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‘NY Review of Books’ says Tony Judt didn’t really mean it when he called for the end of a Jewish state

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The latest New York Review of Books has arrived in my mailbox with a notable retraction. Remember the famous essay “Israel: The Alternative,” that the late Tony Judt wrote in The New York Review of Books in 2003 calling for a binational state in Israel and Palestine? Well, Judt didn’t really mean it.

Jonathan Freedland, the opinion editor of the Guardian, writes that he first met Judt shortly after his “best-known or, more accurately, most notorious essay” was published, and they had whiskey in the lobby of a “smart London hotel” in which Judt looked out of place; and Judt told him the truth, the piece was actually intended to gin up the peace process– a “provocation, forcing US supporters of Israel to confront what the death of the two-state solution would entail.”

Here’s Freedland’s claim, which takes up the first 1000 word or so of a review of Judt’s essays published posthumously, titled When the Facts Change:

It struck me at the time that his critics were misreading the essay, or at the very least misunderstanding its intent. A kind of confirmation came when I asked Judt if he would have published that same piece not in The New York Review but in its UK counterpart, the London Review of Books. He paused, thinking through the implications, and finally said no, he would not.

The simple explanation was that Judt understood the contrast in the climate of opinion between the two countries. In Britain (and Europe) hostility to Israel was already deeply entrenched: Ariel Sharon had recently reincurred the deep enmity of mainstream liberal opinion, not least through his crushing of the second intifada. In the US, in New York especially, the prevailing assumptions were in Israel’s favor. Indeed, a blanket of complacency and unquestioning solidarity tended to muffle any genuine debate…

It seemed to me that his essay, and especially its vehemence, was designed to stir US Jews from their lethargy. (In Britain and Europe, the topic was far from closed and hardly needed prying open). Viewed like that, “Israel: An Alternative” was less a detailed statement of binationalism than a provocation, forcing US supporters of Israel to confront what the death of the two-state solution would entail.

Freedland concludes that his meeting with Judt showed Judt’s

refusal to surrender to dogma… Judt understood that the same argument could have different meanings in different situations, that even the most firmly held principles had to take account of variations in time or place, and that, sometimes, a position had to shift.

I.e., Judt wasn’t surrendering to the “dogma” of binational democracy for Israel and Palestine, no, his “firmly held principles” of democracy had to “shift” to accommodate Israel.

This is horseshit.

Let’s review Judt’s original essay and the response he wrote five weeks later in the NYRB letters column after the piece was attacked by lots of liberal Zionists, which Freedland quotes to suggest that Judt walked the piece back.

Israel: The Alternative is a truly great essay. It is sincere, high-minded, pithy, filled with surprises, and filled too with predictions that have come true. It does not read as coy or tactical in any way, it reads as an earnest and angry disquisition on history and modernity. Israel’s problem, Judt says, is it got the timing wrong: several decades after Europeans fashioned their states along ethnic-national lines that were derisory to minorities, Israel adopted the European model.

It has imported a characteristically late-nineteenth-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law. The very idea of a “Jewish state”—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded—is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.

Freedland says that Judt’s argument was a tentative one:

It was time, he had argued, to think afresh, even to turn toward the notion of a single state in historic Palestine, one that would be a secular home to both Jews and Arabs. Yes, it would mean the dissolution of the Jewish state and an end to the Zionist movement that had given it birth. But perhaps there was no longer a place in the world for such a state. Surely Israel had become “an anachronism. And not just an anachronism but a dysfunctional one.”

Even to turnperhaps no longer a place? There is none of that dithering in the original. Judt doesn’t say surely, with all its British indifference. He said Truly. And he based that judgment on social changes he had observed in his own life, and approved. Judt again:

In a world where nations and peoples increasingly intermingle and intermarry at will; where cultural and national impediments to communication have all but collapsed; where more and more of us have multiple elective identities and would feel falsely constrained if we had to answer to just one of them; in such a world Israel is truly an anachronism. And not just an anachronism but a dysfunctional one. In today’s “clash of cultures” between open, pluralist democracies and belligerently intolerant, faith-driven ethno-states, Israel actually risks falling into the wrong camp.

He had come to this conclusion not because the U.S. had helped kill the peace process, but because he didn’t think the peace process could work. And what it would produce wasn’t worth it anyway. The two-state solution

is still the conventional consensus, and it was once a just and possible solution.

But I suspect that we are already too late for that. There are too many settlements, too many Jewish settlers, and too many Palestinians, and they all live together, albeit separated by barbed wire and pass laws. Whatever the “road map” says, the real map is the one on the ground, and that, as Israelis say, reflects facts. It may be that over a quarter of a million heavily armed and subsidized Jewish settlers would leave Arab Palestine voluntarily; but no one I know believes it will happen. Many of those settlers will die—and kill—rather than move.

“It was once a just and possible solution.” Did Judt have a problem with words? No; this man was direct. If it is no longer just, then why does Freedland say that he says that he was merely trying to nudge establishment opinion? Maybe because Judt was being polite to him over a whiskey, telling him what he wanted to hear. More likely because he heard what he wanted to.

Judt was very clear that he didn’t believe in ethno-religious states, no matter for who!

what if there were no place in the world today for a “Jewish state”? What if the binational solution were not just increasingly likely, but actually a desirable outcome? It is not such a very odd thought. Most of the readers of this essay live in pluralist states which have long since become multiethnic and multicultural. “Christian Europe,” pace M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, is a dead letter; Western civilization today is a patchwork of colors and religions and languages, of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Indians, and many others—as any visitor to London or Paris or Geneva will know.

Israel itself is a multicultural society in all but name; yet it remains distinctive among democratic states in its resort to ethnoreligious criteria with which to denominate and rank its citizens. It is an oddity among modern nations not—as its more paranoid supporters assert—because it is a Jewish state and no one wants the Jews to have a state; but because it is a Jewish state in which one community—Jews—is set above others, in an age when that sort of state has no place.

