TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

Redeker, Taguieff, and Judt

A lecture by Tony Judt on “Israel Lobby,” scheduled to take place at the Polish consulate in New York, was cancelled. The report in the New York Sun attributes the decision to the incompatibility of Judt’s increasingly bitter critique of Israel and the growing rapprochement between the Polish and Israeli governments:

“It is a diplomatic post. Whatever is organized here should be in compliance with Poland’s foreign policy,” the deputy consul general of Poland in New York, Marek Skulimowski, said. “The consulate is not a Hyde Park, it’s not a discussion club, it’s a consulate.” Mr. Skulimowski said that Mr. Judt had been “very critical” of Israel, while the president of Poland had just made a warm visit to Israel a few weeks ago.

In contrast, Judt, who was to speak on the thesis of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, that an Israeli Lobby directs US foreign policy, evidently also believes that a similar lobby controls the scheduling decisions of the Polish consulate:

Judt . . . blamed the Anti-Defamation League and [the ADL National Director] Mr. [Abraham] Foxman for the cancellation. “The pressure was brought by the ADL,” Mr. Judt said. “They had no choice. Foxman had been leaning on the consulate all afternoon.”

In fact, Judt has only recently had a high-profile opportunity to debate his points not far away in Cooper Union. The arguments of Mearsheimer, Walt and Judt reportedly did not fare very well.

But I want to track another echo of the Polish consulate affair.

Interviewed by the Parisian newspaper Libération, Judt complained that his free speech was threatened and drew a parallel to events in France, presumably the death threats which were directed against Robert Redeker after his comments on Islam published in Le Figaro. Redeker has been forced into hiding, as discussed here last week. But here’s Libération:

Scandalisé, Judt considère que l’affaire pose la question de la liberté d’expression aux Etats-Unis : «Il y a des similarités avec les récents problèmes que vous avez eus en Europe. Nous avons ici des imams juifs, mais non religieux», nous déclarait-il hier.

Or:

Scandalized [by the decision of the Polish consul to exercise some control over what takes place in its facilities], Judt thinks that the affair raises the question of free expression in the United States: “There are similarities to the recent problems you have had in Europe. Here we have Jewish imams, but they are not religious,” he declared yesterday.

“Jewish imams”? One has to admire a rhetorical skill that can successfully combine in one short phrase both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiments: it’s almost enough to think a binational state could work. But let’s recall what Judt means: the cancellation of his lecture (and presumably the loss of his honorarium) is equated with events such as the persecution of Redeker (which Judt evidently blames on “imams”).

The Libération article, dated October 7, fails to mention the recent egregious attack on freedom of speech in New York: on October 4 at Columbia University, protesters stormed the stage to prevent Jim Gilchrist, head of the Minuteman Project, from speaking. Since the political tendency of Libération is antithetical to Gilchrist’s, Gilchrist’s right to free speech is not worth defending.

Judt’s self-important comparison of his problems at the Polish consulate and events in France elicited comment from Pierre-André Taguieff, an occasional contributor to Telos. Taguieff wrote to Judt in response to the Libération report and posted the text online.

Taguieff writes that he was astonished to hear that Judt felt “scandalized” by the cancellation, since he has apparently never experienced discrimination in the United States.

For many years, I have been excluded from lectures at certain universities and other cultural venues controlled by anti-Zionist, leftist and pro-Palestinian group, who maintain their “order.” And I regularly receive letters that insult and threaten me. Yet I do not present myself as a victim of these militant thugs who defend positions similar to yours. If there are “Jewish imams” (sic), there are also “anti-Jewish imams,” who are much more numerous and dangerous.

Taguieff is not only criticizing Judt for being on the wrong side: he is attacking him for a lack of a basic sense of proportion and an inability to recognize real danger to free speech. Otherwise Judt would not have stylized his situation. Disinvited at the Polish consulate, he could speak nonetheless at Cooper Union. Meanwhile, Robert Redeker is in hiding, as Taguieff points out:

My friend Robert Redeker has just experienced them [the “anti-Jewish imams”]. He is in hiding, under police protection, for an article criticizing Islam. Do not worry, this will not happen to you! Unless of course, one day, you show some real courage and give a lecture on the Muslim lobby in the United States.

In the meantime, Judt can speak to anyone who wants to listen to him, and Redeker cannot.

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