Tony Judt dies at 62

By Jennifer Lipman, August 9, 2010
Tony Judt

Tony Judt

The British Jewish historian Tony Judt has died at the age of 62.

Known for his controversial views on Israel and Zionism, the academic was a sufferer of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease which left him wheelchair-bound, paralysed from the neck down.

Mr Judt, who grew up in London’s East End but lived in the United States for much of his life, was a prominent critic of the Jewish state and in 2003 wrote of his support for a one-state solution.

A critic of ideas and politicians across the spectrum, he was listed for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for his 900-page opus on European history from 1945 until the fall of the Soviet Union.

His parents, Marxists of Lithuanian and Belgian descent, instilled in him strong support of Israel, so much that that as a teenager he lived on a kibbutz and during the Six Day War served as an IDF translator.

But later in life he was labelled by some as a “self-hating Jew” for describing most Israelis as “prejudiced urban Jews who differed from their European or American counterparts chiefly in their macho, swaggering self-confidence and access to armed weapons.”

Recently he expressed his problem with Britain’s Liberal-Conservative coalition government, calling both sides “fraudulent”.

One of the last interviews given by Mr Judt was with the JC in June 2010.

Asked about Israel, Mr Judt said: “I think that most of the damage has been done by Israel's own astonishing political incompetence, together with the calamitous failure of the US to hold them back from their own mistakes.”

But he denied furthering awareness of “Israel's transgressions” in his work.

He told the JC: “I did nothing to advance this process, except perhaps provide people with a language in which to understand it.”

Mr Judt was survived by his wife and two sons.

Last updated: 10:57am, August 9 2010