It is true, as Freedland points out, that in his response to vociferous critics a few weeks later, Judt said that one state was “utopian”.

[W]hen I wrote of binationalism as an alternative future, I meant just that. It is not a solution for tomorrow. Both Jews and Arabs have on various occasions embraced the notion, but not in recent times. As Salim Tamari has written, most Palestinians don’t even want a single secular democracy of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, a possibility mooted for a while in the 1970s. If the problem with a two-state solution is that Israel’s rulers won’t make the necessary sacrifices to achieve it, how much less would they be willing to sacrifice Israel’s uniquely Jewish identity? For the present, then, binationalism, is—as I acknowledged in my essay—utopian.

Yes and if it was not a solution for Tomorrow 2003, what about Tomorrow 2015? It is not as if Judt abandoned his principles. He didn’t for one second!

I just don’t believe that Israel, as now constituted, has a very promising future; and like the Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol, I think the best long-term hope for the Middle East lies in “a Jewish-Arab state in which Jews and Arabs have completely equal rights.”

If he was prying open American discourse, it wasn’t to cause Americans to support a two-state solution, it was in an effort to make people (including Jewish intellectuals) reconsider Zionism. He said that there had been crazy fantasies before in history:

[T]hings change….

It is only when we look back across a sufficient span of years that we recognize, if we are honest, how much has happened that we could literally not have conceived of before. Franco-German relations today; the accords reached across a table by Protestant Unionists and Sinn Fein; post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa—all these represent transformations in consciousness and political imagination that few but “escapist fantasists” could have dreamed of before they happened. And every one of those thickets of bloodshed and animosity and injustice was at least as old and as intricate and as bitter as the Israel–Arab conflict, if not more so. As I said, things change. Of course, they also change for the worse. After all that has happened, a binational state with an Arab majority could, as Amos Elon ruefully reminds us, very well look more like Zimbabwe than South Africa. But it doesn’t have to be so…..

He saw that the two-state solution just wasn’t going to happen, in 2003 or 2013 either:

What are the chances of an American president in the foreseeable future forcing Israel not just to stop colonizing the Occupied Territories but to dismantle its holdings there and retreat to the 1967 frontiers? I don’t mean the US saying that this would be a nice idea, or tut-tutting when it doesn’t happen; I mean forcing Israel to comply right down the line (and, yes, exerting the same pressure on Palestinians, which is a lot easier to imagine).

Just now that is very hard to envisage. Only this month, the Bush administration gave its unofficial approval for Israel’s security fence, wherever Sharon sees fit to place it

I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before: such a retraction, issued after the author’s death, of a signature portion of his beliefs. And I understand why; it anguished liberal Zionists to hear anyone thoughtful come out against the idea of a Jewish state, won so heroically over 80 years of battle in the chambers of western officials. It was a betrayal of an article of faith, by someone who had previously been a Zionist.

The New York Review of Books has done all it can to bury Judt’s essay. It never asked Judt to expand on his views in the years that followed, let alone ask Ali Abunimah or Ghada Karmi or any other Palestinian who can pick up a pencil to respond. No, this was an all-Jewish event. And the retraction here is being performed by a man who wrote a year back that Ari Shavit is a “liberal” and the right person to talk to American Jews about the conflict (Shavit who “opposed the Oslo Agreement, calling it ‘a collective act of messianic drunkenness’ and defending its most prominent opponent, Netanyahu, against charges that he was partly to blame for its failure…[who] during the Second Intifada,…  praised Sharon for having ‘conducted the military campaign patiently, wisely and calmly’ and ‘the diplomatic campaign with impressive talent’ [, who in] the final week of the war in Gaza this summer that took the lives of 72 Israelis and more than 2100 Palestinians, … wrote that strong objection to Israeli conduct was illegitimate and amounted to anti-Semitic bigotry”)

I mentioned Judt’s predictions. Long before Bruce Shipman, Norman Finkelstein and Max Blumenthal were saying as much, he said that a Jewish state was dangerous to Jews everywhere.

Before there was a Jewish state, Jewish minorities in Christian societies would peer anxiously over their shoulders and keep a low profile; since 1948, they could walk tall. But in recent years, the situation has tragically reversed.

Today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn’t do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions. Diaspora Jews cannot influence Israeli policies, but they are implicitly identified with them, not least by Israel’s own insistent claims upon their allegiance. The behavior of a self-described Jewish state affects the way everyone else looks at Jews. The increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel. The depressing truth is that Israel’s current behavior is not just bad for America, though it surely is. It is not even just bad for Israel itself, as many Israelis silently acknowledge. The depressing truth is that Israel today is bad for the Jews.

And this was before the Gaza slaughters of 2008-2009 and 2014, before the attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris. Isn’t it just possible that he would hold these beliefs more firmly than ever?

Judt completely predicted the disgrace of the Israel security wall, which a year later would be declared illegal under international law.

anyone who genuinely supposes that the controversial electronic fence now being built will resolve matters has missed the last fifty years of history. The “fence”—actually an armored zone of ditches, fences, sensors, dirt roads (for tracking footprints), and a wall up to twenty-eight feet tall in places—occupies, divides, and steals Arab farmland; it will destroy villages, livelihoods, and whatever remains of Arab-Jewish community. It costs approximately $1 million per mile and will bring nothing but humiliation and discomfort to both sides. Like the Berlin Wall, it confirms the moral and institutional bankruptcy of the regime it is intended to protect.

