May 24, 2006

OTHER THAN BEING CHOSEN [AND LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIES] WHAT MAKES THEM SO SPECIAL? (via Tom Morin)

America, Israel and Tony Judt (Rick Richman, April 26, 2006, Jewish Press)

After Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer posted an anti-Israel polemic on the website of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government...The New York Times devoted the entire center of its op-ed page to a 1,300 word evaluation by Tony Judt – an NYU professor whose previous essays asserted Israelis were "trapped" in the "story of their own uniqueness;" their "invocation" of the Holocaust was "special pleading;" the term "terrorist" was a "rhetorical device" (comparable to "Communist"); Ariel Sharon had "blackmailed" America; Israel might be described as a "rogue state;" the "fascist" label "fits better than ever;" a Jewish state was an "anachronism" that was "bad for the Jews;" and it "has no place" in the modern world.

Not surprisingly, Judt dismissed assertions of anti-Semitism and raised instead a "pressing question" he asserted we "cannot ignore":

It will not be self-evident to future generations of Americans why the imperial might and international reputation of the United States are so closely aligned with one small, controversial Mediterranean client state. It is already not at all self-evident to Europeans, Latin Americans, Africans or Asians.

Let's rewrite those sentences to put Judt's point in clearer relief, eliminating the tendentious adjectives ("imperial" might and "client" state) as well as the euphemistic one ("Mediterranean" for "Middle East"): Judt cannot understand why the U.S. would closely align its power and prestige with a democratic state under attack in the Middle East, since the state is "small" and "controversial" and unpopular in the world.

Judt's question epitomizes the cynicism and amorality of realism – the school of foreign policy analysis that relies on power and interests as the determinants of international relations, and which values stability above all else.

But Judt is not a foreign policy expert; he is a historian. As a result, a historical answer to his professed puzzlement over America's commitment to Israel may be the best response – using some twentieth century international history, and some American history even older than that.


Intellectuals can';t figure out why Americans have always hated them so much, but note that Mr. Judt's argument, whether anti-Semitic or not, is at least anti-Zionist and therefore a repudiation of the Bible and God, which something like 85% of Americans believe in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2006 8:34 AM
Comments

Judt's 'defense' of Miersheimer and Walt was thoroughly devastated by Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic.

Who do these people think they are writing for? Upper West Side snobs? Closet anti-Semites? White supremacists? John Kerry? Madeleine Albright? Fawning graduate students? Pinch Sulzberger? Jesse Jackson? Hanan Ashwari? The EU? The faculty at Harvard and Chicago? The Saudi royal family?

They must have someone they are trying to influence/impress. I don't think they are succeeding.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 24, 2006 9:04 AM

Who do these people think they are writing for? Upper West Side snobs? Closet anti-Semites? White supremacists? John Kerry? Madeleine Albright? Fawning graduate students? Pinch Sulzberger? Jesse Jackson? Hanan Ashwari? The EU? The faculty at Harvard and Chicago? The Saudi royal family?

Answer is:
(m) All of the above.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 24, 2006 10:22 AM

The list needs to include Jimmy Carter and Michael Moore.

Posted by: ratbert at May 24, 2006 11:10 AM

Judt's a Brit and exhibits all the failings of the European intellectual.

For all the things wrong with American academics, things are much worse over there. For example, there's been no mass movement here, as in Britain recently, to abjure contact even with Israeli academics.

I find it astonishing that Judt, who so ably recounted the perniciousness of post-war Communist intellectuals in France, could claim that there "terrorist" was a "rhetorical device" akin to "Communist". If anyone ought to know better it should be Judt. Sometimes when you cry wolf, there really is a wolf.

But then Judt's always had Israeli on the brain. I watched him on Charlie Rose, on the eve of the Iraq war, peddle the latest pro-Saddam talking point at the time, that we couldn't get rid of Saddam til we had solved the Palestinian problem. Either the man is stupid, or mendacious. Perhaps a combination?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 24, 2006 11:13 AM

A combination.

Israel does that to people.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 24, 2006 12:24 PM

ratbert: Jimmy Carter is an element of the sets "Upper West Side snobs," "Closet anti-Semites," and "the EU." Michael Moore--probably bets fits in the "fawning graduate students" category.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 24, 2006 1:50 PM

Jim in Chicago:

You reflect my feelings almost completely. Judt has one of the most schizophrenic minds I've ever seen -- quite dependable and refreshingly clear-headed on the nature of the old Soviet Union and communism, thoroughly confused and astonishingly nihilistic when it comes to Israel.

He thinks Israel shouldn't even exist, although most of the world has demonstrated a pronounced inability to leave the Jewish people alone. I hate to call him a self-hating Jew (especially since I'm not Jewish), but sheesh, read that first paragraph and give me a better description.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 24, 2006 10:25 PM
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