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Judt Argues for End to ‘Special Relationship’

Prominent intellectual calls Israel ‘strategic liability’

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Tony Judt.(Charlie Rose)

The historian and public intellectual Tony Judt published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the elimination of the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship.” He would replace it with an alliance like those the United States enjoys with many diplomatic allies.

Judt has been one of the most prominent advocates of a so-called “one-state solution”—the establishment of a single, binational state in Israel and the Palestinian territories—since writing an attention-grabbing essay in the New York Review of Books in 2003. Which is why this op-ed will get more attention, from both right and left, than had Joe Anonymous penned it. (Shmuel Rosner, for example, has already responded.)

Judt bases his central contention around the thesis that the United States’s super-closeness to Israel, combined with ill will stemming from the continued irresolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, actually hinders the United States from achieving several important regional goals, such as managing Iraq and Afghanistan and reining in Iran. For example, for all those things it helps to have Turkey on one’s side:

Along with the oil sheikdoms, Israel is now America’s greatest strategic liability in the Middle East and Central Asia. Thanks to Israel, we are in serious danger of “losing” Turkey: a Muslim democracy, offended at its treatment by the European Union, that is the pivotal actor in Near-Eastern and Central Asian affairs. Without Turkey, the United States will achieve few of its regional objectives … .

In other places, this line of argument has been referred to (usually not in a friendly manner) as “linkage” thesis.

In his article, Judt makes six additional points, in the form of debunked “clichés”:

• Attempts to wish Israel away are wrong (“Israel is not going away, nor should it”), but Israeli attempts to counter “de-legitimization” are counter-productive.

• Though a democracy, Israel “discriminates against non-Jews” and strongly discourages dissent.

• Due to its long history of neighbors that deny its right to exist, Israel has adopted a “pathological” tendency to turn to the use of force. Eventually, though, it will have to negotiate, including with Hamas.

• Before 1967, the Arabs were the mostly intransigent ones; since 1967, the Jews have been. Though terrorism is “morally indefensible,” Israel, as the vastly more powerful actor, ought to be more conscientious of Palestinian grievances and demands so that it wouldn’t come to it.

• The Israel Lobby has done no more—in fact, has done less—“damage” to the United States than the gun, oil, and banking lobbies. Yet, it is “disproportionately powerful,” and not all criticism of it is anti-Semitic.

• “Criticism of Israel, increasingly from non-Israeli Jews, is not predominantly motivated by anti-Semitism. The same is true of contemporary anti-Zionism.” And in fact, attempting to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism will backfire.

Israel Without Clichés
Related: Linked In [Tablet Magazine]
Israel: The Alternative [NYRB]
Earlier: In and Out of Love With Zionism
Iron Man

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The USA has a well known policy of not negotiating with terrorists. There is a good reason for this policy. Terrorists can’t be trusted. Yet at the same time, the US has for decades negotiating with the Palestinians. This has never worked. Why hasn’t it? Because they are terrorists, period. Are you offended at my political incorrectness? Check you historical FACTS. Do I believe there are some Palestinians who aren’t terrorists? Yes, this may be true, because these peace-loving people, anomalous to the way they have been brought up, are born with the ability to know evil when they see it. Good children who grow up to be responsible citizens, fair and honest have been born to evil parents, and visa versa. Still, as a whole, negotiations will never work. The proof is that negotiations haven’t worked. Israel understands what they are dealing with. Despite Israel’s efforts to appease the US by continually going to the negotiating table, they go knowing that nothing offered will ever appease the Palestinians. Not only that, but anything the Palestinians agreed to, they didn’t follow through with. As with all terrorists, what they say and what they do are two wholly different things. Cleverly, like all other anti-Semites, Judt couches his true feelings by the claim of intellectualism. Any true intellectual worth his salt bases his/her opinions on historical accuracy, research, observation, and reasoned argument. Any of the above mentioned items when checked out, will verify my statement about Judt’s anti-Antisemitism. By the way, there are unfortunately many Jewish people currently and historically who due to efforts to be accepted by the larger populist, also speak out against Israel. As to the “pathological tendency to turn to the use of force” mentioned above, if that were true, that it is “pathological”, than the PLO would have already been wiped out. The only reason they haven’t is because Israel understands the need for friendly alliances.

