Based upon his recent article in the Financial Times (“Israel must unpick its ethnic myth”), I know what Tony Judt wants for Hanukkah: The evaporation of a collective Jewish existence and the elimination of the Zionist entity — the state of Israel — which is essential to that dream.
In the FT article, Judt complains that when he was a lad in Israel his Zionist teachers told him a fairy tale that only a Jewish state could be an “alternative to persecution, assimilation or cultural dilution…. The Israel they wished me to join was therefore grounded, and could only be grounded, in an ethnically rigid view of Jews and Jewishness.”
For this reason, Judt, a University Professor at New York University, regards the establishment and existence of Jewish state as a dangerous aberration and the major source of many of the world’s ills. In fact, he hates being reminded he is Jewish and has concocted an ideology around that pathology unrelated to both history and fact.
So, for instance, Judt ignores the creation of Pakistan as Muslim state in 1947, a year before Israel was founded, or that many of the European states he regards a examples post-ethnic enlightenment have a “right of return” for ethnic Germans, French, Spanish, etc. or that their treatment of immigrants is more restrictive and selective than Israel or America.
Judt supported American intervention in the Bosnian conflict and the creation of the predominantly Muslim state of Bosnia-Herzegovina on humanitarian grounds. In 1999, ” in defending the U.S.-led NATO effort, he wrote: “the extermination of minorities within national frontiers has many recent European precedents.” There is precedent in the Middle East too where, as Victor Davis Hanson observed, “over half-million or so Jews… have been ethnically cleansed from (and sometimes murdered in) Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, and almost every Jewish community in the Arab Middle East.”
But to Judt the creation of the Jewish state is something unique to nature and politics; particularly in the idealized global village Judt’s brain seems to wander. He has decided that its perpetuation depends largely on too many Jews around the world believing in the “fiction” that Israel is the restoration of a people to their ancient nationhood and that such a nation must play a transformative and positive role in human affairs.
Judt writes: “Once we agree, in short, that Israel’s uniquely ‘Jewish’ quality is an imagined or elective affinity, how are we to proceed?” Judt’s final solution is to urge Jews to stop giving money to Israel. The “rationale” he provides says a lot about how unhinged he is from facts:
The civil war in Northern Ireland came to an end in part because an American president instructed the Irish emigrant community in the US to stop sending arms and cash to the Provisional IRA. If American Jews stopped associating their fate with Israel and used their charitable cheques for better purposes, something similar might happen in the Middle East.
For those who might not know, the IRA is a terrorist organization that received training, funding, and arms from both the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Libya. Donations to Israel — a democracy — fund education, the life sciences, infrastructure development, and programs to help the assimilation of Jews and non-Jews who have left oppressive, war torn regimes to seek a better life.
Judt’s article could be dismissed if he were not one of leaders of a broader movement made up of non-governmental organizations that are seeking to implement his vision. The Goldstone Report, the recent EU vote affirming East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state without mentioning Israel’s right to exist or legal claim to Jerusalem, the recent UK decision to label products from Israeli communities in the West Bank and from Gaza so as to facilitate a boycott all flow from the same twisted rage that gave rise to Judt’s FT article.
We can expect that Judt and his ilk will continue to pursue this unthinking and persistent program of hate. But having just been on a trip to Israel, I saw why Judt’s dream will fail.
Recently my son immigrated to Israel after serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. He is attending college at Herzliya IDC where he became friends with Daher Said. Daher is from Somalia. Militia murdered his family in 1996. He escaped to Egypt only to face discrimination. He headed towards the Egypt-Israel border where he asked Israeli soldiers guarding the border to take him in. They did. Daher is but one of many students at Herzliya IDC who escaped persecution, terror and murder in countries like Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia by retracing the exodus that gave life to the Jewish state.
Israel is strong by virtue of its vibrant high-tech economy, robust democracy and military might. But what sustains it above all is the collective determination and efforts to share and re-create the Jewish drama of liberation, renewal and hope in human purpose. As the story of Hanukkah suggests, this great moral enterprise is at the core of what Judt derides as the “affinity” of Jews to Israel. And it is this story — and the story of Daher Said — that will continue to inspire long after the ravings of Tony Judt are forgotten.