And 2 years before Walt and Mearsheimer, he said that pro-Israel forces pushed the Iraq war:

It is now tacitly conceded by those in a position to know that America’s reasons for going to war in Iraq were not necessarily those advertised at the time. For many in the current US administration, a major strategic consideration was the need to destabilize and then reconfigure the Middle East in a manner thought favorable to Israel. This story continues. We are now making belligerent noises toward Syria because Israeli intelligence has assured us that Iraqi weapons have been moved there—a claim for which there is no corroborating evidence from any other source. Syria backs Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad: sworn foes of Israel, to be sure, but hardly a significant international threat.

And this is the giant that the NYRB is now throwing under the bus? It won’t work.

philweiss
About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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66 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    May 4, 2015, 1:24 pm

    Phil: I think you got this one right. After the fact negators of other people’s writings are not to be believed. Especially so many years later.

    A question about the word “anguish” as in your: “it anguished liberal Zionists to hear anyone thoughtful come out against the idea of a Jewish state”.

    I’ve never had a serious operation without anesthetic, but I imagine that “anguish” might be a correct description of my feelings in such a case. But I never see it written ijn such a case. I see it written only about Jews. It is a sort of trade-mark and it has long felt to me that it is a mask, a cover-up, for something that truly (and surely) has other names: “cognitive dissonance” for example. But when I read the writings of such liberal Zionists as express themselves in print, I don’t see C.D. much less “anguish”. I see rationality or close to. And sometimes I see what seems to me dishonesty, but not always. But not “anguish”. For one thing, I do not see the outburst of feeling for the Palestinian victims of Hitler’s holocaust-of-Jews and of Israel’s Nakba-of-Palestinians.

    Am I wrong? Is the “anguish” really there? Is the care for Palestinians really there? Is, perhaps, the fear of being called “self-hating” really so strong as to suppress all these human behaviors? Or is the “anguish” about other things entirely? Do today’s anti-Zionist Jewish youth feel “anguish” for acting against their elders or have they been blessed with mental health and see the world directly and simply (and IMO correctly).

  2. bintbiba
    bintbiba
    May 4, 2015, 3:13 pm

    And “this is the giant” that the world has sadly lost.

    A great man of open mind and clear vision .

    Mr. Jonathan Freedland is very badly misguided in his attempt to reinterpret a great visionary’s wise words……!! He only discredits himself in the process.

    • Bornajoo
      Bornajoo
      May 5, 2015, 4:01 am

      +1 Bintbiba!

      “I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before: such a retraction, issued after the author’s death, of a signature portion of his beliefs” (Phil)

      Where Jonathan Freedland is involved, anything is possible. He’s a shameless zionist apologist. Remember his performance on Question time with George Galloway? He’s a disgrace and should not have such an important role in the Guardian

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen
      May 5, 2015, 9:13 pm

      So wish Judt were alive to take these claims down. Have always thought it was pathetic to twist someone’s stance after they have passed.Especially when they have made it so clear what their stance is…as Phil argues so articulately with many references.

      May be the first time I have seen Phil write “horseshit” Love it.

      Judt was a moral giant for standing up the way he did. Was so saddened by his passing and what he went through. So sad for his family. The world lost a brilliant and moral man.

      Anyone see him on the Israel/Palestine panel with Khalidi, Ben Ami, Dennis Ross, Indyk, Mearsheimer etc at Cooper Union ? There were a few times I thought Judt was going to politely chew Ross up and spit him out. Was a great debate

  3. GeorgeMKeynes
    GeorgeMKeynes
    May 4, 2015, 3:24 pm

    Jonathan Freedland wrote exactly the same thing in the UK New Statesman in the summer of 2012. I left the following comment on their website:

    Jonathan Freedland is quite wrong about Tony Judt’s views on the one-state solution. In the spring of 2010 I sent Professor Judt a copy of a letter I had written for publication which included the following opinion:
    “There is only one way to make sense of the intermingled Jewish and Arab populations and the land they jointly inhabit and that is to accept that there is already just one government there and therefore, in practice, one country. We should expect Israel to earn the acceptance it craves not by force, backroom deals and clever propaganda, but by behaving as the democracy it claims to be. That means giving all Palestinians the same rights as Jews, including … the right to live in the same places, travel on the same roads and benefit from the same public services; and the right to vote.”
    Professor Judt was already seriously ill and I was surprised and delighted to have an immediate reply from him. He said “I could not agree with you more …”

    • just
      just
      May 5, 2015, 9:52 am

      Thank you for sharing that, GeorgeMKeynes.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 5, 2015, 9:49 pm

      “Jonathan Freedland wrote exactly the same thing in the UK New Statesman in the summer of 2012.

      So Freedland’s on a campaign. Nice.

  4. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    May 4, 2015, 3:36 pm

    I subscribed the the NYRB for over 25 years. I loved the highbrow reviews and essays, especially on classical music, and their comparative reviews of several books recently published on similar subjects.

    But it is stuff like this, that Phil Weiss writes about, that got me to just end the subscription after the last one ran out, probably four years ago.

    • lysias
      lysias
      May 4, 2015, 3:39 pm

      The New Yorker has also recently been brought to heel. They used to regularly publish Seymour Hersh’s articles. But then they refused to run his two articles proving that the sarin in Syria was not the fault of Assad’s government. He had to go to the London Review of Books.

      • Rusty Pipes
        Rusty Pipes
        May 4, 2015, 6:15 pm

        Judt’s observation in 2003 about the Israel Lobby’s intentions about Syria have been omitted from the MSM’s narrative about Syria since the Arab Spring:

        We are now making belligerent noises toward Syria because Israeli intelligence has assured us that Iraqi weapons have been moved there—a claim for which there is no corroborating evidence from any other source. Syria backs Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad: sworn foes of Israel, to be sure, but hardly a significant international threat.

