Thursday, October 12, 2006

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Boy, my tribe can be dumb sometimes

Michael Powell has a story in the Washington Post about how Tony Judt got prevented from speaking at the Polish Consulate last week:

Two major American Jewish organizations helped block a prominent New York University historian from speaking at the Polish consulate here last week, saying the academic was too critical of Israel and American Jewry.

The historian, Tony Judt, is Jewish and directs New York University's Remarque Institute, which promotes the study of Europe. Judt was scheduled to talk Oct. 4 to a nonprofit organization that rents space from the consulate. Judt's subject was the Israel lobby in the United States, and he planned to argue that this lobby has often stifled honest debate.

An hour before Judt was to arrive, the Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk canceled the talk. He said the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee had called and he quickly concluded Judt was too controversial.

"The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure," Kasprzyk said. "That's obvious -- we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that."

Judt, who was born and raised in England and lost much of his family in the Holocaust, took strong exception to the cancellation of his speech. He noted that he was forced to cancel another speech later this month at Manhattan College in the Bronx after a different Jewish group had complained.

I might think Tony Judt is wrong about the Israel Lobby, and I think his one-state solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem borders on delusional, but if the ADL and AJC did what Powell implies, their behavior is absurd, counterproductive, and, frankly, un-American.

If they think Judt is wrong, say so, protest his talk, critique his arguments, the whole megillah -- but preventing him from speaking merely provides fodder for Judt's claim about the stifling of debate in this country.

UPDATE: Suzy Hansen has more background on what happened in the New York Observer. After reading the story, the extent of ADL and AJC pressure is still not clear to me.

posted by Dan on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM



Is it really fair to charge the ADL and AJC with preventing Judt from speaking? How exactly would they have accomplished this? I don't really buy the insinuation that the ADL and AJC threatened to tarnish Poland's reputation if the consulate allowed a third party (Network 20/20) to host a speaker critical of Israel. Maybe if it had been a Holocaust denier, but Tony Judt? Yes, the Poles are ultra-sensitive about anything linking them to antisemitism, but are they so delusional about Jewish power to worry that ADL and AJC would ruin their world standing? So, instead of rushing to blame the Jewish organizations, let's spread the responsibility around a bit. After all, it was the ambassador of a large, sovereign European country who made the decision to cancel the event. Maybe he felt that he was merely being consistent with Poland's foreign policy.

Of course, at the end of the day, I would still have wanted Judt to speak there, so maybe all this is moot.

posted by: Amos on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

"I think his one-state solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem borders on delusional,"

Yeah, right, he is delusional to think that people can share equal civil and political rights, but you (and other right-wingers) are not when you accept stealing the native people's land, oppressing and turning their country into a prison for them, making the majority of them into refugees, attacking the entire region... and dozens of other crimes against humanity...

So let me just explain the one-state solution to you, because you obviously need to hear it. Both people hold claims to all the land of Palestine. Both people live there. But a minority uses force to oppress the native majority and deny them rights of citizenship and peace. Because the palestinians will never give up their claims to the land (just as Jews did not after 2000 years of being Europeans), the most fair and honest way to make peace is to create a single, federal state with at least two regional states. Each state will have the right to make a limited number of local laws (just as michigan and ohio do) but will have to follow the federal laws. All people will have a national citizenship and a local one. All the people would be equal under federal law. They would be allowed to travel anywhere they want within the country, they would be subject to the same judicial system, they would vote in mutual elections...

No one is saying that love will break out between the two groups, but it is the only way to make true peace. With two states, the Palestinian one will always be dominated by the Jewish one. Palestinians will never accept the right of Jews to steal their land and exclude them from it. Arabs and Muslims will continue to hate the Jews until the Jews recognise that they have committed all these crimes. The best way to recognise their criminal history is to share all the land. No Arab or Msulim country would attack Israel if Palestinians had equal rights. The conflict continues because the Jews do not recognise the Palestinians have rights to the land, and because they continue to oppress the Palestinians. A two state solution would not solve either of the problems (though it could create temporary times of less war). A one state solution solves all the issues in the conflict, and can do so in a way that satisfies both group's nationalist demands.

The only obstical is that the Jews currently dominate everything and have no desire to give up anything. But like South Africa, the minority can not always dominate the majority. The South African situation proved that all the idiotic and racist fears of the dominating class were totally wrong. The same is true of the Palestinian/Israeli case.

posted by: Joe M. on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

Daniel -- As an American Israeli (American Jewish immigrant to Israel), I have to say that you are 100% on target.

I just wrote a blog post about it here:

Silencing dissent does not strengthen Israel but only gives its enemies strength.

from that post:

Let me remind you that a portion of the revised Zionist platform (Jerusalem Program of the World Zionist Organization) is about building Israel to be a better society. It states:

3. Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi- faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world.

This requires healthy criticism.

Stop silencing dissent and come to Israel to fix it. Legitimate criticism of Israeli policy with the goal of improving Israel is far more pro-Israel than silencing dissent.

posted by: amechad on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

"The only obstacle is that the Jews currently dominate everything and have no desire to give up anything".