Susan Heitler says:

This man is a traitor to the Jewish people. He does not merit publication. And I lose faith in Tablet seeing you give him legitimacy.

I’m continuing my comments. One reason, a big one at that, the US has tried diplomatic talks, is like Israel, the need for friendly alliances with other countries, who if you don’t actually realize it, either are indifferent to, or don’t want Israel’s Jewish existence. It is beyond naive to believe there will ever be “peace” with the Palestinians. These are the same people who were kicked out of Jordan, and other Arab nations long ago for being trash. While I realize I am as subtle as a tank, I make no apologies for being a truth-teller. People generally don’t want to know, or are afraid of and so don’t want to deal with the truth. So while I realize those of you who are of this ilk will think I am a radical, and/or a proponent of violence or war. I am here to tell you another truth. Do with it what you will. I want world peace, I pray for it, I myself am non-violent, and my writings and teachings, (see my website) promote love, peace, honesty, and real spirituality. Unfortunately, in order to achieve the above, we must first fight evil at every turn. In order to do that we must recognize evil, and then have the courage to stop it. This doesn’t necessarily mean death, it can take the form of prison, or some type of cutting off any way of enabling evil to spread. Sanctions are good theoretically, however due to black market type deals, they don’t work in reality. I truly wish every person in the world would become peaceful, loving, ethical, and wouldn’t allow evil to exist. As an example, the black market wouldn’t exist if there were no buyers. And please, please, please, open your eyes to the fact that the Palestinians as well as other terrorist organizations, teach hatred. What kind of way is that to raise a child? It is the very rare person who grows up in this type of environment and yet actually is a good, peace-loving, ethical, kind person. While some may find my forthrightness blunt, I do this to force you to think and learn.

Amen to Susan! Succinctness is not something I am good at! Kudos to you Susan for cutting right to the point!

I find it incredible that this report in the Tablet runs as if Judt is to be taken seriously. His anti-Israel, anti-Zionist agenda precludes any seriousness of his opinions. To call him a “Prominent intellectual” is like calling Hitler an artist.

Oh I get it, this is a satirical piece. Yeah right! You need to print better pieces then this if you want to continue to be taken seriously. He just re-cycles the same old canard that Finkelstein, Chomsky, Walt and the other bad boys love to rant about.

I have lived in Israel for the past 17 years, including during the Oslo Peace Process, suicide terror attacks, assasination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Second Intifada and Second Lebanon War. In a Utopian world, a single binational state would be a good idea. But only an
ivory tower intellectual removed from the real world
could think that there is any possibility of this happening
in present-day Israel and the Palestinian territories. Mr. Judt and others like him are serving the cause of the Hamas

Tony Judt is the reason I left The New York Review of Books. There is no compromise inhis opinions- just pure rejection of himself.Prior to Erdogun, Turkey was secular and everyone could be religious or not- that is not the case today. Case in point is the burka for women. I have been to the middle east from Turkey,Morocco,Tunisia,Egypt, Israel and into Iran. At one time Iran was fine- now one has to watch oneself.
If Mr. Judt is so unhappy about his status as a moderate bring change upon yourself not the Israeli Jews or the Diaspora Jews. A bigger problem is how opinionated Mr. Judt,is without having historical or religious knowledge of Judaism.Whatever his background was it is deficient in the area of the Jews in the middle east which has existed for over 2,000 years.

Madar Abu Faqar says:

Someone help me out here, please. Why isn’t this piece of drek considered worse than Helen Thomas? Poland and Germany are far more viable for Jews and their survival far more assured in these places today than this man’s abhorrent new final solution.