        As Mearsheimer and Walt noted, the Syrian Accountability Act, which was being pushed by the Israel Lobby in congress when Judt wrote his article, set up the mechanisms for American aggression toward Syria:

        In the spring of 2002, when Iraq was becoming the main issue, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was also promoting legislation to formally place Syria on the “axis of evil” and Congressman Engel introduced the Syria Accountability Act in Congress. It threatened sanctions against Syria if it did not withdraw from Lebanon, give up its WMD, and stop supporting terrorism. The proposed act also called for Syria and Lebanon to take concrete steps to make peace with Israel. This legislation was strongly endorsed by a number of groups in the lobby — especially AIPAC — and “framed,” according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “by some of Israel’s best friends in Congress.” JTA also reported that its “most avid proponent in the administration” was Elliott Abrams, who, as we have seen, [was] in frequent contact with Olmert’s office.

        … In mid-August, Engel and a group of politicians and Jewish leaders from New York traveled to Israel and met for ninety minutes with Ariel Sharon in his Jerusalem office. The Israeli leader complained to his visitors that the Unted States was not putting enough pressure on Syria, although he specifically thanked Engel for sponsoring the Syria Accountability Act and made it clear that he strongly favored continued efforts to push the legislation on Capitol Hill. The following month, Engel, who announced he was “fed up with the … administration’s maneuvering on Syria,” began pushing the bill again. With AIPAC’s full support, Engel began rounding up votes on Capitol Hill. Bush could no longer hold Congress back in the face of this full-court press from the lobby, and the anti-Syrian act passed by overwhelming margins (398-4 in the House; 89-4 in the Senate). Bush signed it into law on December 12, 2003.(pp.274-6)

        America’s covert and overt hostilities toward Syria since 2003 have built upon that act. According to Wiki, Obama’s early draft to authorize military force in response to the events in Ghouta referenced Congress’ action:

        Whereas in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States.

        But the MSM has tried to feed us a story about an indigenous, secular, feminist revolution long past the point when it was obvious that the Gay Girl in Damascus was a figment of Western imagination.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        May 4, 2015, 7:56 pm

        Ditto to the New Yorker and NYRB. The coverage of Russia is equally obnoxious. There’s only so much nostalgia for Yeltsin and Saint Khodorkovski I can stomach.

      • Walid
        Walid
        May 4, 2015, 8:14 pm

        “But the MSM has tried to feed us a story about an indigenous, secular, feminist revolution long past the point when it was obvious that the Gay Girl in Damascus was a figment of Western imagination. ” (Rusty Pipes)

        MSM wasn’t behind the Gay Girl scam, it was just a tool used by the West, just like the bogus chemical gas attacks to upset the Syrian apple cart. Same goes for the congressional Syria Accountabilty Act you mentioned that was intended to put an end to Syria’s overholding of its American lease on Lebanon given to it in recognition of its token participation in Desert Storm a decade or so earlier. The Accountability Act morphed into UNSC Res 1559, which kicked into force and probably what provoked the assassination of Hariri that became the main driving force for kicking Syria out of Lebanon in 2005 and laying the groundwork for what eventually a few years later became the “Arab Spring”. The following year, after the failed July war by Israel to “redraw the borders of the Middle East”, the 1559 matured into UNSC Res 1701. It all goes back to the seemingly toothless Syria Accountability and Restoration of Lebanon Sovereignty Act which turned out to be not so toothless.

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 9, 2015, 3:40 pm

        The New Yorker just published Hersh’s piece on revisiting My Lai. I guess that was considered a safe topic.

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 11, 2015, 3:17 pm

        Seymour Hersh’s new piece discounting the official version of the raid that killed bin Laden, on the other hand, was also published in the London Review of Books. The Killing of Osama bin Laden. There again, apparently nobody in the U.S. would publish.

        However, be it said to the credit of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!, she led off with the story of Hersh’s new piece this morning.

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 12, 2015, 10:29 am

        Hersh’s article on the killing of bin Laden and Hersh himself were featured on Democracy Now! this morning.

      • Bornajoo
        Bornajoo
        May 12, 2015, 11:14 am

        Thanks Lysias.

        Terrible coincidence that all the navy seals who were involved in this pretend operation died in a helicopter crash.

      • lysias
        lysias
        May 12, 2015, 12:12 pm

        Terrible coincidence that all the navy seals who were involved in this pretend operation died in a helicopter crash.

        Not all of them, as there are at least those two who wrote books.

        15 members of SEAL Team Six (which conducted the raid that killed bin Laden) did indeed die in that helicopter crash. 2011 Chinook Shootdown in Afghanistan, but I think it is not known how many, if any, of those 15 took part in the bin Laden raid. Be hard to find out, considering how classified everything about SEAL Team Six is.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        May 12, 2015, 6:49 pm

        I’m not convinced OBL was still alive in 2011.

        I don’t doubt that the US forces killed someone, though.

  5. CitizenC
    CitizenC
    May 4, 2015, 4:48 pm

    I find Phil’s interpretation much more plausible than Freedland’s. An alleged retraction of anti-Zionism over whisky, recalled 12 yrs posthumously by a liberal Zionist apologist. You can only make it up. But given the Zionist climate at the NY Review and in US intellectual life they can get away with stuffing Tony under the bus, no matter how preposterous.

  6. just
    just
    May 4, 2015, 5:15 pm

    Who does Freedland think he is? Little wonder he won the “Orwell Prize” for his ‘journalism’ last year, though I know that was not the intent of the Prize…

    (Nominated on seven occasions, Freedland was awarded a special Orwell Prize in May 2014.for his journalism.[11][12]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Freedland)

    Well done, Phil. No one can rewrite or reinterpret the late, great Tony Judt, may he RIP.

