IS OUT OF THE BOTTLE.
There is still an ongoing debate raging in anti-war and left circles concerning Israel and Zionism, and the Jews, that generates much heat and recriminations, especially towards those of us who insist on the right to critically examine all this, and especially Zionist/Israeli behaviours in the Middle East, indeed the latter's very legitimacy as an entity, and what many of us consider its crimes against the Palestinian people. So is daring to critique Israel, and the Zionist movement as a distinct ideological element within international Jewry anti-semetic, or is it not, is it not a legitimate intellectual right which folks generally must have? (Along with the right to examine and critique all other elements of social , religious and political life.)
Well, it turns out we gentile critics of Israel share a discussion and set of disagreements currently raging within the Jewish religion/community itself.
The Observer February 11, 2007
The new Jewish question : A furious row has been raging in the international Jewish community over the rights and wrongs of criticising Israel. At its centre is a British historian who accuses his fellow Jews in the US of stifling any debate about Israel. His opponents say his views give succour to anti-Semites. One thing's for sure: any appearance of consensus over the Middle East has been shattered.
By Gaby Wood
On 3 October last year, the distinguished British-born historian Tony Judt was preparing for a public lecture when the telephone rang. He was due to give the talk, entitled 'The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy', at the Polish consulate in New York in less than an hour. The caterers were already there. But when he picked up the phone he was informed that his lecture had been suddenly cancelled.
He was also told that Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was on the phone to the Polish consul. Whether the call from the ADL was the cause of the cancellation would become the subject of heated debate in the days and months to come. Foxman labelled such accusations 'conspiratorial nonsense'; however, the Polish consul, Krzysztof Kasprzyk, later acknowledged that he had been contacted by a number of Jewish groups - including the ADL and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) - who were concerned about Judt's anti-Israel message.
'The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure,' Kasprzyk said. It didn't take him long to see how it might look for Poland, given its history, to be fostering arguments that in certain spheres of American intellectual life have been conflated with anti-Semitism.
'They do what the more tactful members of the intelligence services used to do in late Communist society,' Tony Judt says of the ADL when I speak to him from his home in New York. 'They point out how foolish it is to associate with the wrong people. So they call up the Poles and they say: Did you know that Judt is a notorious critic of Israel, and therefore shading into or giving comfort to anti-Semites?'
It seems to me though, unless we are prepared to give Jewish and non-Jewish, typically Christian supporters of Zionism carte blanche world control over what are and are not allowed as critical intellectual discussions, around a major issue that threatens the entire world with all out, even never-ending war, that what is legitimate "critical" positions for some Jews to take vis a vis Israel/Palestine is no less so for the rest of us. Unless this New World Order which the US Empire and its Zionist/Israeli allies are attempting to forcibly put in place is to simply and unquestionably be surrendered to. Which I am not.
And there is no position that I advocate, for example, even questioning the legitimacy of the original establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine itself, in compensation for a European holocaust crime against the Jews, and carrying out now its own holocaust upon the entirely innocent Palestinians, that is not similarly raised by many Jews themselves.
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, spokesman for Neturei Karta International, a world wide organization of anti - Zionist Orthodox Jews said in a public prayer recently, “the day should soon arrive when the Zionist enterprise – the State of “Israel” - will be peacefully dismantled and Jews and their Palestinian neighbours will live together in a Palestinian state in peace. Ultimately the world should merit to see the glory of the Creator excepted by all. AMEN”
Amen, I say to that as well. I an atheist agree with this Orthodox Jew and his organization.
Philip Weiss, a bold polemicist whose New York Observer blog, MondoWeiss, has been besieged by posts on the subject since he addressed it last week, has even gone so far as to declare a new movement. His account of it embraces the new forum for dissent, Independent Jewish Voices, which was launched in Britain last week by an eminent group that includes Eric Hobsbawm and Harold Pinter. In launching its manifesto, Independent Jewish Voices has taken the 40th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occasion to create 'a climate and a space in which Jews of different affiliations and persuasions can express their opinions about the actions of the Israeli government without being accused of disloyalty or being dismissed as self-hating.' One of its founding principles is: 'The battle against anti-Semitism is vital and is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic.' 'A lot of people, like Tony Judt, have been doing brave work here in the US for a while,' Weiss tells me. 'What has happened specifically is that for once, the mainstream is paying attention.'
He dates the beginning of this back to last March, when an explosive article about the influence of the Israel lobby on American foreign policy, written by two American political scientists, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, was published in the London Review of Books (having originally been turned down by the Atlantic Monthly). The response to the piece was so overwhelming - and so coloured by accusations of anti-Semitism - that the LRB decided to host a debate on the subject in New York last September. That debate was sold out; Tony Judt, one of the speakers, gave an exceptionally eloquent performance, in the course of which he said it was significant that the event had been hosted by a London publication. Public conversation on the issue had been so absent in America, he suggested, that it could only be opened up by importation.
'When Walt and Mearsheimer were published in London,' Philip Weiss continues, 'I said: something's changing.' Since then, the publication of former president Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, and the attention given to Rosenfeld's accusations in his AJC article, have proved, in Weiss's view, that 'there's no question that something has changed. One of the excitements of what's going on right now is that people who have had feelings about this and have not expressed them are popping up all over. It's personally very stirring to me that this is happening. I can't believe it.'
In fact, the debate is so current that the online magazine Slate has come up with a quiz entitled 'Are You A Liberal Anti-Semite?' (Sample question: 'Which state's offences against humanity bother you most? a) Sudan b) Israel c) Massachusetts'.) One of the prizes is dinner with Tony Judt.
Tony Judt is, in the words of a fellow historian, 'one of our most dazzling public intellectuals'. As a prominent professor at New York University and a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, the New York Times and The Nation, he has a strong and widely heard voice. His latest book, Postwar - a magnificent, opinionated and vast history of Europe since 1945 - was voted one of the 10 best books of last year by the New York Times. A talented forger of links between thinkers from countries all over the world, Judt worked tirelessly after 1989 to bring together eastern European and American intellectuals, and he solidified these efforts by founding the Remarque Institute at NYU in 1995 to promote the study and discussion of Europe in America. A natural polemicist, he brought with him to New York an Oxbridge tradition more pugnacious than is generally characteristic of American academic life, and found himself - after years spent concentrating on European history - drawn back into an engagement with the Middle East.
In 2003, Judt wrote an articulately provocative piece for the New York Review of Books entitled 'Israel: The Alternative', in which he argued, among other things, that Israel was 'an anachronism' that was 'bad for the Jews' and should be converted into a binational state. The offices of the New York Review were inundated with letters as a result. Last year, Judt wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in which he argued that America's fear of anti-Semitism when discussing Israel wrought tremendous damage. As the page was about to go to press, the editor rang him up. 'Just one thing,' he said, 'You are Jewish, aren't you?'