Hitchens, Defending the Disinvitation of Tony Judt

Contrarian that he is (remember this defense of televised forced confessions, all show trial like, while in the same breath condemning Amnesty’s allusions to Stalinism to describe the current security regime), Chistopher Hitchens’ dissents from the outrage over the cancellation of Tony Judt’s talk.

I have a perfect right, which I would defend to the death, to express my views on the question of Palestine. But I do not have a perfect right to express that opinion—which would have had to come up, even in a discussion of Iraq and the degeneration of the United Nations—at a meeting of a private group that takes the opposing view. Nor do I have an absolute right to criticize Theodor Herzl and all his works from a podium belonging to a neutral organization. Such outfits have their own right to pick and to choose and even to reconsider.

What a chance I missed to call attention to myself. I now can’t open my e-mail or check my voicemail without reading or hearing about the repression visited on professor Tony Judt of New York University. It seems that he was booked to speak at a meeting sponsored by a group called Network 20/20 at the Polish Consulate in New York and had his event canceled when the relevant Polish diplomat decided that the evening might be—given professor Judt’s views on Israel—more trouble than it was worth. I now hear of a fulminating letter, signed by no fewer than 114 intellectuals, that has been published in the New York Review of Books (there’s glory for you) in which this repression is denounced. How dare the Polish Consulate refuse the heroic dissident Judt a platform! And how dare the Anti-Defamation League, or its chief spokesman Abraham Foxman (it’s not quite clear who called) even telephone the Poles to complain?

A response from Jim Sleeper, one of the signatories, can be read here.