Tony Judt has passed away.
What first bought me to Tony Judt’s works was a paragraph from a remarkable (for an American audience) piece he wrote in the New York Review of Books called Israel: The Alternative. The specific paragraph that struck me vividly was this one:
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.
A remarkably honest statement from a writer/intellectual who was once a Zionist, and volunteered as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), to a vehement opponent of the policies of the state of Israel and its continued brutality of the Palestinians. He argued against the Iraq War (Bush’s Useful Idiots), defended the works of Mearsheimer & Walt about the Israeli Lobby (A Lobby Not A Conspiracy). And more recently, despite suffering from the debilitating Lou Gehrig’s disease, he penned some wonderful essays for the New York Review Of Books including some of my favorites like Night, Ill Fares The Land, What Is Living & What Is Dead In Social Democracy. He also appeared in an interesting Dutch documentary about the impact of the Israeli’ lobby on American foreign & Middle East policy.
It was a mere weeks ago that i finished his latest book, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, which was recently reissued in paperback. Over the months since I began this small blog, I have frequently referred to his words and works to underpin my own. Specifically, he was given intellectual weight and relevance to my mediocre thoughts in my pieces like The Strange Silence Of The Conscience, and Individualism vs. Individuality: A Photographer’s Work Reminds Us Of The Difference, and Broken Promise: Israel Known & Unknown.
May his soul rest in peace. Ameen.