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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Judt: "Even if I felt threatened as a Jew, I would never want to go to Israel"

His Belgian father descended from a line of Lithuanian rabbis

Nathaniel Popper interviewed Tony Judt for The Forward:
Born in 1948, the same year that Israel came into existence, Tony Judt was raised in the heavily Jewish East End section of London by a mother whose parents had immigrated from Russia and a Belgian father who descended from a line of Lithuanian rabbis. . .

Judt is a scholar who was until recently best known for his writings on European history. But then, in a 2,900-word essay in the October 23 edition of The New York Review of Books, Judt dropped the intellectual equivalent of a nuclear bomb on Zionism, calling for the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state . . .

In the first weeks after his essay was published, Judt and The New York Review received more than 1,000 letters, many peppered with terms like "antisemite" and "self-hating Jew," and some going so far as to threaten the scholar and his family. Judt was removed from the masthead of The New Republic, where he had been listed as a contributing editor, and condemned by the magazine's literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, and other pro-Israel commentators. . .

Judt seemed remarkably unperturbed by the deeply critical response to his essay from American Jews, a reflection that appears to stem in part from his rather dim opinion of the Jewish community. "It is such an insecure community," Judt said, "so desperate to find some basis for its own identity". . .

The scholar said that he does not identify with Israel or the American Jewish community, and acknowledged that this partially explains his lack of attachment to the Zionist state. . . "Even if I felt threatened as a Jew," Judt told the Forward, "I would never want to go to Israel."

Still, Judt said, he considers himself a "proud Jew."