Tony Judt died in 2010.A towering intellectual whose book on the 20th century is required reading, he was engaged to the very end a premature demise a victim of ALS. A younger colleague, historian Tim Snyder was smart enough to realize that one of the brightest lights was about to dim sohe sat down with Judt and let the tape recorder roll. The result was Thinking the Twentieth Century, with Timothy Snyder (2012).
An early Zionist Judt worked as a youth on a kibbutz and served in the IDF he then had an epiphany: he knew no Palestinians! There was no turning back.
In a famous article in 2003 in the NY Review of Books he saw it all too clearly:
The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.”
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.
As the prominent Labor politician Avraham Burg recently wrote, “After two thousand years of struggle for survival, the reality of Israel is a colonial state, run by a corrupt clique which scorns and mocks law and civic morality.”1 Unless something changes, Israel in half a decade will be neither Jewish nor democratic.
He outraged fellow Jews, American Zionists.
Phil Weiss has clipped this following piece from the book exposing the frequent know nothing columnists and Israel boosters David Brooks and Tom Friedman who were gung ho about GW Bush’s excellent adventure which has brought total chaos to the Middle East and indeed to the world.
Judt reports that in 2003 he was on Charlie Rose with Brooks and when he challenged Brooks about the effectiveness of international agencies to resolve the Kosovo crisis and by extension the Iraq crisis, Brooks said “I don’t really know anything about that.”
Here we had the public intellectual who now occupies not only prominent television space but also op-ed pages of the most influential newspapers in the English-speaking world: and he knows nothing.
Men like Brooks know, literally, nothing. So I encountered in those troubled months a combination of catastrophic acquiescence in authority and plain, old-fashioned dumb ignorance masquerading as commentary. These were the circumstances which allowed a criminal political action to be pushed through the public space with very little opposition.
Something else to remember, though, is that the people who did know something just rolled over. I’m thinking of Michael Ignatieff, or David Remnick, or Leon Wieseltier, or Michael Walzer. Instead of asking questions, they all behaved as though the only function of the intellectual was to provide justification for the actions of non-intellectuals. And I just remember being profoundly shocked and also feeling very lonely. Not that I felt comfortable with the isolationists either…
Brooks is an interesting case because it’s all done with mirrors–there is no expertise. The apparent expertise consists of the capacity to talk glibly each week about any public event in a way that readers have gotten used to as a sort of enlightened commentary. Thomas Friedman, another prominent contemporary “expert,” trades on a slightly different notion of expertise. Notice that pretty much every Friedman column includes a reference to som famous person he’s spoken to. So he makes explicit the notion that your expertise is a function of your contacts… It doesn’t really matter, actually, who it is. It’s the notion of access to something special.
In Friedman’s case, access to information is very carefully recalibrated as the acceptable middle ground on any given policy issue. And Friedman’s position on the Iraq War was contemptible. Not only did he run along with everyone else, but he actually probably slightly misread the tea leaves and ran along a little too fast on the anti-French, anti-European thing. It was Friedman who ran a column that said that France should be kicked out of the U.N. Security Council for having the chutzpah to oppose the United States on such an important issue.
Gee, we miss Judt now and the NYT keeps printing folderol from Friedman and Brooks.