For some critics, Tony Judt will always be remembered, and reviled, for the 2003 essay he published in the New York Review of Books titled “Israel: The Alternative,” in which he called for a one-state solution. “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,” he wrote.
Judt later seemed to back off from that position, most recently in a New York Times op-ed in which he wrote that “Israel is a state like any other, long-established and internationally recognized…Israel is not going away, nor should it.”
While Judt may have sometimes been off the mark in his prescriptions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the British historian, who passed away in New York on August 6 at the age of 62, was more than just another pundit siphoning a spotlight from the glare of Middle Eastern politics.
Judt was scholar whose area of specialty was virtually all of European history. His 2005 magnum opus “Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945,” is perhaps the most authoritative as well as the most compelling account of its subject. Just as captivating, however, is a series of personal essays Judt wrote for the NYRB in the months preceding his death. In it, he detailed his intellectual journey to and from Zionism, as well as his struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, with which he was diagnosed in 2008.