Irreconcilable Conflict

TNR editor bashes TNR editor over anti-Israel book
Leon Wieseltier

Leon Wieseltier


Literary editor of the New Republic Leon Wieseltier is calling a new book written by his TNR colleague John Judis, a senior editor, “shallow, derivative, tendentious, imprecise, and sometimes risibly inaccurate” and also “insulting” and “nasty.”

The scathing remarks are contained in an email Wieseltier sent to historian Ron Radosh praising his negative review of the Judis book, which argues that Israel should not exist. Marty Peretz, the longtime former editor of TNR, remarked in 2010 that on the Middle East, “John Judis knows zero.”

Wieseltier wrote in his email:


What you’ve written is absolutely correct. In some respects I’d have gone further. I am no authority on Truman’s decision (though you are), but I know with certainty that Judis’ understanding of Jewish history, and of the history and nature of Zionism, is shallow, derivative, tendentious, imprecise, and sometimes risibly inaccurate—he is a tourist in this subject. Like most tourists, he sees what he came to see. There is more to be said also about the utter shabbiness of discovering a Jewish identity in—and for the purpose of—criticizing the Jews: it is not only ignorant but also insulting. The magnitude of Judis’ indifference to the fate of the Jews in the very years in which they were being massively slaughtered—the 1940s: now there was a decade of Jewish power!—is quite shocking. (His Abba Hillel Silver is just an early version of Howard Kohr, in consonance with his AIPAC-centric view of the world.) The truth is that no amount of sympathy for Palestinians requires this amount of antipathy to Israelis.

Remember Rosa Luxemburg’s letter to her friend in which she proudly announced that she had no corner of her heart for the Jews? Judis is her good disciple. But my favorite bit of self-congratulation on Judis’ part is his belief that he is heroically defying the Zionist thought-police at the New Republic. For three decades and more we—by which I emphatically mean Marty [Peretz] too—have been publishing criticisms, even bitter ones, of Israeli policies by myself, Michael Walzer, and many others. True, we have not published pieces rejecting the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism or wishing away the Jewish state, and we have published pieces defending Israel against states and non-state actors (and intellectuals arguing on their behalf) who have denied the right of Israel to exist and have used violence in the name of that idea—and all this, I know, makes us highly unsatisfactory as progressives. Israel was indeed a house obsession here—but not any single idea or image of Israel. There has been no conformity of opinion in this office about this subject or any other subject in the two hundred years I have worked here. And now comes Judis’s nasty little book to prove this definitively! By jumping on a bandwagon he has rescued our reputation for freedom of thought!

So, my compliments.