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Tony Judt And The Velvet Genocide


In an attenuated way, Judt reasserts the struggle of international and national socialism. Certainly he doesn’t mirror Engels in advocating Israel’s violent destruction, but this is rich ore from which to extract an imprimatur for the velvet genocide of Middle East Jewry. “What is to be done” is to undo the impediment to progress set up in 1948, even though the 1940s saw the success of other national separations in India, Pakistan, Burma and Laos.

But what if there were no place in the world today for a “Jewish state”? What if the binational solution were not just increasingly likely, but actually a desirable outcome? It is not such a very odd thought. Most of the readers of this essay live in pluralist states which have long since become multiethnic and multicultural.

As Leon Wieseltier observed, “Judt and his editors have crossed the line from the criticism of Israel’s policy to the criticism of Israel’s existence.” It takes naiveté reminiscent of the Iranian communists who aided the Islamic Revolution, and found themselves among its first victims, to expect peace and safety for a Jewish minority in a binational Palestine.

I won’t pretend to predict the fortunes of nationalism, but it would seem that if anyone’s ideas about the Arab-Israeli conflict are an anachronism, they are Judt’s.

However, ideas and circumstances conspire to create unhappy results.

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In the New York Review of Books back in 2003, Tony Judt published his view that the Jewish state should be deleted. This was the predicate of his proposal to reanimate the corpse of the one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Steeped in academic authority and writing during the overlap of the second Intifada with Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Judt argued that Israel was a harmful anachronism. He was not the first to express an abolitionist anti-Zionism, but his prestige and timing led him to become the celebrity spokesman for the internationalist case against Israel.

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