Tony Judt,probably the most prominent post-War historian died on August 6 at age 62 of MLS. Until the very end he wrote for the New York Review of Books. A left-wing Zionist in his youth he became a trenchant critic of modern Israel describing it among other things as a “belligerently intolerant, faith-driven ethno-state.” Like many progressive Jews Judt had become disillusioned with the modern state. In one essay he wrote in 2006 he traced the great love affair of the world with the Jewish state and its subsequent descent into pariah status today
Today everything is different. We can see, in retrospect, that the victory of Israel in June 1967 and its continuing occupation of the territories it conquered then have been the Jewish state’s very own nakba: a moral and political catastrophe. Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza have magnified and publicized the country’s shortcomings and displayed them to a watching world. Curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, public humiliations, home destructions, land seizures, shootings, “targeted assassinations,” the separation fence: All of these routines of occupation and repression were once familiar only to an informed minority of specialists and activists. Today they can be watched, in real time, by anyone with a computer or a satellite dish – which means that Israel’s behavior is under daily scrutiny by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The result has been a complete transformation in the international view of Israel. Until very recently the carefully burnished image of an ultra-modern society – built by survivors and pioneers and peopled by peace-loving democrats – still held sway over international opinion. But today? What is the universal shorthand symbol for Israel, reproduced worldwide in thousands of newspaper editorials and political cartoons? The Star of David emblazoned upon a tank.
Today only a tiny minority of outsiders see Israelis as victims. The true victims, it is now widely accepted, are the Palestinians. Indeed, Palestinians have now displaced Jews as the emblematic persecuted minority: vulnerable, humiliated and stateless. This unsought distinction does little to advance the Palestinian case any more than it ever helped Jews, but it has redefined Israel forever.
Progressive Jews today in the diaspora can no longer abide this tragic fall from grace. Their presence has badly split the community.
This of course has not gone unnoticed even by the Israeli leadership. They are trying everything short of the one palliative—Palestinian justice-which could heal the country. They have embarked on a rebranding exercise, using their powerful friends deep pockets in the diaspora. Nothing seems to be working.The sad response to this fundamental problem of injustice appears to be better PR
The latest attempt was seen today in a full page ad in the National Post
Here we are told “the Jewish People face many challenges including apathy indifference and lack of knowledge. To this end the United Jewish Appeal has created Actiivism U training young people to “stand up for Israel in the halls of academia where ideological attacks are happening.”
My suggestion in a letter to the Post was to extend kudos to the UJA for challenging the Jewish community to regeneration and renewal. I wrote “in a consumerist environment which does indeed lead to “apathy, indifference and lack of knowledge”, young Jews as well as young Christians and Muslims need to deepen the well of compassion which is at the heart of the Abrahamic faiths.