    From wiki: “Following his death TIME said he was “a historian of the very first order, a public intellectual of an old-fashioned kind and – in more ways than one – a very brave man”.[68] He was also praised for carrying out what he himself described as the historian’s task “to tell what is almost always an uncomfortable story and explain why the discomfort is part of the truth we need to live well and live properly. A well-organised society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively, not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves”. Mark Levine, a professor of history at the University of California at Irvine, said that Judt’s “writings on European history and the need for a new social contract between rulers and ruled can inspire a new generation of scholars and activists in other cultures”.[39] Timothy Garton Ash, in his obituary in the New York Review of Books, placed Judt in “the great tradition of the spectateur engagé, the politically engaged but independent and critical intellectual.”[69]”

    The shame goes to the NYRB. Freedland is hopeless. Thanks for exposing him.

  7. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    May 4, 2015, 9:58 pm

    RE: Freedland concludes that his meeting with Judt showed Judt’s “refusal to surrender to dogma… Judt understood that the same argument could have different meanings in different situations, that even the most firmly held principles had to take account of variations in time or place, and that, sometimes, a position had to shift.” ~ from Weiss’ post above

    SEE: “Blind Support for Israel ~ Why Jonathan Freedland Isn’t Fit to be the New Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian”, by Blake Alcott, CounterPunch.org, February 13-15, 2015

    [EXCERPT] Should Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian’s Executive Editor, Opinion, take over the editor-in-chief’s post from Alan Rusbridger? Freedland’s instalment is rumoured to be a condition set by the New York Times if the two enlightened North Atlantic papers are to merge, but even without this his chances seem good.

    A central topic for both papers, as for the world in general, is Palestine, Israel, the Middle East. The topic is said by Freedland himself to have been his specialty for some twenty years. I have read through 100 of his writings on the subject in the Guardian, the Jewish Chronicle and the New York Review of Books and conclude that their content should worry the Guardian staff, its readers and his employer The Scott Trust. His support for Israel is unbalanced, violates the Guardian’s commitment to liberalism and is rooted in an ethnocentricity that enables him to alternatively ignore Palestinians and justify their forced transfer out of Palestine.

    In order of decreasing importance:

    • He justifies the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

    • His writing is Israel-centric and biased towards Israel.

    • His Mideast world is largely free of Palestinians.

    • He conflates criticism of Israel with ‘anti-semitism’.

    • His narrative is largely that of Israeli hasbara.

    Ethnic cleansing condoned

    Freedland’s friend and Ha’aretz journalist Ari Shavit made a stir in 2013 with his portrayal of Israel’s ethnic cleansing, by murder and expulsion, of the Arab-Palestinian town of Lydda in July 1948. . .

    CONTINUED AT – http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/13/why-jonathan-freedland-isnt-fit-to-be-the-new-editor-in-chief-of-the-guardian/

  8. Interested Bystander
    Interested Bystander
    May 5, 2015, 12:34 am

    I have a different take on Freedland’s article than Phil. The issue is not whether Judt expressed some doubts or reservations about his 2003 article. After all, he wrote it, and the article stands on its own merit. Whether Judt died still believing every word, or whether he died believing it more strongly, or not believing it any longer is not the point, and not relevant. The question is whether those ideas he put out there so eloquently in 2003 are true today. Judt cannot help us with that debate. He’s dead.

    I think Freedland gets that–he’s not attempting to undermine the 2003 article–he’s saying Judt was not an entrenched ideologue. Freedland is not taking issue with the merits of the article. He’s addressing the pro-Israel crowd who may not listen to Judt because *they* think he’s an ideologue they do not need to listen to. Freedland is admiringly saying we should all be reading Judt, including that 2003 article. If what Freedland’s review of this post-humous collection here gets one AIPAC member to go back and re-read Judt, including that 2003 article, that’s a service in the cause of good.

    The article that revisits, updates, and defends the merits of the Judt 2003 article as valid today because …. should be written. Freedland is not dealing with that topic.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      May 5, 2015, 9:08 am

      @ Interested Bystander

      Did you read GeorgeMKeynes’s comment above in this thread? If so, please reread it, and then reread Phl’s article, the subject of the comments beneath it, including yours.

      • Interested Bystander
        Interested Bystander
        May 5, 2015, 11:59 am

        @Citizen. The answer to your Q is “yes.” Did you have a point you wanted to articulate?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 5, 2015, 7:07 pm

        “@Citizen. The answer to your Q is “yes.” Did you have a point you wanted to articulate?”

        Yes, I think he is trying to tell you that Tony Judt was incapable of expressing himself in a consistent and understandable manner, and needs Freedland to interpret him.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 5, 2015, 11:06 am

      I was especially impressed by Mr. Freedland’s offer to publish Tony Judt’s response at his own expense. But I think the Ouija board should be monitored by video and the results preserved.

      • Interested Bystander
        Interested Bystander
        May 5, 2015, 12:07 pm

        @Mooser. You seem to agree with Phil that there is something sleazy about Freedland’s anectote because Judt cannot respond. Do you think Judt would be offended by this review which lauds him for not being doctrinaire. Judt wouldn’t be offended. Phil is offended because he wants to use Judt as an appeal to authority. We need to appeal to the authority of the aryicle as written, not the subjective thoughts of a dead man.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 5, 2015, 12:58 pm

        Can anybody parse IB’s comment? It makes no sense at all to me. What on earth is he on about? “The subjective thoughts of a dead man”?

        But it’s pretty obvious, he’s interested in not dealing with who and what Freedland is.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 5, 2015, 7:13 pm

      “He’s addressing the pro-Israel crowd who may not listen to Judt because *they* think he’s an ideologue they do not need to listen to.”

      Gosh, do you think there anybody in the “pro-Israel” crowd who is that inflexible?
      I’m sure they have given Mr. Judt every consideration. And, upon due reflection, and after consulting their deepest conscience and principles, concluded , sadly, that Mr. Judt was wrong.

      Ah well, Mr. Freedland is a very influential man, I’m sure he can get them to reconsider Mr. Judt’s writing with a fresh perspective.

