I've received several emails about the alleged efforts to silence Tony Judt whose latest book on post-WWII Europe(see above) I'm reading now. According to the emails and several posts on the blogs, Tony Judt has circulated the following note about an incident that as one of my correspondents was "almost too bizarre to be true."
I [Tony Judt] was due to speak this evening, in Manhattan, to a group called Network 20/20 comprising young business leaders, NGO, academics, etc, from
the US and many countries. Topic: the Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.
The meetings are always held at the Polish Consulate in Manhattan
I just received a call from the President of Network 20/20. The talk was
cancelled because the Polish Consulate had been threatened by the
Anti-Defamation League. Serial phone-calls from ADL President Abe Foxman
warned them off hosting anything involving Tony Judt. If they persisted, he
warned, he would smear the charge of Polish collaboration with anti-Israeli
antisemites (= me) all over the front page of every daily paper in the city
(an indirect quote). They caved and Network 20/20 were forced to cancel.
Whatever your views on the Middle East I hope you find this as serious and
frightening as I do. This is, or used to be, the United States of America
If this is true (and I don't have any reason to doubt it, since it sounds very much like an MO I'm familiar with)then shame on Foxman and those who support him.
For those following the story, I'm posting the following exchange between Peter Beinhart from the New Republican and Judt.
From: Peter Beinart
Date: Friday, October 6, 2006 5:08 pm
Subject: RE: Europeans and Americans
> Dear Tony,
> As an American Jew and an American liberal (since we have
> evidently not been heard from), let me make three points.
> 1) The Anti-Defamation League vehemently denies pressuring the
> Polish consulate to cancel your speech and the Polish consulate
> vehemently denies that it was pressured. I have no way of knowing
> the truth, but it strikes me that the people following this email
> train might not even know of these denials.
> 2) It is also unclear that readers would know that you are on
> record as opposing the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish
> state--a position that I find profoundly misguided and dangerous.
> 3) If the ADL did try to cancel your speech because of your views
> (which they deny), they were dead wrong. No one should interfere
> with your right to speak freely, or anyone else's. Free speech
> must be cherished, especially for views with which we profoundly
> disagree. Allegations of anti-semitism should be reserved for the
> most clear-cut cases and not used to slifle debate. Being
> intensely critical, even unfairly critical, of Israel does not
> make one an anti-Semite. Indeed, opposing the very existence of
> Israel as a Jewish State does not make one an anti-Semite or a
> self-hating Jew. (The Satmar Rebbe, last I checked, opposed
> Israel's existence and is neither). Non-Jews should never be made
> to feel that they are not entitled to express their views about
> Israel passionately and intensely, as long as those views are not
> clearly anti-Semitic in nature.
> I believe deeply in your right to make your case about Israel
> without censorship or inhibition. And as a Zionist, an American
> and a liberal, I fervently hope that your argument does not prevail.
Sent: Fri Oct 06 18:49:12 2006
Subject: Reply to Beinart
Fair enough on the substance of our disagreement - though I've never, as you suggest, 'opposed the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state' (a malicious misreading of my essay spread by, inter alia, the ADL). But I see why some might want me to be tarred thus: I then become, in the words of Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale, NY, an 'Israel-denier' [verbatim quote]. And we know what that is supposed to bring to mind, don't we?
But on the facts of this little storm: Patricia Huntington of the blameless Network 20/20 org that invited me is now on public record as saying the Polish Consul himself told her that the ADL had called (Foxman in person) to help the Consulate 'understand' why I shouldn't be their guest. And the NY Sun daily newspaper got the story seven minutes after she was told by the Consul the event was off (they called me for a comment). Who told them, since they knew in advance? Someone's lying: Ms Huntington? Why? She has no motive. The Consul? Sure - he is himself on record as being worried that my presence would damage his good relations with the American Jewish Community and Poland's good relations with Israel, an appreciation of the subject he acquired in the course of an afternoon of phone calls from the ADL and others, calls he has admitted receiving. When asked by a reporter why he thought 'Judt' might spoil those good relations he refused to respond. Well, he would, wouldn't he?
The ADL? Well, sure, on their website they deny any involvement, claiming never to interfere with free speech and expression. But if you do believe them I'll be happy to send you a copy of the letter their director Abe Foxman himself sent to a major NY commercial publisher not long ago, trying to frighten the senior editor off publishing a certain author/book. His opening line? 'It has come to our attention that you plan to publish, etc,etc..' They never interfere, etc? Peter, please.
Peter, sometimes the news just is unpalatable. The Anti-Defamation League and David Harris's American Jewish Committee work hard behind the scenes in this country, usually in an unattributable way, to minimise, silence or defame anyone who criticizes Israel. Their strongest suit is the charge of anti-semitism. You know that. Call a spade a spade. Jabotinsky and his heirs were Fascists, and just because they were Jews didn't change that one whit. Well, Foxman, Harris and some others in the leadership of 'official' American Jewry are illiberal lying bigots - Fascists, as we used to say - and as a good liberal you'd not have one minute's difficulty seeing that if they weren't also Jewish.
And I can get away with telling you that because I'm Jewish. If a non-Jew wrote it in the US today, someone (probably in The New Republic) would scream, if not 'anti-semite' then 'naive contributor to an atmosphere of anti-semitism', etc - 'objective anti-semitism' as the Marxists might once have said. You wonder why I make such a fuss about all this, despite being myself at liberty to speak and write wherever I damn well like? This is why. Foxman isn't the problem - pollution like him swirls around in the gutters of every democracy. Those who refuse to stand up to him are the problem.
Well... You can judge for yourself. But notice how Beinhart tries to bash Judt as someone "opposing the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state" which is B.S.