For Zionists, Time To Choose

November 12, 2003

In a provocative essay in the
New York Review of Books (
October 23),

“Israel: The Alternative,”
New York University

Tony Judt
[send him

] depicted the idea of an
exclusively Jewish state as an “anachronism,”
“rooted in another time and place.”
He wrote:

“At the
dawn of the twentieth century, in the twilight of the
continental empires, Europe`s subject peoples dreamed of
forming `nation-states,` territorial homelands where
Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Armenians, and others might live
free, masters of their own fate. When the Habsburg and
Romanov empires collapsed after World War I, their
leaders seized the opportunity. A flurry of new states
emerged; and the first thing they did was set about
privileging their national, `ethnic` majority—defined by

, or

, or

, or all three—at the expense of
inconvenient local minorities…”

He went on:

“But one nationalist
movement, Zionism, was frustrated in its ambitions. The
dream of an appropriately sited Jewish national home in
the middle of the defunct Turkish Empire had to wait
upon the retreat of imperial Britain: a process that
took three more decades…

“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…”

Judt, however, added that Israel is
different in one key respect from its European
prototypes. It is a democracy, “hence its present
in having to dominate the Palestinians
against their wishes.

Judt argued that this situation has
created serious difficulty for Jews outside of Israel.
How can Jews who extol “pluralism”—by which Judt
seems to mean diversity“—
in their native lands while simultaneously defending an
Israeli polity that rejects that “pluralism”
And what happens if Americans start believing that
“Israel`s behavior has been a disaster for American
foreign policy.”

Judt`s gloomy conclusion:

“The depressing truth is
that Israel today is bad for the Jews.”

 Judt saw two major strategic
alternatives for the Israelis.

  • Maintaining an ethnically-specific
    In this case, they have to choose
    between three tactical options:  a] trying to dominate
    the currently-controlled area, with its ominous
    demographic problem. Or, b] retreating to the pre 1967
    boundaries—in effect trading demographic for geographic
    risk. Or, c] keeping the current area and

    the Arab populations. (He made it clear he
    thinks this last quite possible.)

But Judt preferred his second major strategic

  • Abandoning the nation-state ideal:
    “The time has come to think the unthinkable… a single,
    integrated, binational state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis
    and Palestinians.”

He argued:

“Israel…is an oddity among modern nations…because it
is a state in which one community—Jews —is set above
others, in an age when that sort of state has no place….
In a world where nations and peoples increasingly
intermingle and intermarry at will…where more and more
of us have

multiple elective identities
and would feel falsely
constrained if we had to answer to just one of them…In
today`s `clash of cultures` between open, pluralist
democracies and belligerently intolerant, faith-driven
ethno-states, Israel actually risks falling into the
wrong camp.”

Having committed this incorrectness, Judt is now in
the crosshairs of a powerful lobby. Andrea Levin of the
Jerusalem Post wrote that Judt (who

is Jewish
) was

“pandering to genocide.”
On NRO, David
Frum accused Judt of

“genocidal liberalism,”
noting “one must hate
Israel very much indeed to prefer such an outcome
binational state] to the reality of liberal democracy
that exists in Israel today.”

And the assault on Judt goes on: only on Monday,
continuing the magazine`s

new role
of Likudnik lickspittle,  published
an extraordinary demand from the Jerusalem Post`s
Saul Singer that American “[e]ditors and producers
should be as intolerant of such musings as they are of
racism, and for the same reason: Both reek of the
genocides of the last century.”
Note that this
censorship only applies to the U.S. In Israel, such
notions are debated all the time.

But should Israel be regarded as a “liberal
without accepting

demographic developments
which many Zionists
apparently deem


Western countries?

Allan Dershowitz, in his recent mini-book

The Case For Israel
, never allows that there is
a case to be made for ethno-national Christian states as
well as Jewish one. Abe Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, Tom
Lantos, and their legion of counterparts in Western
Europe apparently propose quite separate paths of
development for the Jewish and Christian states. They
apparently think that Israel is entitled to an
interwar-style path of ethnic particularism. The West is
ordered to take a

deethnicized path.