      • Interested Bystander
        Interested Bystander
        May 6, 2015, 1:35 am

        @Mooser. There were 14,000 at the AIPAC conference this year (says the internet). I would think the goal of this site is to make some inroads with that crowd, and to gradually make inroads in how American Jews see Israel. The 2003 Judt article presents some of the reasons why. I would have thought we are in agreement on that much. Today the reasons presented by Judt have only grown stronger (are being confirmed) in light of the continuing rightward drift in Israel. I would have thought we agree on that as well. And yes, the inflexible and reflective nature of the mainstream Jewish community in the U.S. is a problem. I would have thought we agree on that as well.

        I think it’s fine to call B.S. on the charge that “Judt didn’t really mean it.” But at the end of the day, who cares. Whether he did, or not, isn’t what makes those things true. They are truer today than ever in light of where Israel is headed, and the fight continues to convince people of that. And the argument can’t be “it’s right because Judt said it and really meant it;” the agreement has to be “it’s right because what Judt said in 2003 is correct whether he meant it or not.” And that argument has to be carried forward by the rest of us,

        So I’m not sure where all your sarcastic idle fun puts you in all this.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 6, 2015, 2:19 am

        “@Mooser. There were 14,000 at the AIPAC conference this year (says the internet). I would think the goal of this site is to make some inroads with that crowd, and to gradually make inroads in how American Jews see Israel.”

        Yes, we know the AIPAC crowd is playing just a bit hard-to-get, a little bit coy, but I’m sure if we tickle, stroke and coddle them along, why we will gradually make inroads in how American Jews see Israel!
        And one great day, all the Jews in America, the Chassidic sects, all of them, the Orthodox denominations, the Conservative Temples, the Reform Temples, the Reconstructionistists, in spite of the fact that they hardly even recognize each other (oh, that awful banquet!) and whichever branches denominations sects or splinter groups I haven’t mentioned will all arrive at a great consensus, and present the Knesset with a real k’nocker of a petition, demanding an end to Israel’s intransigence!
        And the President of the Knesset will turn to us, and with great dignity, tell us that Israel is a democracy, and doesn’t take orders, thank you, from religions!

        “So I’m not sure where all your sarcastic idle fun puts you in all this.”

        Maybe I can explain. Since I was a little kid in Hebrew School, studying for my Bar Mitzvah, I thought Zionism was a fraud. Sorry. Liked being Jewish, couldn’t stand Zionism.

        “some inroads with that crowd, and to gradually make inroads

        Sure, hey, what’s the rush? You know, IB, if we can “gradually” make “some inroads” by the time we get anything effective going, the problem will sort of solve itself, won’t it.

  9. Interested Bystander
    Interested Bystander
    May 5, 2015, 1:07 pm

    @Mooser. I don’t think Freedland is the issue here. Plane pushing away from gate. I will try once mire tonight. Best.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 5, 2015, 6:42 pm

      ” I don’t think Freedland is the issue here.”

      Oh yes, for sure! Mr. Freedland is simply acting as a conduit for easily accessible facts. With dozens ready to attest to the incident.
      How can Freedland not be at issue? Didn’t he write the damn article? Or does Freedland’s record of integrity make his contentions unassailable?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 5, 2015, 6:59 pm

        And I mean, it’s not as if Tony Judt ever made himself clear on the subject. Unless his sudden silence after August of 2010 indicates a change of heart?

      • Interested Bystander
        Interested Bystander
        May 6, 2015, 1:55 am

        @Mooser. Freedland is writing a very positive and admiring review of this collection of Judt’s last writings–which are wonderful to read. I haven’t read this book, but I did very much enjoy those last articles. This is not the NYR “throwing Judt under the bus” by any means whatsoever. Phil’s article suggests that the whole purpose of this is to discredit Judt and undermine his 2003 article. I don’t read the Freedland article that way. But my point was that, even if the main intent of the Freedland article were to undermine the 2003 article–the issue is wether the 2003 article had it right? Is it correct on its merits? And that doesn’t hinge on whether Judt “really meant it” or didn’t really mean it when he wrote it, and it certainly doesn’t hinge on what Freedland reports Judt said over a glass of whiskey. I would have thought we are in agreement on that, so I’m at a loss what all the sarcasm is about.

  10. jon s
    jon s
    May 5, 2015, 4:07 pm

    It’s not that Israel is an anachronism, this discussion is an anachronism. It’s as if this isn’t 2015, it’s 1915, or maybe even 1815, and we’re sitting around arguing the pros and cons of establishing a Jewish state.
    The reality is that Israel is a fact , here to stay, it’s existence is non-negotiable.
    The challenge is achieving peace , securing a Palestinian state, making Israel more democratic, with more social justice and less inequality…a long list of objectives.
    Going back to the Jewish state vs. bi-national state debate – what’s the point? My Dad (of blessed memory) participated in that debate back in the 1930s . As a member of Hashomer Hatzair, he favored the bi-national ideal at the time, but having that debate now is anachronistic, we’re way beyond it.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 5, 2015, 6:49 pm

      “The reality is that Israel is a fact , here to stay, it’s existence is non-negotiable.”

      I see, so you’ll be off to Israel to join the IDF, and back that “non-negotiable” and “here to stay” up with your own butt? Helping to “reduce the risk to zero”? And of course, you can confidently commit Israel’s future generations, (and Jews all over the world) to making that “here to stay” “non-negotiable”.

      Oh wait, “Jon s”, I flew off the handle again. Sorry! Of course Israel is here to stay, after all, as you, yourself tell us:

      “In Israel there’s a rising tide of racism , xenophobia and anti-democratic tendencies, especially (though not exclusively) among the Orthodox Jews.” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/jon-s/20#sthash.wZUMZ8Rz.dpuf

      And how can a “rising tide” like that not insure Israel’s longevity, “Jon s”?

