The British-based author and former publisher Carmen Callil has become embroiled in a growing dispute over the limits of freedom of speech in America after a party celebrating her new book on Vichy France was cancelled because of the opinion she expresses about the modern state of Israel.
A party in honour 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 last night but was cancelled 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."
Jewish deportees in the Drancy transit camp, France, their last stop before the German concentration camps. Photograph: EPA
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, reported by Reuters, 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, an American Jew who was brought up in Britain, was due to speak on the subject of 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 cancelled by the Polish consulate in New York, which owned the venue, while Mr Judt pulled out of the second after he was asked by the organisers to refrain from direct references to Israel. In both cases pro-Israeli organisations and individuals had raised objections to Mr Judt's views on Israel.
Mr Judt was one of six people who took part in a debate in New York last month organised by the London Review of Books on the controversy sparked by its article on The Israel Lobby. During that debate Mr 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 un-American.
His talk last week on a similar theme at a venue owned by the Polish consulate was cancelled by the consul, Krzysztof Kasprzyk, after inquiries from two Jewish organisations. Mr Kasprzyk told the Washington Post that he had been subjected to "delicate pressure".
Abraham Foxman, director of one of the groups, the Anti-Defamation League, denied any pressurising. "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." Mr Judt riposted: "If all Mr Foxman was doing was making an inquiry, then he does an awful lot of inquiring. People are frequently being scared off."
Mr 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."
In the second incident Mr 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. "This speech would have been a desecration," Rabbi Weiss told the Guardian.
Mr Judt countered that to threaten to stage a protest of survivors was "obscene, close to pornography".
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