That is the only obstacle? So the Jews would have no reason to believe that their giving up a certain part of their power would lead to their being killed?

The track record for minority populations dominating majority populations is mixed. It is obviously a lot harder though if your method of rule perpetuates and creates additional antagonism.

Given the nature of Judt's proposal I am surprised that the Poles ever invited him to speak. Given their historical involvement with the problem, you would think they would let someone else offer a forum for debate. That they tried I take as positive; that they found the water too hot is unfortunate.

posted by: russell on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

Based on the WaPo story, you are jumping to a conclusion. We do not know what the ADL and the AJC said. Nor do we have a clear statemenmt from Krzysztof Kasprzyk about why he decided to cancel the talk.

There is nothing wrong with the ADL and AJC objecting to Judt, even to objecting to his talk, though he talks in NYC all the time so if that's what they did, it was foolish.

But this sounds as if this could be a set-up by Kasprzyk. His statement is slippery and unclear. More importantly, your conclusion about "preventing him from speaking" are intemperate

posted by: David Sucher on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

"With two states, the Palestinian one will always be dominated by the Jewish one."

Why is that? Are Palestinians not capable of forming an economically-vibrant society/state? Or are you suggesting that the Israelis won't let them? But that once within one state then the Palestinians will be better off because they can depend on the Jews?

posted by: David Sucher on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

The ADL denies putting any pressure on anyone to cancel Judt's speech, and claims that Judt is simply peddling more conspiratorial tripe (at

posted by: William Sjostrom on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

I don't think it's Judt who's "peddling ... conspiratorial tripe." Read the coverage. If anyone is to blame, it is the Polish consul, or the spokesperson for Network 20/20.

posted by: Amos on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

Not that I'm terribly interested, but...

Is it possible that the consulate can legitmately cancel the speech because the purpose of a consulate is to send a particular message (and not to be a forum for debate)? Just as free speech demands that all views be accepted, but doesn't demand that Coca-Cola provide a forum for Pepsi advertising, or that the US State Department provide a forum for Al Quaida spokesmen, is a consulate used to provide a particular message (unlike, say, a University, or bookstore, or other 'public space')?

A serious, non-snarky question.


posted by: Sk on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]


Of course they can cancel the debate. But a willingness to offer a forum for debate sends a message as well. I can think of any number of reasons why Poland would want to at least show an interest in the situation in Israel and thus would be interested in offering a forum for discussion.

Some no doubt view Judt's arguments as beyond the pale and not worthy of discourse. They would probably argue that his proposal would cause the destruction of Israel. Those people object to the consulates allowing him to speak, and view that invitation as displaying a certain hostile intent towards Israel. I suspect that Judt's proposal is not intended as an assault on Israel, but that it is impractical and dangerous. But I think honest proposals deserve an honest hearing.

posted by: russell on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

I think Daniel misses the point.

Why is the ADL so busy complaining about obvious non-anti-Semites? The ADL's ostensible purpose is promoting tolerance of Jews, not Israel.

Unless the two are one and the same, which seems to be the ADL's view.

posted by: faux facsimile on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

Odds on, what condemned Judt was his defense of Walt and Mearsheimer's Protocol of Zion lite.

He didn't defend their right to be racist morons thru fre speech, he defended their THESIS...

Their thesis is racist.

IMHO that doomed him.

I frnakly found his defense to be only slightly less malignant than Chomsky-Faurisson

posted by: epaminondas on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]


posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

Joe M, to put it politely, is either delusional or full of it. The claim tht there would be "peace" if only Jews agreed to be ruled by Arabs is belied by, you know, the behavior of every Arab state in existence.

Ask the Kurds whether they should trust Joe's strategy. Ask the Shia in any majority Sunni state. Ask the Druze.

posted by: David Nieporent on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

What a surprise! The American Jewish community controlling speech on Israel. And we are sure to be lectured by eminent Jewish intellectuals about "justice" in the manifold periodicals and newspapers they inhabit. Welcome to American democracy, Jewish style.

This of course is nothing new.

And then more Holocaust memorials and TV shows and movies and books. More Anne Frank. Just keep controlling the perception.

Walt and Meirsheimer are the true patriots in all of this. And the reaction of the ADL and other Jewish groups who stifle debate debase not only American democracy but Judaism

posted by: mem on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

This is a diplomatic issue, not a free-speech issue. Judt has no automatic free-speech rights to speak at the Polish consulate.
Poland has a long history of anti-Semitism, and has tried valiantly
in recent years to reconcile with the Jewish community. It's entirely understandable that a representative of the Polish government would want to avoid a potentially embarrassing incident by having an opponent of the existence of Israel speak at the Polish consulate. Let's not make too much of this. Judt speaks publicly
all the time, writes his books and his articles, and his rights are
not in danger.

posted by: William Katz on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

J.J. Goldberg from The Forward has some more information here about the whole affair and an interesting interview with Judt. While it may not have been smart for the ADL to get involved, it seems that it was far from what Judt and others are saying.

posted by: Pitman on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

Sorry, my link didn't work well, here it is again. here.

posted by: Pitman on 10.12.06 at 10:34 PM [permalink]

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