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 5, 2015, 8:27 pm

      “The reality is that Israel is a fact , here to stay, it’s existence is non-negotiable.”

      So the Hartman Institute can stop wasting its money on those trips and meet-ups and “dialog” (pace Witty)? Why raise Palestinian expectations? You’ll have to dash them later. Unless you are having fun fooling them or something.

    • eljay
      eljay
      May 5, 2015, 8:53 pm

      || jon s: The reality is that Israel is a fact , here to stay, it’s existence is non-negotiable. ||

      I agree that Israel is here to stay.

      But supremacist “Jewish State” has got to go. (No state has a right to exist as a supremacist state.)

      And Israel needs to get serious about:
      – ending its 60+ years and on-going occupation of Palestine;
      – withdrawing to within its/Partition borders;
      – honouring its obligations under international law;
      – accepting responsibility and accountability for its past and on-going (war) crimes; and
      – entering into sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace.

      Justice, accountability and equality. Not just “peace”.

    • talknic
      talknic
      May 9, 2015, 7:39 pm

      jon s “The reality is that Israel is a fact , here to stay, it’s existence is non-negotiable”

      Wonderfull, now, how about Israel scoot outta other folk’s territories and go live in its own territory for once. It’s never been tried

      “The challenge is achieving peace , securing a Palestinian state, making Israel more democratic, with more social justice and less inequality…a long list of objectives”

      How about Israel scoot outta other folk’s territories as required by law and go live in its own territory for once. It’s never been tried

  11. Mooser
    Mooser
    May 5, 2015, 6:56 pm

    Oh, BTW, “Jon s”, just so we know where you are coming from, can we assume all the settlement and the occupation of Jerusalem are “here to stay” and “non-negotiable”? And Gaza, of course, where Hamas is “responsible for the civilian casualties”

    Judea and Sumeria, greater Israel, “here to stay” and “non-negotiable”. You of course, are including those, aren’t you?

    Some leftist.

    Well, at least a few brave people are willing to fight the rise of Orthodox racism and fascism!
    Perhaps that will make you feel better.

  12. Interested Bystander
    Interested Bystander
    May 6, 2015, 11:39 am

    @Mooser. Well, yes. We do what we can. You’ve been making entertaining, funny, and sarcastic comments on MW for years. Sounds like gradualism to me. The Judt binational state article has been around for 12 years, and we’re still trying to get it some purchase. It’s true. A damnably slow process.

    • just
      just
      May 6, 2015, 11:54 am

      Who is “we”, Interested Bystander?

      And what do you mean by:

      “The Judt binational state article has been around for 12 years, and we’re still trying to get it some purchase.”

      It stands on its own, doesn’t it?

      • Interested Bystander
        Interested Bystander
        May 7, 2015, 3:04 am

        @Just. Thanks. Yes, the Judt article stands on its own. That is the point I was trying to make.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 6, 2015, 12:59 pm

      “You’ve been making entertaining, funny, and sarcastic comments on MW for years”

      Yes, it’s a failing of mine. There’s really no excuse for it.

      “A damnably slow process.”

      Gosh, I wonder why.

      • Interested Bystander
        Interested Bystander
        May 6, 2015, 1:38 pm

        “Gosh, I wonder why?”

        That’s a question worth asking seriously. And smart sarcasm is not a failing. But turning this ship around will require more.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 6, 2015, 3:09 pm

        “But turning this ship around will require more.”

        Aye, aye, Captain! You get up to the texas and grab the helm. As for me, I can’t see the Plimsoll line any more. You’re foundering, cap, and if you don’t mind, Capn, I’ll just lower this lifeboat and be on my way.

        And it doesn’t It doesn’t look like “ship” to me

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 8, 2015, 12:32 am

        “And smart sarcasm is not a failing.”

        Huh? You don’t think so? Okay, try it some time and see. No skin off my nose.

  13. Interested Bystander
    Interested Bystander
    May 7, 2015, 3:00 am

    “Plimsoll line”

    @Moooser. I apologize. I do earnest like you do sarcastic because I can’t help myself. But the “more” is not appropriate as a criticism of you. We certainly need more than you do or I do.

    If the freighter metaphor refers to the movement supporting Zionism in the U.S. (which is what I was speaking of) what would it mean for the ship to be riding below the Plimsoll line? Wouldn’t it be good for that ship to be foundering? It’s not foundering, and that’s the problem. But you say I’m foundering. That’s another matter. You apply a misnomer, because I certainly don’t fancy myself as captain of the Zionist ship, nor captain of an anti-Zionist row-boat. I am, after all, a mere interested bystander. As for your life-boat? I thought you were never on the ship; you say you couldn’t stand it since Hebrew school? So I can’t say I’m following that life-boat metaphor.

  14. Mooser
    Mooser
    May 7, 2015, 4:26 am

    “We certainly need more than you do or I do.”

    I’m sorry, who is “we”? And don’t give me that “need” stuff. Just come out and tell me what you think I owe you.

    ” I am, after all, a mere interested bystander.”

    Yes, that is very apparent. You’ve got some kind of interest. What is it?
    I’d be more likely to trust a disinterested bystander.

  15. Interested Bystander
    Interested Bystander
    May 7, 2015, 11:03 am

    “You’ve got some kind of interest. What is it?”

    I’m interested in Israel/Palestine because I’ve been married to the same Jew for 36 years. She’s great. As a result I do Jewish stuff. I try to engage with it and my Jewish friends and family. And I see that Zionism is an open sore in Judaism. And as I turn towards that I see that Israel has and is doing wrong by the Palestinians. And I would like Israel and the Jews to fix that. I say the Jews because I note that Zionism is tied up with the identity of Jews in this country; at least the one’s I know and meet and read. And I’m trying to learn, and understand.

