When Tony Judt passed away from ALS on August 6, the world lost a brilliant historian and a brave, unflinching observer of current political events. In the Jewish community, Judt was famous (some undoubtedly would say infamous) for his views on the Israel/Palestine conflict; particularly for a piece he wrote for the New York Review of Books in 2003:
The problem with Israel, in short, is not—as is sometimes suggested—that it is a European “enclave” in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late. It has imported a characteristically late-nineteenth-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law. The very idea of a “Jewish state”—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded—is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.
Judt’s historical/political analysis of Zionism, needless to say, ensured that he would become persona non grata in many Jewish circles. But whether or not you agreed with his conclusions, I believe he courageously raised crucial, if painful questions that we continue to confront today – and whose relevance, I predict, will become only more critical in the coming years.
One of his final editorials on the subject was this trenchant analysis of the recent Gaza flotilla tragedy. Click above to get a poignant glimpse of the man himself. May his memory be for a blessing.