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Tony Judt Says It Is Becoming ‘Normal’ to Have Conversations About Israel’s Failings

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Last night at NYU, Tony Judt gave a speech about the changing role of intellectuals in democracies in which he brought up the Israel/Palestine question and observed that the American discourse is now opening up to criticisms of Israel.

Eight or ten years ago, the prof used to hit a wall when he brought up criticisms of Israel (where the English-born Jew had lived on a kibbutz in the ’60s). More recently he was told that the topic was “untouchable” and at the very most he might discuss it “among consenting Jews—but not with goyim.”

“But what seems to me the case is that if you keep pushing, if you insist there at least be a discussion of the Mearsheimer Walt paper… even a discussion about the failure to discuss it, something does change. And it seems to me there’s a shift.”

Just as racist speech has been delegitimized in the U.S. through a type of licensing process, criticisms of Israel are now being legitimized. “Some public space has been opened up for that conversation.” Yes, the conversation still gets pushed down. But it gets harder to push it down—”making it normal to talk about these things.” Hosanna.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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