    • annie
      annie
      May 7, 2015, 12:11 pm

      bystander, you say the judt article stands on it’s own, and i agree with you that it does. it also just so happens to be entirely prescient and penned by a great scholar now deceased. but curiously you don’t see what others see as obvious. which is the phenomena of an influential public figure writing in a public forum 5 years after judt’s death that judt didn’t really mean that based on a personal conversation between freedland and judt that allegedly took place during a whiskey induced confessional over a decade ago that debunks what freedland himself coins as judt’s “most notorious essay”.

      to me, this is a classic case of if you can’t beat em, co-op em. because only freedland has the keys to what judt really meant. he’s set himself up as the gatekeeper of tony judt. and you don’t find it offensive. needless to say freedland had plenty of time as well as access to publish his claims while judt was still alive — but he didn’t.

      it reminds me of camera making claims about what martin said after he was dead. not only that, he claimed it was written in an article of a magazine pre web, that no one seemed to have a copy of. an article also penned by — a dead man!

      if the article, as you say, stands on it’s own. freedland is free to write all the commentary he wants about it. but claiming the author wouldn’t have written that for an american readership is an insult to our intelligence. all it does is provide fodder for future fights about judt’s prescience. throwing crap on the wall to sully the integrity of his essay. so, it makes no sense to me you would defend freedland.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 7, 2015, 4:17 pm

      “because I’ve been married to the same Jew for 36 years.”

      Oh well, you’ve got me beat, you are way ahead of me. I’ve been married to the same person for only 26 years.

      Annie, a “gatekeeper”? Hows about grave-robber. Freedland would see Mr. Judt “articulated”.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      May 7, 2015, 6:51 pm

      “I note that Zionism is tied up with the identity of Jews in this country ”

      And for once I am not going to ask you which country you mean by “this country”, since your claim seems to apply in a lot of countries.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        May 8, 2015, 12:19 am

        “I note that Zionism is tied up with the identity of Jews in this country ”

        Like a strict ban on out-marriage, and a rigorous adherence to the most basic religious strictures, like kashruth and all the ritual purification rites. Couldn’t live without it.
        Just like the Jewish self-sequestering which ensures the unity of the community, it’s essential!

        And since no-one has been able to come up with any ordinary reasons of self-interest, or display an enhanced self-image conferred by professing Zionism, or perceive any social or political advantage conferred by professing Zionism, or discover any way in which expressing anti- or even Zionist-critical beliefs or questionings might disadvantage a person involved in the Jewish community, we can be quite sure the identification with Zionism comes from the deepest well-springs of our souls! In fact, from an overmastering dedication to sacrifice!
        And please, don’t tell me that every single American Jew, even if he or she was born into a Zionist family, and got nothing but nachos from Zionism all their lives, hasn’t given Zionism all the thought and reflection the subject deserves, hasn’t sought to look at the problems from all points of view, and hasn’t taken into their foremost considerations the people effected most by Zionism, the Palestinians! We don’t just go along and get along, like some other people!

  16. Interested Bystander
    Interested Bystander
    May 7, 2015, 12:31 pm

    Thanks, Annie. I’m not defending Freedland. I just did not read the ulterior motive (to undermine the ’03 article) that Phil saw. Freedland is writing his book review and he’s entitled to his anectote like the next man. Others, above in this thread, shared anectotes about Judt, as did Phil. It all is a bit like fighting over relics. The real defense of that article is “the things Judt said were and remain true because….”. Whether he died believing them or not is really just trivia.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      May 7, 2015, 9:47 pm

      Freedland is writing his book review and he’s entitled to his anectote [so] like the next man

      No, he’s not. He is a known Zionist propaganda agent. Nothing coming out of him can be seen as reliable given the 100% likelihood that it is propaganda material calculated to distort, dissemble and harm his enemies, to which this site belongs. And no, it’s not “just trivia” the moment a propaganda agent gets into it.

  17. joemowrey
    joemowrey
    May 10, 2015, 3:36 pm

    “This is horseshit.”

    Hah! Gotta love it. Thanks for your directness, Phil. It’s always refreshing.

  18. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    May 12, 2015, 2:56 pm

    Freeland seems to say that Judt, in the light of his implying that he would have used less vehement language for a British audience, was revealing not only that his intention was to shock a specifically American audience out of its complacency but also that he wanted, by this shock, to warn of what would happen were the 2ss to fail. The first of these points is credible enough, but it concerns changes of tone and style, not of substance: that doesn’t in fact mean that Judt was not firmly attached to his apparent 1ss preferences.
    It doesn’t even prove that he wasn’t dogmatic in the sense of refusing to listen to counterarguments: I think that in fact he wasn’t, but this seems to be generally agreed in any event and does not need to be demonstrated by what he said to Freeland. So far, though, this doesn’t discredit Freeland: by assuring us that Judt was undogmatic he may indeed be encouraging his liberal Zionist readers to consider afresh what Judt had to say.
    His further statement is that Judt is trying to warn of what would happen if the 2ss collapsed. Does this misrespresent Judt’s explicit statements not that the 2ss might soon but that it had already come to the point of collapse: very different? Judt’s tone at this point is not ‘vehement’ but rather reserved and Anglo: ‘I suspect that it is too late’: for this he goes on to give reasons. Freeland interprets ‘I suspect it is too late’ as ‘For God’s sake don’t let it be too late!’ I suppose that this is within the possible range of intended effects of the words. But I don’t think that the context gives Freeland any support: and without that support, I think it is Freeland who is being dogmatic.
    I don’t admire Judt’s analysis as much as most do – that’s to say that his basic idea that the 2ss was possible at one time is in my view quite misleading.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      May 16, 2015, 1:37 pm

      “I don’t admire Judt’s analysis as much as most do – that’s to say that his basic idea that the 2ss was possible at one time is in my view quite misleading.”

      Maybe, perhaps Judt was not correct. That still doesn’t give Freedland grave-robbing privileges.

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