Thu, Oct 12, 2006 - Page 7 News List

US author ignites row over book on Vichy France

HANDS OFF Carmen Callil joined Tony Judt, a US Jew brought up in the UK and known for his criticism of Israel, in a debate about the limits of free spreech

THE GUARDIAN , NEW YORK

The British-based author and former publisher Carmen Callil has become embroiled in a growing dispute over the limits of freedom of speech in the US after a party celebrating her new book on Vichy France was canceled because of the opinion she expresses about the modern state of Israel.

A party in honor of Bad Faith, Callil's account of Louis Darquier, the Vichy official who arranged the deportation of thousands of Jews, was to have taken place at the French embassy in New York on Monday night but was canceled after the embassy became aware of a paragraph in the postscript of the book.

In the postscript Callil says she grew anxious while researching the "helpless terror of the Jews of France" to see "what the Jews of Israel were passing on to the Palestinian people. Like the rest of humanity, the Jews of Israel forget the Palestinians. Everyone forgets."

The embassy said the passage had been brought to its attention after a guest declined the invitation because of it. A spokesman denied allegations from Callil that "fundamentalist Jews" had complained and had the party shut down.

The row over Callil's book is the latest element in a dispute about restrictions on freedom of speech in the US in relation to comments on Israel.

A British-born academic based at New York University has had two speaking engagements called off after criticism of his views.

Tony Judt, a US Jew who was brought up in Britain, was due to speak on the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby on US foreign policy and at a separate location under the title "War and Genocide in European Memory Today."

The first lecture was canceled by the Polish consulate in New York, which owned the venue, while Judt pulled out of the second after he was asked by the organizers to refrain from direct references to Israel.

In both cases pro-Israeli organizations and individuals had raised objections to Judt's views on Israel.

Judt was one of six people who took part in a debate in New York last month organized by the London Review of Books on the controversy sparked by a recent editorial entitled "The Israel Lobby."

During that debate Judt argued that pro-Israeli groups acted "to silence debate on the subject", adding that criticism of Israel had come to be thought of as anti-US.

His talk last week on a similar theme at a venue owned by the Polish consulate was canceled by the consul, Krzysztof Kasprzyk, after inquiries from two Jewish organizations. Kasprzyk told the Washington Post that he had been subjected to "delicate pressure."

Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, denied any pressure had been applied.

"All we did was to ask the consulate whether Tony Judt was speaking on its property. The decision to cancel was the Polish consulate's alone," he said.

"If all Mr Foxman was doing was making an inquiry, then he does an awful lot of inquiring. People are frequently being scared off," Judt said.

Judt said his views had been misrepresented.

"The only thing I have ever said is that Israel as it is currently constituted, as a Jewish state with different rights for different groups, is an anachronism in the modern age of democracies," he said.

In the second incident Judt pulled out from a talk on the Holocaust at Manhattan College after a Jewish leader, Rabbi Avi Weiss, warned he would hold a protest of Holocaust survivors outside the event.

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