bruises that still need shielding. Or does he really think (as Israel and its Washington allies try to steer America into yet another Mideast war) that the “realities of practicality and power” require shutting our minds to the questions Judt was raising?

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

    Leave a Reply