Tony Judt Talk Cancelled After

Tony Judt Talk Cancelled after Pressure from Israel Lobby

There was a virtual news blackout on the debate at Cooper Union recently on the influence of the Israel Lobby. The video of the debate, which included John Mearsheimber, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Rashid Khalidi, is now available on the Web. Despite the widespread interest sparked by the Mearsheimer and Walt article on the Israel lobby in the London Review of Books last spring, no major news outlet bothered to cover this important debate, nor was it on C-Span.

See also Stephen Walt’s recent op-ed on what is wrong with Bush’s foreign policy. The answer: muscular unilateralism.

The Walt-Mearsheimer thesis, by the way, is the answer to Gideon Levy’s question of why the US is so useless in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Eisenhower threatened Ben Gurion with calling in American loans to the Israeli government in 1956. Ike could have and would have. The Israel lobby would turn on the Republican Party in an instant if Bush tried that with Olmert, as senior Bush found out, and would be very effective in working Congress to undermine the president. Therefore, Bush doesn’t do it. And since the Israeli Right only makes peace under US pressure, peace doesn’t get made. And the vicious circle goes on, building rage and hate that will probably get more US cities blown up eventually.

The Israel lobby has tried to set it up so that not only within the Jewish community but also in wider American society, questioning a rightwing form of Zionist nationalist propaganda is a taboo. This is so even though no other nationalist ideology, whether that of Serbia or that of Argentina, is off-limits from criticism in the United States. There is a difference between a sane patriotism and a virulent nationalism. Zionism is just a form of Jewish nationalism, and can be either healthy or unhealthy, depending on which form it takes. Mearsheimer and Walt are critical of the virulent form of the phenomenon. Being virulent, it doesn’t take kindly to criticism. It is not distinctive in this regard. Have you ever argued with a Serbian or Argentine virulent nationalist? Or an American one, for that matter?

New York University historian Tony Judt had his talk cancelled by the Polish consulate after pressure from the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Tony Judt supports a binational state in Israel and Palestine and peace between Israel and its neighbors, and thinks the Israel lobby is too powerful in determining the perimeters of the debate over Israeli policies in the United States.

AJC and ADL called the Polish consulate, on the premises of which Judt was scheduled to talk for another organization. Why were they calling? To shoot the breeze? No, to put pressure. (The unspoken threat here is to turn the diplomatic and media spotlight on whatever Polish role there was in the Holocaust). Then when Judt went public about the successful pressure that had been applied, the AJC and the ADL actually accused him of retailing wild conspiracy theories. Then AJC, at least, admitted the phone call.

If a binational state is offensive to Judt’s critics, then they had better get used to being offended. By 2030, Israel’s own census bureau projects that about 30 percent of Israeli citizens will be Arabs if current birthrates hold. (If the Russian immigrants who came in the early 1990s, half of whom are not in any way Jewish, went back in any numbers, that statistic would be achieved even faster).

Just as the 1920s French dream of a Christian-dominated Lebanon foundered on demographic movements in the region, so the 1930s Zionist dream of a Jewish Palestine has become increasingly problematic. Already at the level of first-graders, there is an Arab majority in the territories that made up the British Mandate of Palestine.

The only way to avert this outcome–which would certainly produce an Israel very unlike the current one and an Israel unacceptable to far-right Likudniks with a soft spot for Stern Gang terrorism like Binyamin Netanyahu or current Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni–is either genocide against the Israeli Arabs or ethnic cleansing of them. I think an ethnic cleansing of the Israeli Arabs would be the nail in the coffin for Israeli relations with Europe, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Israel can thrive with the support of only one country (the United States).

This issue is quite apart from the ongoing brutalization of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by the Israeli military or from the concerted effort of Israel to keep the Palestinians in a slave-like condition of statelessness.

The ADL has long spied on and harassed critics of the Israeli right wing, including those who criticized Israel’s alliance in the 1980s with the Apartheid regime in South Africa. (The ADL office in San Francisco even helped the old racist South African government keep tabs on its critics.)

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