BRITISH academic has caused a furore in America by claiming
that Israel is an anachronism that should be replaced by a
secular bi- national state of Jews and Palestinians.
Critics say that it is effectively a call for the
destruction of Israel at a time of increasing anti-semitism.
Tony Judt, a former Oxford history don, writes in the
current issue of The New York Review of Books, a scholarly
journal, that if Israel keeps control of the occupied
territories without resorting to unacceptable ethnic
cleansing, its Jews will soon be outnumbered by
“It is time to think the unthinkable,” he writes.
“Unless something changes, Israel in half a decade will be
neither Jewish nor democratic.”
Judt, a liberal Jew and former kibbutznik who previously
supported the creation of a Palestinian state alongside
Israel, now says that the Middle East peace process is
“finished” and that the notion of a two-state solution is
“probably already doomed”.
The response from supporters of Israel has been furious.
David Frum, former speech writer for President George W
Bush and who helped to invent the term “axis of evil” to
describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea, has denounced Judt’s
article for “genocidal liberalism” that would expose Jews
to slaughter and exile. While his views may sound
“outlandish” to Americans, Frum warns, they represent a
“growing consensus” in Europe.
Judt lives in America where he is a professor of
European studies at New York University. He watched the
World Trade Center burn from his window on September 11,
2001, and wrote then that he had witnessed the birth of the
However, he argues that Bush is drawing America into a
widening Middle East conflict that meets the objectives of
Israel’s foreign policy but is of little use against Al-Qaeda.
“Which war are we fighting?” he asks.
Judt concludes: “The depressing truth is that Israel’s
current behaviour is not just bad for America, though it
surely is. It is not even just bad for Israel, as many
Israelis silently acknowledge. The depressing truth is that
Israel today is bad for the Jews.”
John Podhoretz, a neo- conservative commentator, said:
“It is the definition of intellectual corruption to say I
don’t like the way things are, so I’m going to wish them
away.” A bi-national state was “unthinkable, like
assembling Yugoslavia in the middle of the Bosnian war with
Perceived attacks on Israel tend to provoke a strong
response in America, particularly in New York, which has
the largest concentration of Jewish people outside Israel.
Leon Wieseltier, an old friend of Judt, has written
perhaps the most wounding denunciation of Judt’s arguments
in The New Republic magazine. Calling the article “haughty
and ugly”, he writes: “Judt and his editors have crossed
the line from criticism of Israel’s policy to criticism of
Wieseltier said Judt’s views came “almost as a personal
blow to me”. He believes that Judt has grown tired of being
attacked for Israel’s behaviour. “I detect the scars of
dinners and conferences. He does not wish to be held
accountable for things he has not himself done. Judt is
embarrassed by Israel. And so Israel must be gone.”
A strong supporter of a two-state solution to the crisis
in the Middle East, Wieseltier said: “Tony and I are both
hoping our friendship survives.”