- James McKendree Wall October 24, 2022
- WW Film of the Week: The Best of Enemies June 19, 2020
- Churches’ Role In Forming the Movie Ratings System, Plus Violence Within Our Land May 28, 2020
- Revising Gertrude Bell’s Final Journey May 23, 2020
- “Lift Every Voice” May 17, 2020
- “The Straight Story”: A Film For Now May 2, 2020
Blogs I Follow
Daily Archives: October 21, 2009
Tony Judt Still Fights to Expose Israel’s “Inconvenient Truths”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty of Judt http://tinyurl.com/ybcdw47/
Ali Abunimah’s One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse
Amos Alon writings http://www.nybooks.com/authors/16
Israel continues to mock its American patron, building illegal settlements in cynical disregard of the “road map.” The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.”
Israelis themselves grimly await the next bomber. Palestinian Arabs, corralled into shrinking Bantustans, subsist on EU handouts. On the corpse-strewn landscape of the Fertile Crescent, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, and a handful of terrorists can all claim victory, and they do. Have we reached the end of the road? What is to be done?
A huge community of leftleaning New Yorkers turned out because Judt has been so important, and this public act was one of leadership. As he has done on other occasions, he pulled aside the curtains and the wings to show that the little world we are used to accepting is not necessarily the world of history. It is the world of recent “opinion.” . . .
It was in the end a thrilling spiritual message, forged by Judt’s own misery, and a challenge to our creativity, to break the chains of established opinion and tell a different story about history.
In a New York Times column, written in June of this year, Judt cut to the heart of the phony diplomatic game the US an Israel have been playing over “freezing” settlement growth
He concluded his column:
President Obama faces a choice. He can play along with the Israelis, pretending to believe their promises of good intentions and the significance of the distinctions they offer him. Such a pretense would buy him time and favor with Congress. But the Israelis would be playing him for a fool, and he would be seen as one in the Mideast and beyond.
Alternatively, the president could break with two decades of American compliance, acknowledge publicly that the emperor is indeed naked, dismiss Mr. Netanyahu for the cynic he is and remind Israelis that all their settlements are hostage to American goodwill. He could also remind Israelis that the illegal communities have nothing to do with Israel’s defense, much less its founding ideals of agrarian self-sufficiency and Jewish autonomy. They are nothing but a colonial takeover that the United States has no business subsidizing.
But if I am right, and there is no realistic prospect of removing Israel’s settlements, then for the American government to agree that the mere nonexpansion of “authorized” settlements is a genuine step toward peace would be the worst possible outcome of the present diplomatic dance. No one else in the world believes this fairy tale; why should we? Israel’s political elite would breathe an unmerited sigh of relief, having once again pulled the wool over the eyes of its paymaster. The United States would be humiliated in the eyes of its friends, not to speak of its foes. If America cannot stand up for its own interests in the region, at least let it not be played yet again for a patsy.
Judt, who teaches at New York University, is known as a combative writer and reviewer, and this reputation is confirmed by his new collection of pieces, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, which opens with the trouncing of a recent biographer of Koestler for being, among other things, priggishly obsessed with his subject’s sex life. Over the years, Judt has been notable, in particular, for his acid dismissals of “romantic” communists and their fellow travellers. Many of his targets have been French intellectuals – he has ripped into Sartre numerous times – but in Reappraisals he also, from his own position on the left, accuses Eric Hobsbawm of being a “mandarin” and calls the much loved EP Thompson a “sanctimonious, priggish Little Englander”.
But by far the biggest tumults Judt has caused have followed an essay he published five years ago, entitled “Israel: The Alternative”, which opened with the notion that “the president of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line”, and went on to contend that the time had come to “think the unthinkable” – the bringing to an end of Israel as a Jewish state, and the establishment in its place of a binational state of Israelis and Palestinians.
But whereas his anti-communism sat comfortably with mainstream liberal opinion in America, his early opposition to the Iraq war threw him out of alignment with his usual allies, who were still rallying around the president following the terrorist attacks.
He raised hackles by labelling liberal commentators in America – including New Yorker editor David Remnick, Michael Ignatieff and Paul Berman – Bush’s “useful idiots”.
The problem with Israel, in short, is not—as is sometimes suggested—that it is a European “enclave” in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late. 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.
In one vital attribute, however, Israel is quite different from previous insecure, defensive microstates born of imperial collapse: it is a democracy. Hence its present dilemma. Thanks to its occupation of the lands conquered in 1967, Israel today faces three unattractive choices. It can dismantle the Jewish settlements in the territories, return to the 1967 state borders within which Jews constitute a clear majority, and thus remain both a Jewish state and a democracy, albeit one with a constitutionally anomalous community of second-class Arab citizens.
Alternatively, Israel can continue to occupy “Samaria,” “Judea,” and Gaza, whose Arab population—added to that of present-day Israel—will become the demographic majority within five to eight years: in which case Israel will be either a Jewish state (with an ever-larger majority of unenfranchised non-Jews) or it will be a democracy. But logically it cannot be both.
Or else Israel can keep control of the Occupied Territories but get rid of the overwhelming majority of the Arab population: either by forcible expulsion or else by starving them of land and livelihood, leaving them no option but to go into exile. In this way Israel could indeed remain both Jewish and at least formally democratic: but at the cost of becoming the first modern democracy to conduct full-scale ethnic cleansing as a state project, something which would condemn Israel forever to the status of an outlaw state, an international pariah. Israel: The Alternative
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