Sunday, April 27, 2008

On Tony Judt

Niall Ferguson reviews a book of book reviews that Tony Judt has written. It's a mildly favorable review, until near the end, when he presents us with a fascinating insight:

The discrepancy between these and the many straight alpha essays is easily explained. When Judt writes about generals, politicians and statesmen, he is playing away from home, far from his familiar bohemian haunts. Try as he may, he simply cannot empathise with the men of action who actually make history.

It is only as a reviewer of those who themselves review – the denizens of the caf├ęs, not the situation rooms – that the intellectuals’ intellectual excels.

This can go a very long way in explaining Judt's total inability to understand what Israel is all about: The fundamental essence of Zionism is the Jewish resolve to be players in the world of power, or as Yehuda Bauer once titled one of his books on the topic, the Jewish emergence from powerlessness. If you will, the Zionist insistence on making history, rather than merely trying to survive it while kvetching about it, alienates them from Judt and his ilk more than anything specific Israel does or refrains from doing.

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