One very recent example of this double standard has
just occurred in Italy. The president of the

Union of Italian Jewish Communities
, Amos Luzzatto,
scion of a distinguished Italian Jewish family and a
relative of Mussolini`s first minister of finance,
insisted (in an

on October 23) that Jews, like all
European peoples, need to have “their own established
[insediamento ebraico].” But
Luzzatto, who has remained close to the Italian
Communist Party, previously gave quite a different
interview to the Corriere della Sera (June 2002).
There he passionately attacked the opponents of Third
World immigration to Italy, linking them, without proof,
to the fascist past.

It is not surprising that Judt is catching hell for
bringing up this

double standard

I believe there were errors in Judt`s stimulating
brief. Contrary to his reflexive disdain, most of the
inter-war successor states of the fallen European
empires practiced some fair measure of liberal
government, although they did tend to treat ethnic
minorities as second-class citizens—just as Israel has
always done. 

Judt`s binational state concept, familiar as the
Communist prescription for Arab-Israeli relations

thirty years ago
, is only an option if the

Palestinians as a whole
are willing to drop their

terrorist activity
. This may well not be the case.

Most interestingly, despite his appeal to current
trends in the West, Judt actually wants something quite
different for Israel. In a “binational” state,
there are two continuing nationalities. But Judt
approves of modern Europe because it consists of

“pluralist states which
have long since become multiethnic and multicultural.
“Christian Europe," pace

M. Valéry Giscard d`Estaing
, is a

dead letter;
Western civilization today is a
patchwork of colors and religions and languages…”

He dismisses, with breathtaking arrogance, those
Europeans who object to this process:

minority of voters in

, or

, or even


, support political parties whose hostility to
`immigration` is sometimes their only platform. But
compared with thirty years ago, Europe is a multicolored
patchwork of equal citizens, and that, without question,
is the shape of its future.”

Note carefully, however, that the only “patchwork”
that Judt envisaged for Israel is a checkerboard.

Nevertheless, even this is definitely not good enough
for David Frum. He makes it clear that, beyond his (very
reasonable) concerns about the security aspect of
Judt`s proposal, lies his ambition that Israel remain an
ethnic state. Yet this is the Frum who

raged against Sam Francis in
“Unpatriotic Conservatives”
March 19, 2003
) for advocating “a politics
devoted to the protection of the interests of what he
[Francis] called the `Euro-American cultural
core` of the American nation.

Jewish and white Christian liberals are not
interchangeable. They become liberals in response to 
different social and psychological needs. Jews are
inclined to be multiculturalists because they fear and
distrust a Christian majority. White Christians, if one
follows the

of my book

Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt
chase after “diversity” because they are

throwing away their

If it is true, as Judt asserts, that Christian Europe
is now a “dead letter,” this is because its
population became as

and as self-loathing as
European-American Christians.

A final point needs clarification. Judt equates
with multi-ethnicity and
multiculturalism. As a political theorist for many
years, I remain astonished by this already ritualistic
association. Why does being democratic

opening one`s borders
and welcoming in a cultural

Certainly this requirement would have struck



, and

Thomas Jefferson
as  disconcerting. These political
thinkers assumed a high degree of homogeneity as
essential for popular self-government.

I believe that

American Zionists
should be


inconsistent positions,
instead of ganging up on

Abe Foxman
and the

Anti-Defamation League
, for example, make themselves
ridiculous and vulnerable when they

those who oppose the granting of drivers
licenses in California to illegal immigrants as
far-right anti-Semites—while they simultaneously

defend Israel
as a “Jewish

Tony Judt`s politics are not mine. I believe that
Israel should remain

predominantly Jewish
and that the U.S. and Europe
should remain predominantly Euro-American—and I support

whatever is necessary
to achieve these objectives

But, unlike his hysterical opponents, Judt believes
that what is sauce for the Christian West must also be
(more or less) sauce for Israel. He is at least an
honest Jewish liberal. 

Paul Gottfried
is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of

After Liberalism

Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory
, and

Multiculturalism And The Politics of Guilt: Toward A
Secular Theocracy