The Tony Judt–ADL Affair

VOL. 36


No. 2
P. 77
Special Document File
The Tony Judt–ADL Affair

A. Michael Powell, “Polish Consulate Says Jewish Groups Called to Oppose Historian,” Washington Post, 9 October 2006. .................. 78

B. Larry Cohler-Esses, “Off Limits? Talk by Israel Critic Cancelled,” Jewish Week, New York, 6 October 2006 (excerpts). . . ................ 80

C. Mark Lilla, Richard Sennett, and Other Prominent Intellectuals, Open Letter to the Anti-Defamation League Concerning the Cancellation of Professor Tony Judt’s Scheduled Lecture, 13 October 2006. . . 81

D. Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, Statement Concerning the Judt Case, New York, 17 October 2006. . . 82

E. Professors Mark Lilla and Richard Sennett, Reply to Abraham Foxman. ............................................................... 83

F. Jeffrey Blankfort, Communication on the ADL’s Record in Defense of Civil Rights. ................................................... 84

On the heels of the Walt-Mersheimer controversy (see Special Document File in JPS 139), another case involving the Israel lobby reignited the debate on academic freedom and dissent where Israel is concerned. On 3 October, a planned lecture entitled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by historian Tony Judt, which was to be held at the Polish consulate of New York under the sponsorship of an outside organization called Network 20/20, was abruptly cancelled at the last minute by the Consul General. Reports immediately circulated that the cancellation was the result of pressures from several Jewish organizations, notably the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee; an article about the cancellation the following day in the New York Sun quoted Patricia Huntington, the president of Network 20/20, as saying that the Anti-Defamation League had “forced,” “threatened,” and exerted “pressure” on the Polish consulate to cancel the talk. (A follow-up article in the New York Sun on 5 October reported that Judt had withdrawn from a scheduled 17 October event at the Holocaust Resource Center of Manhattan College after the college, in response to a threatened picket by local rabbis, promised that Judt would speak only about the legacy of the Holocaust and would refrain from criticizing Israel.) The week before the planned lecture at the Polish consulate, on 28 September, he took part in a public debate at New York’s Cooper Union on the Israel lobby controversy inspired by the Walt-Mersheimer article. Professor Judt has been outspoken in his criticism of Israel but denies being “anti-Israel.”

Though several Jewish organizations were said to have contacted the Polish consulate (a 20 October article in the Jewish Week quotes the consul general himself as saying he acted “after receiving calls that day from ‘maybe four’ organizations and also individuals expressing concern about Judt’s appearance—among them the ADL and the American Jewish Committee”), it was the ADL that received the most attention, and much of the press coverage of the incident and its aftermath focused on whether or not—or to what extent—the ADL had pressured the Polish consul. Within days of the cancellation, an e-circulated petition in support of Professor Judt addressed to ADL National Director Abraham Foxman was organized by Mark Lilla of the University of Chicago and Richard Sennett of the London School of Economics and New York University. The protest, signed by 113 prominent intellectuals on 13 October, circulated widely but was not published until early November in the New York Review of Books.