Another Judt Appearance Abrubtly Canceled
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Tony Judt, the NYU professor critical of Israel whose appearance Tuesday night at the Polish consulate was abruptly canceled, has had a second appearance derailed after a protest from a Jewish leader.
Mr. Judt was to have spoken on October 17 at the Holocaust Research Center of Manhattan College, an independent Catholic institution in Riverdale. He withdrew late last week, saying the college had put him in “an impossible position” by promising to critics that he would not speak about Israel.
Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale said he had threatened to picket the college if Mr. Judt spoke at the Holocaust center.
“I am a firm believer in First Amendment rights, and would have no problem with Judt speaking at some other forum, as long as an opposing view would be heard,” Rabbi Weiss wrote to the Holocaust center’s leaders. “But having someone who is a State of Israel denier speak at a Holocaust forum is a desecration of the memory of the six million,” he wrote.
“It’s always slightly mysterious to me what’s going on here,” Mr. Judt said. “I was going to lecture in the context of the Holocaust. It had nothing to do with Israel, but Rabbi Weiss objected to my presence in Riverdale.”
Rabbi Weiss countered: “Judt calls Israel an anachronism, and today being anti-Israel is essentially being anti–Jewish.”
At first, the College attempted to ease mounting tensions by introducing the lecturer with a disclaimer: Mr. Judt would speak on his mainstream views concerning the legacy of the Holocaust. He would not speak about Israel or criticize the Jewish State, the Holocaust Research Center assured the community.
But Mr. Judt said he preferred to cancel his appearance rather than be prefaced by such a disclaimer. “That presented me in a bad light,” he said. “The college put me in an impossible position. I essentially got them off the hook by withdrawing from giving a lecture this year.”
The college said that it backed Mr. Judt’s appearance until he canceled it. “Judt is a well-respected historian and we welcomed him in an academic environment. We are open to debate and discussion on all of these issues,” a Manhattan College spokesman, Scott Silversten, said.
Mr. Judt, who is Jewish, denied that he is “anti-Israel.”
“I’m not anti-Israel. I’m very critical of Israel, but that’s not the same thing,” he said. “I’ve written often that it’s crucial to be educated about the Holocaust. Memory is not enough. Memorials are not enough. Why on earth Rabbi Weiss would want to picket me with Holocaust survivors is bizarre to me and it upsets me a lot.”
This is not the first time Mr. Judt and Rabbi Weiss have clashed in Riverdale. When the Fieldston School in Riverdale held an event last May featuring Mr. Judt and Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi, Rabbi Weiss and other local rabbis objected to what they said was the unbalanced presentation of anti-Zionist viewpoints.
As reported in yesterday’s New York Sun, the appearance at the Polish consulate was canceled after the Polish government decided that Mr. Judt’s views critical of Israel were not consistent with Poland’s friendly relations with the Jewish state.