TMV’s Dorian DeWind flagged Tony Judt’s op-ed in today’s New York Times as a must-read. I agree with Dorian; I just read it (independently of Dorian’s recommendation; I just happened to see it at Memeorandum), and it’s a tonic for the polarized discussion that is the usual fare on this subject.
What is even more interesting than the op-ed itself (at least in my view) is the response to it on the right (the left, for the most part, has not responded — the link on Memeorandum to Mondoweiss goes to a post that is unrelated to Judt’s piece, for some reason unknown to someone like me who does not at all get how these algorithms work).
In a word, the conservative response ranges from dismissive to contemptuous. Here is a rundown:
- Jonathan Tobin at Commentary refers to Judt’s analysis as “specious cliches”:
Once again today the New York Times devoted the largest share of its op-ed page to an attack on Israel, as author and academic Tony Judt attempted to set the paper’s readers straight on what he considers the tired clichés of the Middle East. But as was the case with previous occupiers of this space, such as Michael Chabon, Judt flies under false colors. He affects a pose of Olympian detachment while treating both anti-Israel and pro-Israel arguments with equal disdain. This “plague on both your houses” approach seems reasonable on its face but it is utterly disingenuous.
- Meryl Yourish, referring to Judt’s piece as “new cliches,” writes:
If Michael Chabon’s reflections on Jewish and Israeli stupidity weren’t offensive enough, now the New York Times gives another Jewish anti-Zionist, Tony Judt a few hundred more words of op-ed space to express his contempt for Israel.
- Avi Green at The Astute Bloggers quotes Phylis Chesler making a classic strawman argument — she raises a defense of Tony Judt that no one has made, and uses it to knock down the arguments he does make:
Phyllis Chesler found the notorious professor Tony Judt mouthing hostility to Israel in the NY Times, and at the end of his op-ed, demanding that the US sever its ties with Israel. Chesler also notes an important thing about Judt:
Many will say: Judt himself is Jewish, thus his piece cannot be anti-Semitic.
Oh yes it can. If women can be sexists and we are, we are; we have internalized sexist values just as men have—read my book Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman to understand the phenomenon; if dark-skinned people can be racists and they can be; they, too have internalized preferences either for light-skinned or for dark-skinned people; then surely, Jews, an imperfect “perfect” people can internalize anti-Semitism/Judeophobia.
Just last night in New York City, a Jewish man, Brooklyn-born Adam Shapiro, who is the founder of Free Gaza and the co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement—the very man who, in 2002, stayed with Arafat in Ramallah when he was under seige, spoke in favor of the Turkish “Free Gaza” Flotilla movement; no, he did not factor in the Turkish terrorist mercenaries on board who planned to—and who did—violently and viciously attack the Israeli soldiers. Why would he? Shapiro favors a “violent resistance” to Israel and has written that the demolition of Palestinian homes and the closure of offices servicing Palestinians reminds him of Kristallnacht.
And today, I’ve just read that German Jews (yes, you’ve read that correctly) will be funding a flotilla-like ride to Gaza as well in order to break the Israeli blockade. The German Jews believe that Israel is withholding “candy and children’s food” from Palestinian children.
Well there you have it, if women can be inhuman to one another, and if dark-skinned people can be just as racist as light-skinned, than so too can Jews be bigoted against each other.
- David Bernstein, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy under the sarcastic title, “Tony Judt, Israel Expert,” uses the debating approach I’ll call “the path of least resistance” — find a mistake and use it to discredit the substance of the author’s entire argument:
A certain group of aging and mostly otherwise irrelevant academics have reinvented themselves as prophetic critics of Israel, despite a lack of real knowledge of the relevant subject matter. Mearsheimer and Walt are two; Tony Judt, whose academic specialty is European history, is another. Judt has a rather predictable op-ed in today’s Times, replete with (at best) tendentious contentions (Hamasistan Gaza is a democracy? Really? When are the next elections scheduled?). Most interesting to me, though, was the following addendum:
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 10, 2010
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Israel has a written constitution.
If you don’t know enough about Israel to know that it doesn’t have a written constitution–a very significant omission that comes up all the time in debates over a vast array of Israeli policies–and, indeed, are so confident that Israel does have a written constitution that you don’t, say, bother to even check Wikipedia before you submit an op-ed to the Times, you have no business writing such op-eds, and no one should take your views about Israel seriously. [Okay, that last bit may have been too harsh; but it certainly detracts from Judt’s credibility.]
UPDATE: To give you a sense of why Judt’s error is so egregious, imagine that Judt had been writing a series of controversial essays critical of the U.S. and its system of government, and had mentioned that the “U.S. has no written Constitution.”
Which, of course, doesn’t really explain why Judt’s error was so egregious at all.
The only conclusion I can draw from all this is that a good many of the people who consistently complain that Israel’s critics are never willing to see Israel’s side of the story are themselves not willing to see anything but Israel’s side of the story. If you are not totally anti-Palestinian, you are pro-Palestinian. If you do not support everything Israel does and says, you are an anti-Semite or an apologist for anti-Semites. If you do not uncritically praise or defend Israel whenever a deadly confrontation like the Gaza aid flotilla incident occurs, then you are condemning Israel.
All of which leaves me thinking about Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren’s self-pitying whine: “If we’re going to be called war criminals no matter what we do, then maybe that changes our thinking.” — and wanting to echo it in reverse: If even the mildest and most even-handed criticism of Israel is going to be interpreted as anti-Semitic, anti-Israel poison, then maybe that establishes beyond doubt that Israel is the biggest obstacle to peace in its conflict with the Palestinians.