Howard Rock says:

Tony Judt is one of our best European historians who recently wrote a superb book on modern Europe. He is a deeply leanred man. He has been publishing his memoirs recently in the New York Review of Books, as he slowly loses his life to ALS, revealing that he was named after a cousin who died at Auschwitz. Sometimes it is very hard for Jews to hear any position except the one that they are comfotable with, hard to believe that so many Israelis actually are deeply critical of Israel’s current policies, believing that they are disastrous. Sometimes it takes courage to speak out. It is so easy to just repeat Ad hominem attacks only make the attacker look foolish. the ordianary line over and over. What should the Tablet do, just quote from press releases?

It seems obvious to me that the reason Tony Judt wrote about being named for a cousin who died in Auschwitz is to make is ignorant stance seem credible. The rest of the world may look at his connection to Judaism as an excuse to support his view. He is most definitely not representing the Jewish viewpoint. He doesn’t even represent an informed one.

paul almond says:

Judt is one more antisemitic Jew used by anti semites to legitimize their hatred of Jews. Without the Judts of the world Jews would not be under the sustained attack they’re forced to endure. All we can do is not be bashful in defending Jews and Israel; and criticizing so called “Jewish” papers like Tablet for featuring Jewish haters.

Edmond Malka says:

I must confess, I don’t like to face the predetermined change in the US policy and public opinion.
When considering pure interest, US-Israel relationship in its current form is becoming less and less of
US interest and Mr. Judt expresses it in a logical and efficient manner. It is sad to get to this moment, but we should not drop to emotions and try to listen and learn and maybe prevent the coming change.

This kind of Jewish self-loathing is particularly common among English Jews probably reflective of the virulent anti-Semitism which surrounds them there. Almost all English Jews are either planning to leave or making sure that everyone knows they’re pro-Palestinian.

David Labovitz says:

What’s with it with these self-hating Jews? Is Judt trying to score points with his colleagues at NYU? With his cohorts at J Street? With Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com, who in a spat with Eliot Spitzer argued in defense of Hamas, that it was ‘democratically elected’? It’s unfathomable how these people use lame and specious arguments to beat up on Israel.

sam higgs says:

isn’t TJ supposed to be on his deathbed? shouldn’t his final days involve something other than this continuing obsessive anti-Israel vitriol? Enough Tony, we’ve heard you out for way too long; give it a rest and focus on departing the world…

Steve Siporin says:

I could never understand exactly why Tony Judt’s argument for a “one-state solution” was publicized so much and is still seen as somehow revolutionary and original. Wasn’t that what many of the original Zionist settlers had in mind? A binational socialist state? The point is it didn’t work. Idealistic (naive) Jews wanted it but the Arab leadership did not. It didn’t work a hundred years ago and certainly won’t today. I like what someone called the “24 state solution” better: you get to keep your 23 Moslem states and we get to keep our one Jewish state. (The number may be slightly off.)

The truth is that no matter how brilliant a historian Tony Judt was or is, he is another in a long line of anti-Semitic Jews. As a wise kibbutznik once said to me (and Judt’s recent memoiristic writing even shows his disdain for kibbutzniks in the 1960s), the worst anti-Semites are Jews. Or former Jews. From medieval to modern times, there is a long line of Jews who converted to Christianity and who wrote scathing, ugly treatises against their former fellows. They were smart, even brilliant, in their world, as perhaps Tony Judt is in the field of modern history. But their moral compass went awry.

I, too, wanted to discontinue reading the NYR when I began to see how absolute and consistent their writers–and Tony Judt is only one of them–are in blaming Israel, finding only fault and nothing good—indeed doing all they can to undermine Israel. It was then that I realized I should keep reading, in order to know what the enemy is thinking.

Barak says:

What is most disturbing about Judt is that he supports the right for Palestinian self-determination (Palestinian nationalism/democratic elections/Hamas) while completely decrying Jewish self-determination (Zionism).

Asher says:

There is no worse anti-semite then a self-hating Jew.

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Judt Argues for End to ‘Special Relationship’

Prominent intellectual calls Israel ‘strategic liability’

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